• The Hobart War Memorial. A memorial for the Black War against First Australians would include traditional artwork from the community. (Sarah Maunder)Source: Sarah Maunder
RSL Tasmania's President has said he supports a memorial to the Black War and a leading academic has said such a memorial would be “a hugely significant moment in the history of the Australia.”
Sarah Maunder

The Point
30 Mar 2021 - 6:53 PM  UPDATED 31 Mar 2021 - 11:05 AM

A leading campaigner for the recognition of colonial Australia's wars with Indigenous peoples has welcomed RSL Tasmania's support for a memorial. 

Aunty Wendal Pitchford has been campaigning for a memorial commemorating Tasmania's Black War, and the Frontier Wars, for years.

She told NITV that she never imagined it would happen in her lifetime.

"It's overwhelming really. It's been my baby for a few years now, so I contemplated on that a little bit," she said.

"It makes my heart warm and glad for my people, my ancestors and my community. It's a healing process, so it's going to be wonderful."

Aunty Wendal said the memorial would feature artwork from the community.

"Gardens represent county and community, it will probably be a native garden and maybe have water in it, (but that) depends on the art work. I would like to see fire represented somewhere in it."

The Black War in Tasmania was a period of violent conflict between British colonists and Aboriginal Tasmanians from the mid-1820s until 1832. 

It's believed 200 colonists and some 600 to 900 Tasmanian Aboriginals were killed in the war.

Professor Lyndall Ryan AM said two British regiments were stationed in Tasmania during the 1920s. 

“The Tasmanian wars were eagerly followed in the colonial press in Australia, on the mainland, and it gave a lot of clues about how to fight the wars on the mainland when they happened,” she said. 

Robert Dick is the State President for RSL Tasmania, and said the memorial was still in the early consultation phase. 

“A lot of people believe that the RSL owns cenotaphs, but we don’t, they are owned by the community, and the RSL is the custodian. So in regards to where (the memorial) is going to be, what shape it’s going to take, that is still under discussion, and in the very early stages. Nothing definite has been decided at the moment.

“On a personal basis, I support that there should be recognition for everybody that suffered during (the Black War).

“It is an important reminder that this is a dark part of our history that we don’t want to happen again, and we should learn from what actually happened, accept Reconciliation and move on.” 

Professor Lyndall Ryan said the RSL support for a memorial recognising the lives lost in the Black War was historic. 

“It’s a hugely significant moment in the history of Australia, it’s a hugely significant moment in the history of Tasmania, and I think it will set a precedent for other memorials being established in other parts of Australia,” she said.

“I’m delighted that the RSL wants to be a part of this movement.”

Rodney Dillon is a palawa Elder in Tasmania, and the Indigenous Advisor to Amnesty International.

“Our people didn't die with colds, they died with gunpowder,” he said. 

"(A memorial) is one of the first steps that we need to recognise that there was a war on our people, a genocide, the bounty they put on our people. 

“We’ve been asking RSLs to do this for a long time, and I think this is an RSL that has taken that step and I congratulate them for that. 

“Aboriginal people have been talking about this for a long time, so it’s something new from our side, it’s something new for the RSL side, they’re going to have to work with their members to work through this, because our people are ready to do that straightaway. 

“It’s about telling the truth of history, and this country hasn’t been good at telling the truth of history, this is a good step for us to come on board and talk about what happened to our people.”