• A demonstration to acknowledge the Frontier Wars held outside the Australian War Memorial. (NITV News )Source: NITV News
The Labor leader recognised the Frontier Wars in a speech at the House of Representatives, after leaving out references to the Wars when he spoke at the Australian War Memorial recently.
Sarah Collard

16 Feb 2021 - 3:29 PM  UPDATED 16 Feb 2021 - 3:29 PM

The speech delivered by Opposition leader Anthony Albanese on Monday paid tribute to First Nations people killed during the Frontier Wars, while he renewed his support for the Makarrata Commission - a formal body proposed by the Uluru Statement to oversee truth-telling and promote healing.  

No government had fully acknowledged the nation's history, the leader of the opposition told Parliament during his address, recognising the anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations. 

"We have all failed... Truth that must fill the holes of our national memory. 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," he said in the lower House.

Mr Albanese said Australia should acknowledge the patriotism of First Nations warriors and the their sacrifices in protecting Country against those who arrived from the First Fleet onward. 

“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. 

The recognition comes almost two weeks after Mr Albanese omitted lines referencing the Frontier Wars while delivering a speech within the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Labor leader, Anthony Albanese acknowledged the omission on social media after NITV called it out on social media.

Frontier Wars: A 'Wall of Silence' 

Leading historian Professor Lyndall Ryan at the University of Newcastle researches massacres committed from the earliest days of colonisation up until 1930.

Professor Ryan said recognising the frontier wars at the Australian War Memorial would have been a powerful message for both politicians and ordinary Australians.

“Once these wars were over there was a wall of silence erected around them," Professor Lyndall Ryan said.

“Once these wars were over there was a wall of silence erected around them. There were some very, very shameful episodes out there on the frontier,” Professor Ryan told NITV News.

Frontier Wars and Australia’s wartime history overseas are tightly connected Professor Lyndall told NITV News.

“We have to remember that some of the men who fought in those wars, on the frontier in Australia, then went off and fought at Gallipoli and other parts and other venues in World War One.”

The historian said the Australian War Museum risks being left behind if it refuses to recognise conflicts on Australian soil. 

"Truth telling is such an important part of all of this, and the War Memorial has always gone to great lengths to have truth telling about Australia's wars" she said.

She said there is enough research, historical accounts and artefacts to create a powerful exhibit to include at the Australian War Memorial.

"There is no shortage of evidence. There's no shortage of important visual material and there is no shortage of artefacts left over from those wars - there's no shortage of weapons."

"If the War Memorial doesn't do that, then it's going to become increasingly irrelevant to the history of Australia. The memorial was established to record Australians experiences of being Australians."

Wakka Wakka woman and federal Greens candidate Dr Tjanara Goreng Goreng said leaving out the lines misses an important opportunity for truth telling and healing.

'Truth telling is healing'

“It's very important that we are not be afraid to just say - 'look this is the truth of what happened'”, she told NITV News.

“If we do some healing in relation to this and share stories of healing processes, then perhaps the statistics that are endemic in our community will change,” Dr Goreng Goreng said.

Guardian columnist, author and journalist, Paul Daley said it would have been a powerful moment had Mr Albanese spoken aloud the words originally written.

“So had Anthony Albanese spoken of Frontier War and the need to acknowledge Frontier Wars as part of that great hole in history,” Mr Daley told NITV News.

“To do so at the War Memorial would have been an implicit or inferred challenge to that protocol at the War Memorial not to do so.”

He said the moment could have been a chance for the Labor leader to show leadership but that many politicians were reluctant to publicly acknowledge the Frontier Wars. 

"I think it's really difficult to challenge that and it creates the need for real courage to to assert the truth of Australian history... It would have been a stand up as Paul Keating's famous Redfern speech". 

What are the Frontier Wars?
The Frontier Wars refer to conflicts between Europeans and Aboriginal people including battles, acts of resistance and open massacres.