Australian Frontier Wars

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Australian Frontier Wars
Perpetrator: British Empire
Australian government
Indigenous Australian tribes
Date: 1788 - 1934
Location: Australia
Motive: To remove Indigenous Australians from their lands for white settlers (succeeded)
Crimes: Genocide
War crimes
Forced assimilation
Ethnic cleansing
Crimes against humanity
Anti-Aboriginal Australian Sentiment
I spoke recently at the War Memorial about those Indigenous Australians who donned the Khaki and fought for a nation that was not prepared to fight for them. They too died for their loved ones. They too died for their country. We must remember them just as we remember those who fought more recent conflicts.
~ Anthony Albanese, leader of the Australian Labor Party.

The Australian Frontier Wars were a series of wars fought by British settlers and their Anglo-Australian descendants against Indigenous Australians, both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. These conflicts occurred throughout Australia since 1788 to the early 1930's. The wars were part of the ongoing genocidal campaigns against Indigenous Australians during this time period.

List of wars

  • Hawkesbury and Nepean Wars (1794-1816) - When British settlers began colonizing the Hawkesbury River region west of Sydney, Darug warriors led by Pemulwuy conducted a series of raids on the settlements in an attempt to drive the colonists out, which led to a group of soldiers to kill 14 aboriginal people under the orders of governors Lachlan Macquarie and Philip Gidley King.
  • Bathurst War (1824) - Due to attacks on white settlers by Wiradjuri warriors under Windradyne, Governor Thomas Brisbane declared martial law and the Wiradjuri were forced to surrender by giving up 500 acres of land for settlers.
  • Black War (1825-1832) - On the island of Tasmania, British settlements were attacked by aborigines in retaliation for atrocities committed against them, such as the seizures of their lands and raping of women. In response, Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur declared martial law on the island and allowed the colonists to hunt down any aborigine like wild beasts before deporting them to Flinders Island, which led to the virtual extinction of the aboriginal population of Tasmania.
  • Port Phillip District Wars (1830-1850) - A series of conflicts between Aboriginal Australians and European settlers took place in the Port Phillip District in Victoria, with the outcome resulting in European control over the area.
  • Yagan's Resistance (1831-1833) - Noongar warrior Yagan led a series of attacks and raids on British settlers in the Swan River Colony in retaliation for the killing of his relatives and seizures of his people's homelands. In response, Lieutenant-Governor Frederick Irwin declared Yagan and his allies outlaws, which resulted in Yagan being killed by a group of farmers alongside his compatriots.
  • Eumeralla Wars (1833-1867) - In the Western District of Victoria, a series of conflicts took place between the white colonists and the Gunditjmara people, which led to thousands of aborigines being massacred by colonists, including Native Police units.
  • Pinjarra Massacre (1834) - As a series of attacks by Noongar warriors took place, Captain Frederick Irwin further escalated the conflict by threatening to eliminate the threat. Governor James Stirling, fearing that an alliance might take place with the Noongar tribes against the British settlers, launched an attack on a Noongar camp, leading to the deaths of 15-30 people.
  • Waterloo Creek Massacre (1837-1838) - In response the murders of five stockmen, Lieutenant-Governor Kenneth Snodgrass dispatched a mounted police force to track down the perpetrators. The mounted police captured fifteen Gamilaraay people and interrogated them before releasing most of the men and shooting one suspect that attempted to escape. After three weeks, the mounted police were ambushed by the aboriginal warriors and followed the natives to Waterloo Creek, where the mounted police successfully subjugated the threat.
  • Battle of Broken River (1838) - A band of Koori warriors attacked a group of employees working for George and William Faithfull and the battle resulted in an aboriginal victory. Accounts speculate that the reason for the battle may have been in retaliation for attacks on their people. Reprisal massacres on aboriginal people would follow after the incident.
  • Campaspe Plains Massacre (1839) - After five aboriginal people were killed by three settlers, a band of Kulin warriors killed two settlers named Hugh Bryan and James Neill before raiding their huts. In response, Charles Hutton organized an army of settlers and attacked a Kulin camp, leading to the deaths of 40 people. The following month, Hutton led a mountain police force to a local Djarra camp and massacred six people.
  • Blood Hole Massacre (1839-1840) - In response to the murder of a cook, a reprisal party led by Captain Dugold McLachlan of Glengower Station massacred a group of Djarra people camping near Middle Creek.
  • Maria Massacre (1840) - After the passengers and crew of the Maria had been shipwrecked on the Margaret Brock Reef near Cape Jaffa in South Australia, they came across a friendly aboriginal tribe and the captain decided to go with the tribe, while most of the passengers stayed on the shoreline. Two days later, when a few passengers went off in search for the captain, they were attacked and killed by a band of Tanganekald warriors before being buried. An expedition sent by Governor George Grawler found two of the presumed culprits and hanged them.
