'Many Deeds of Terror': Windschuttle and Musquito

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Within its pages are many examples of errors and misrepresentations that cast doubt on [Windschuttle's] management of colonial source material.

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Frontier violence is now an accepted chapter of Australian history. Indigenous resistance underlies this story, yet it has barely been examined as a military phenomenon (Connor 2004). Our understanding of military strategies Indigenous groups employed, and their broader objectives in undertaking resistance remains vague, being more often assumed than proven. Building on Laurie’s and Cilento’s contentions (1959) that an alliance of Aboriginal groups staged a fairly successful ‘Black War’ in southern Queensland during the 1840s and 1850s, the author seeks evidence for a historically definable (1843-1855) conflict during this period, complete with a record of Indigenous declaration, victories, coordination, leadership and planning. As the Australian situation continues to present elements which have proved difficult to reconcile with existing paradigms for military history, this study applies definitions from guerilla and terrorist conflict (e.g. Eckley 2001, Kilcullen 2009) to explain key features of the southern Queensland “Black War.” It also compares this to similar frontier engagements in other parts of Australia. The author concludes that Australian “resistance” wars followed their own distinctive pattern – achieving coordinated response through inter-tribal gatherings and sophisticated signaling; relying heavily on economic sabotage and targeted payback killings; and guided by self-depreciating “loner-leaders” much more wily and reticent than their equivalents in other parts of the world. The author also argues that contrary to the claims of military historians such as Dennis (1995), there is ample evidence for tactical innovation. He notes a move away from pitched battles to ambush affrays; the development of full-time guerilla bands; and use of new materials such as iron and glass.
Indigenist Critical Realism: Human Rights and First Australians' Wellbeing consists of a defence of what is popularly known as the Human Rights Agenda in Indigenous Affairs in Australia. It begins with a consideration of the non-well-being of Indigenous Australians, then unfolding a personal narrative of the author Dr Gracelyn Smallwood's family. This narrative is designed not only to position the author in the book but also in its typicality to represent what has happened to so many Indigenous families in Australia. The book then moves to a critical engagement with dominant intellectual positions such as those advanced by commentators such as Noel Pearson, Peter Sutton, Gary Johns and Keith Windschuttle. The author argues that intellectuals such as these have to a great extent colonised what passes for common sense in mainstream Australia. This common sense straddles the domains of history, health and education and Dr Smallwood has chosen to follow her adversaries into all of these areas. This critique is anchored by a number of key philosophical concepts developed by the Critical Realist philosopher Roy Bhaskar. The book advances and analyses a number of case studies - some well-known, even notorious such as the Hindmarsh Island Affair (South Australia) and the Northern Territory Intervention; others like that of the author's late nephew Lyji Vaggs (Qld) and Aboriginal Elder May Dunne (Qld) much less so. Representing one of the first attempts to engage at a critical and intellectual level in this debate by an Indigenous activist, this book is essential reading for students and scholars interested in Critical Realism and colonialism.
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