The Australian Wars episode 2

The Australian Wars episode 2

The Australian Wars episode 2 – During the 1820s, a significant and rapid increase in the colonist population was witnessed in Tasmania. This demographic shift led to a corresponding rise in fatalities, as the influx of settlers sparked conflicts with the Tasmanian Indigenous communities, who were actively resisting the encroachment on their lands.



In the second installment of this insightful authored series, Rachel Perkins, a film-maker of both European and Indigenous Australian descent, delves into the perplexing question of why, despite the existence of thorough and detailed public records chronicling the extensive conflict in Tasmania, there are conspicuously no public memorials honoring those who perished in these clashes.

The Australian Wars episode 2

A key figure in this narrative is Governor Arthur Phillip, whose military background influenced the strategies employed to protect the Empire’s interests. This included the armed fortification of the so-called ‘settled districts.’ However, as the colonist population burgeoned, these districts began to encroach upon the vital hunting territories of the First Nations groups, heightening tensions.

The Australian Wars episode 2

A critical turning point occurred in 1828 with the killing of a white woman by unidentified Indigenous warriors. This incident precipitated a dramatic intensification of hostilities and led to Governor Arthur imposing martial law. The enforcement of this law involved armed groups comprising both colonists and soldiers. Concurrently, Arthur initiated a propaganda campaign, purporting the notion of legal equality between the Indigenous and white populations.

This claimed parity, however, starkly contrasted with the actual experiences of Indigenous warriors like Tongerlongeter, and the broader Tasmanian Indigenous population. They bravely resisted, fighting almost to the last individual, before ultimately agreeing to the terms of an armistice. This series of events highlights a tumultuous and critical period in Tasmania’s history, underscoring the complex and often tragic interactions between the Indigenous populations and European settlers.

The Australian Wars episode 2 – The Untold Story of Tasmania’s Colonial Conflict

In the 1820s, Tasmania, then known as Van Diemen’s Land, witnessed a dramatic transformation that reshaped its social and cultural landscape. This era was marked not only by a demographic shift, with the European colonist population doubling, but also by a heartrending escalation in conflicts between these settlers and the Indigenous Tasmanian people. Often relegated to the peripheries of historical narratives, these conflicts were instrumental in molding Tasmania’s past and present.

The Seeds of Strife

The arrival of European settlers in Tasmania brought a divergent way of life and an insatiable appetite for land. This quest for expansion led to inevitable encroachments on the traditional lands of the Indigenous Tasmanians, igniting significant resistance. As settlers spread across the island, the Indigenous people found their hunting grounds, sacred sites, and living spaces under threat, setting the stage for a clash of cultures and interests.

The Colonial Blueprint

Central to this unfolding drama was the role of Governor Arthur Phillip, whose military background deeply influenced the colonial tactics. The fortification of ‘settled districts’ under his regime was ostensibly for the empire’s protection. However, this expansion encroached upon the prime territories of the Indigenous groups, exacerbating the tensions.

The Catalyst of 1828

A pivotal moment in this conflict was the 1828 incident where a white woman was reportedly killed by Indigenous warriors. This event dramatically heightened existing tensions, leading to the introduction of martial law by Governor Arthur. The enforcement of this law involved armed patrols by colonists and soldiers, inadvertently escalating the conflict.

The Rising Tide of Conflict

The Clash of Cultures

The increasing influx of European settlers in Tasmania brought a clash of cultures. The Indigenous Tasmanians, whose way of life was deeply connected to the land, faced an existential threat as their territories were encroached upon. This led to significant resistance, as they fought to protect their ancestral lands and way of life.

The Disparity in Power

Governor Arthur’s policies reflected a stark power imbalance between the colonists and the Indigenous population. The fortification of the ‘settled districts’ not only protected colonial interests but also pushed the Indigenous people further away from their traditional lands. This disparity in power dynamics played a crucial role in the unfolding conflict.

The Escalation of Tensions

The killing of a white woman in 1828 marked a tragic turning point in the conflict. The incident led to the declaration of martial law, intensifying the confrontations between the colonists and the Indigenous people. The patrolling armed parties, meant to enforce the law, further inflamed the situation, leading to more violence and loss.

The Propaganda Campaign and Its Implications

The Narrative of Equality

Governor Arthur’s propaganda campaign aimed to portray legal equality between the Indigenous and white populations. This narrative, however, starkly contradicted the realities faced by the Indigenous Tasmanians. They endured immense challenges and disparities, struggling to maintain their way of life against overwhelming colonial forces.