  • Rufus River Massacre (1841) - When a group of farmers began settling on the banks of the Rufus River, a band of Maraura warriors began a series of attacks on the farmers for nearly a month. In response, Governor George Grey dispatched a reprisal party to put an end to the attacks and the colonists ambushed an aboriginal camp, leading to the deaths of 30 people and the captures of four people.
  • War of Southern Queensland (1843-1855) - In response to the Kilcoy massacre, aboriginal tribes in southeastern Queensland issued a declaration of war against the settlers. Two witnesses reported the declaration to the town of Brisbane after being freed by their aboriginal captors. During the war, Multugerrah led a series of attacks on settlements in Brisbane and the natives surrendered after their numbers dwindled, while Dundalli was captured and executed.
  • Avenue Range Station Massacre (1848) - As tensions escalated between British settlers and the local Tanganekald people, the settlers began using tactics to drive the natives off their lands by inflicting fear onto them in an attempt to deter them from fighting against the settlers. Eventually, a pastoralist named James Brown and his accomplice massacred the natives at Avenue Range, leading to an investigation by the Chief Protector of Aborigines, Matthew Moorhouse. The Supreme Court ruled that the evidence was insufficient and Brown was pardoned for the massacre.
  • Waterloo Bay Massacre (1849) - As Europeans began colonizing the Eyre Peninsula, tensions rose between the settlers and the native Nauo, Kokatha and Wirangu people, to which the settlers used fearmongering tactics to deter the aboriginal people from causing any more trouble. After a settler's hut was robbed, a reprisal party of farmers travelled to Waterloo Bay and attacked a local tribe, to which they drove the natives off a cliff.
  • Hornet Bank Massacre (1857) - When Europeans started settling on the banks of of the upper Dawson River near Eurombah in Queensland, the local Iman people became resentful towards the colonists and attacks on settlers took place. One night, the Iman attacked the Fraser household and murdered most of the family members, their two shepherds, and their aboriginal servant. Although the Fraser family showed kindness towards the Iman, the motives for the attack were likely for the deaths of their people months earlier, presumably by the Fraser family.
  • Cullin-La-Ringo Massacre (1861) - A band of Gayiri warriors launched an attack on the town of Springsure in Queensland and killed nineteen civilians, making it the largest massacre on white settlers committed by Indigenous Australians. In retaliation, eleven colonists and two trackers came across a large Gayiri camp and massacred approximately 370 people.
  • Flying Foam Massacre (1868) - A band of Jaburara warriors conducted a series of killings near the shores of Nickol Bay in Western Australia. In response, three warriors were convicted and sentenced to twelve years' penal servitude on Rottnest Island. With the approval of the government resident of Roebourne, a party of colonists tracked down a Jaburara tribe residing in the center of the Burrup Peninsula and massacred approximately fifteen people.
  • Kalkadoon Wars (1870-1890) - As Europeans began settling on aboriginal territory, the Kalkadoon engaged in a series of guerilla wars against the settlers, in which the colonists came out victorious.
  • Jandamarra's War (1894-1897) - Bunuba warrior Jandamarra led a war of resistance against European colonization. Eventually, Jandamarra was assassinated by an aboriginal tracker named Micki.
  • Caledon Bay Crisis (1932-1934) - After a series of killings by a group of Yolngu warriors, the Northern Territory Police decided to kill the perpetrators to "teach the blacks a lesson". Three of the killers were brought to trial and two of them were sentenced to twenty years' hard labor, while the other, Dhakiyarr, was sentenced to death until he was released. It is revealed that the five Japanese fishermen that were murdered by the three Yolngu warriors had abducted and sexually abused a group of aboriginal women.


Ever since the arrival of James Cook in Botany Bay in 1770, Europeans have declared the entire continent of Australia terra nullius or "land belonging to nobody". As a result, Indigenous Australians were regarded as lacking any property rights mainly due to lack of agriculture, which European settlers used to justify the theft of aboriginal lands. Queensland had the highest rate of casualties from both aborigines and colonists, as Queensland had the highest aboriginal population in Australia. Due to the terra nullius doctrine, no treaty was ever signed to negotiate with any aboriginal nation in exchange for property rights, although John Batman did attempt to sign a treaty with an aboriginal tribe in Victoria recommending a purchase of their lands and George Arthur regretted not signing a treaty with the Palawa people of Tasmania.


It is estimated that 798,405 Australians identify as Indigenous, including 759,705 Aboriginal Australians and 38,700 Torres Strait Islanders, about 3.1% of the Australian population. Contemporary estimates suggest that pre-contact populations exceeded to 795,000 indigenous people living in Australia before the arrival of Europeans.

Due to a combination of mass epidemics, violence inflicted by European settlers and the lack of firearms, 40,000 indigenous people lost their lives during the frontier wars. About more than 2,000 settlers were also killed during the frontier conflicts.