On the Queensland frontier

Tragedy in the tropics

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  • Published 20220428
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-71-9
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

THE 1850S BROUGHT dramatic changes to the Australian colonies – the gold rushes, the end of convict transportation in the eastern colonies, the granting of internal self-government through New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania in 1856. Queensland followed in their wake and detached from NSW in June 1859. Its inaugural elections were held in April the following year and the parliament sat for its first session on 22 May 1860. From the very start the colony’s novice politicians were confronted with the problem of dealing with fierce resistance from the First Nations across a vast frontier.

The killing of nineteen members of the Wills family and their servants in November 1861 at Cullin-la-ringo led to demands for savage and massive reprisals. A writer in the Queensland Guardian reported that news of the deaths was ‘so sudden and horrible as almost to take away all power of language or even thought’. The tribe, he thundered, must be punished ‘whether it number scores or hundreds…the deadly bullet must do the work of the more legitimate executioner – justice must triumph over law’.[i]

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About the author

Henry Reynolds

Henry Reynolds spent thirty years at James Cook University in Townsville. He wrote his first article on frontier conflict in 1972. Since then he...

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