Map reveals our shameful secret
AUSTRALIAN history is being turned on its head by a groundbreaking project which is documenting hundreds of horrific massacres that make up our bloody past.
Today, a disturbing new map has revealed the terrifying scale and brutality of the 250 mass killings which took place in every Australian state apart from Western Australia and claimed the lives of some 6200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The violent clashes also resulted in the deaths of just under 100 colonists, but indigenous people were murdered far more frequently with an average of 25 killed in every massacre.
And, if you think this all happened hundreds of years ago, think again. The chilling stories of slaughter, compiled by the University of Newcastle, began with the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 - but they continued all the way up until 1930.
However, lead researcher Professor Lyndall Ryan said the sickening stories they have heard so far are just scratching the surface and the real number of Aboriginal massacres could be closer to 500.
She told news.com.au this is because there had been a "code of silence" and a "huge cover-up" spanning hundreds of years.
"We have barely touched the surface," she said. "This is far bigger and more important than I anticipated it would be and it will be years before we see the full picture.
"It is changing the way we look at our history because I was brought up to believe that the transfer of land to the colonialists was a very peaceful process despite one or two massacres - like the Myall Creek massacre (in central NSW in 1838, where 30 unarmed indigenous Australians were killed by 10 Europeans and one African) - where the perpetrators were brought to justice.
"We now know that cases where the perpetrators were caught were very rare and
great efforts were made to cover up the hundreds of other massacres which took place."
It has been a confronting and draining process for Prof Ryan and her small team to untangle this web of lies and cover-ups over four years, and it will take another four until they've finished.
"You discover that a massacre is a very carefully planned event - it's not just a rush of blood to the head - they know exactly when and where to attack, which people to slaughter and they know they shouldn't be doing it which is why they take measures to cover it up," Prof Ryan said.
"The evidence takes decades to uncover because there's always local denial and Aboriginal people were not allowed to give evidence in court in the majority of these cases.
"When the family of those killed grow up, they might tell people, but it takes a long time for the truth to come out."
The most recent massacre uncovered was carried out as a police expedition in 1928 as punishment for the murder of dingo tracker Fred Brooks, who had abducted the wife of a Warlpiri man around Coniston Station in the NT.
The colonists killed 50 people in just a few weeks and, just a short time later, settlers killed more than 60 Warlpiri and Arrernte people after the Warlpiri allegedly attacked and wounded a man named Nugget Morton on the Lander River.
The research shows massacres of Aboriginal people were typically carried out by hunting parties of soldiers, armed settlers, mounted police and native police with six to 40 men in each party, averaging eight to 10 men.
The characteristics of massacres varied drastically by time and place. Here's now the researchers broke down the attacks:
Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) 1804-1834: soldiers, police, armed settlers, shepherds and stockkeepers on foot - largely at night.
Victoria (Port Phillip District) 1836-1859: mounted police forces including native police, armed settlers and stockmen on horseback - day and night.
New South Wales 1794-1826: soldiers, police, armed settlers on foot - day and night.
New South Wales 1827-1900: mounted police, native police, armed settlers and stockmen on horseback - day and night.
Queensland 1859-1910: native police, armed settlers on horseback - day and night.
South Australia 1836-1911: mounted police, armed and mounted settlers, stockmen, Aboriginal trackers- day and night.
Northern Territory 1861 -1930: mounted police, armed and mounted settlers, stockmen, Aboriginal trackers - day and night.
The weapons used in the horrific attacks on Aboriginal Australians included swords, pistols, muskets, bayonets, cannons, carbines, repeating rifles and even strychnine poison. Aboriginal weapons used in massacres were spears, waddies and hatchets.
Prof Ryan said her team's "painstaking" research was like trying to piece together a "big jigsaw puzzle".
"It's a real detective story," she said. "Sometimes there's newspaper accounts, sometimes there's oral evidence, or missionary records and sometimes we even have police reports.
"Police were very much involved in all of this, their reports often don't tell you what happened, but they might show you where a patrol went on a certain day and you eventually knit all the pieces of evidence together. It's painstaking research, no doubt."
The next step is to gather evidence throughout the vast wilderness of Western Australia and Prof Ryan believes hundreds more atrocities will be uncovered.
She said some communities where massacres had been uncovered have begun making plans to hold events or create memorials to pay tribute to lives lost during the periods of violence.
"It's confronting work and there are days when it's been too much for our staff and you have to just walk away for a bit," Prof Ryan said. "But, it's also an incentive to keep going."