A new online map is documenting the massacres of Indigenous Australians by European colonists in the frontier wars, shedding light on the country’s bloody past.
It took four years for researchers at the University of Newcastle in Australia to compile the map, which provides details on individual sites and massacres.
The map also corroborates sources that provide evidence of the massacres, something which researchers say has been the most challenging part of the project.
“The biggest argument in the scholarship of massacre is how do we know it happened?'” Professor Lyndall Ryan from the university’s Centre for the History of Violence said in a statement online.
“Most massacres took place in secret and were designed to not be discovered, so finding evidence of them is a major challenge. This digital tool brings significant historical information out of the depths of archives, bringing it to life in an accessible and visual format.”
The map currently only covers the east coast of Australia, with 150 massacres mapped out across Tasmania, Victoria, most of New South Wales and Queensland.
“With this map we’ve developed a template to identify massacres and a process to corroborate disparate sources. They include settler diaries, newspaper reports, Aboriginal evidence and archives from State and Federal repositories. The map pulls the sources together to form a coherent list of frontier massacres spanning 80 years across Eastern Australia,” Ryan added.
Researchers hope to have the rest of the country mapped out “within two years.” They hope the tool will be used by history students and scholars, and it’s also meant to serve as a contact point for people who have information about massacres.
“In Australia very few perpetrators were brought to justice. I’m a historian so it’s not my intention to bring people to justice with this map,” Ryan said. “However, we do know the impact of massacre reverberates across the generations. When I visit Aboriginal communities today the first thing they do is take you to the massacre site.”