The Experience of Indigenous Warriors

Indigenous warriors like Tongerlongeter found themselves at the forefront of the resistance. Their experiences highlighted the vast divide between the colonial narrative and the harsh realities they faced. These warriors symbolized the struggle of the Indigenous people to preserve their culture and land.

The Contradictions of the Colonial Campaign

The colonial government’s campaign, while promoting a narrative of equality, effectively masked the inequalities and injustices faced by the Indigenous population. The policies and actions of the government contradicted the propagated ideals, revealing the underlying biases and prejudices of the colonial regime.

The Last Stand and the Armistice

The Indomitable Spirit of Resistance

The Indigenous Tasmanians, exemplified by resilient figures like Tongerlongeter, mounted a valiant resistance against colonial encroachment. Their struggle was not just for land, but for the very essence of their identity and way of life. Despite the overwhelming odds, they persevered, epitomizing the indomitable human spirit in the face of adversity.

The Overwhelming Colonial Advance

As the conflict progressed, the colonial forces, equipped with superior weaponry and resources, gradually overpowered the Indigenous resistance. The Indigenous Tasmanians found themselves increasingly cornered, their numbers dwindling due to both armed conflict and the impact of new diseases introduced by the settlers.

The Bitter Armistice

Ultimately, the relentless pressure from the colonial forces left the Indigenous Tasmanians with no option but to accept an armistice. This marked the end of active resistance but also signaled a somber chapter in the annals of Tasmania’s history, with the Indigenous population nearly obliterated.

Reflection on the Conflict and Its Legacy

The Forgotten Battles

Despite the extensive conflicts that marked this period, there remains a notable absence of public memorials or acknowledgments dedicated to those who lost their lives. This gap in public memory and recognition speaks volumes about the prevailing historical narrative and the need for a more inclusive recounting of this turbulent era.

The Lasting Impacts

The effects of these conflicts extend far beyond their historical period. They have left an indelible mark on the cultural and social landscape of Tasmania, influencing the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Understanding this legacy is crucial for reconciliation and building a more inclusive society.

The Call for Inclusivity

The need for a truthful and inclusive retelling of Tasmania’s colonial history is paramount. Recognizing the sacrifices and struggles of the Indigenous people is not just about correcting historical records; it’s about acknowledging their role in shaping the Tasmania of today.


The Critical Chapter in Australian History

The colonial conflicts in Tasmania during the 1820s represent a significant, albeit often overlooked, chapter in Australian history. It’s a tale of resistance, survival, and stark realities of colonial expansion. Understanding this period is crucial for acknowledging the past and shaping a more informed and inclusive future.

The Uncomfortable Truths

This analysis sheds light on the uncomfortable truths of Tasmania’s colonial conflicts. It challenges us to confront the darker aspects of our history and learn from them. By doing so, we honor the memory of those who suffered and ensure that their stories are not forgotten.

The Path Forward

As we reflect on this history, it becomes clear that understanding and acknowledging the past is essential for building a future that embraces diversity and inclusivity. Tasmania’s story, fraught with conflict and tragedy, offers lessons in resilience, the importance of cultural preservation, and the need for genuine reconciliation.

FAQ Section

Who was Governor Arthur Phillip and what was his role in Tasmania’s colonial conflicts?

Governor Arthur Phillip played a pivotal role in Tasmania’s colonial conflicts. His military background influenced the colonial approach, leading to the fortification of ‘settled districts’ and exacerbating tensions with the Indigenous population.

What was the significance of the 1828 incident involving the killing of a white woman?

The 1828 incident where a white woman was reportedly killed by Indigenous warriors marked a turning point in the conflict. It led to the introduction of martial law, significantly escalating the violence and tension between the colonists and Indigenous Tasmanians.

What was the outcome of the conflicts for the Indigenous Tasmanians?

The outcome was tragic for the Indigenous Tasmanians. They faced near obliteration due to the armed conflict and diseases brought by the settlers, and were ultimately forced into an armistice, marking the end of their active resistance.

Why is it important to remember and understand Tasmania’s colonial conflicts?

Remembering and understanding Tasmania’s colonial conflicts is crucial for acknowledging the full scope of Australian history, including its darker aspects. It helps in fostering reconciliation and building a more inclusive society.

What does the lack of public memorials for these conflicts signify?

The absence of public memorials signifies a gap in the historical narrative and points to the need for a more inclusive and truthful recounting of Tasmania’s history, recognizing the struggles and sacrifices of the Indigenous population.

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