Contrary to their gut feeling, most Aussies remain woefully ignorant of this country’s real history. Learning about subjects like the Cairns Post recommending Rough on Rats to eradicate the ‘intolerable nuisance’ of dispossessed First Nations peoples might incline more to Vote YES to The Voice.
There’s a lot of bullshit spoken about The Voice. One might think Australia’s First Nations peoples lived a life of abject misery before colonisation.
But who should be so fcking lucky?
British colonists saved them. The European saviours shot them, infected them with small pox and other diseases, stole their land, and later, their children.
How lucky were Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders that the British invasion saved them from worse?
Now, some readers might think I exaggerate.
But I don’t base my judgement on the writings of First Nations peoples or their ‘do-gooder allies’.
No need to. Because the people who slaughtered First Nations peoples in their tens of thousands recorded their nefarious deeds themselves. Indeed, they often boasted of it.
Fred Wimble and Rough on Rats
Fred Wimble, born into a wealthy English family of ink-makers, arrived in Australia a wealthy man. He founded the Cairns Post in 1883. Later, he spent £7000 on his successful campaign to become the Liberal member for Cairns — well over $1 million in today’s money.
Yes! The good citizens of Cairns elected a man who recommended poisoning the annoying people they’d dispossessed. £7000 gave Fred Wimble a voice.
Rough on Rats was a poison — arsenic with a bit of coal added for colour. People used it to kill vermin, themselves and unwanted spouses. It was also a popular choice for baiting First Nations peoples — though few were as open about its use as Wimble.
Here’s the full extract of his article about the traditional owners of the Russell River goldfields south of Cairns.
“The blacks are becoming an intolerable nuisance to some of the people along the second section, especially near Jamieson’s, where there are a number of men engaged in getting hickory logs.
“They are always compelled to leave one of their number in the camp, otherwise every scrap of food is taken by the thieving rascals;
“A little ‘Rough on Rats’ judiciously disposed amongst some damper would effectually stop these annoyances. One policeman cannot be in several places at once, and if the Government won’t help the people in the North, they will have to help themselves.”
The Native Police
By a policeman, Wimble meant the Native Police, Queensland’s original police force, a near autonomous militia charged with policing Aboriginals. One white officer commanded a troupe of up to ten native police pressed into service by one means or another.
Officially, the force ‘dispersed’ First Nations people suspected of murder, killing stock, thieving or of posing any perceived threat to those who now occupied their traditional lands.
But ‘dispersed’ was a euphemism. Even newspapers of the day printed the word inside quotation marks. As a correspondent to the Cooktown Courier noted, the orthodox method of dispersal occurred via ‘swift, leaden messengers’ — bullets.
The Cairns Post advised, “the word ‘dispersed’ as applied in some quarters to the blacks, does not convey altogether the same meaning as gathered from Webster’s dictionary.”
The murderous militia conducted widespread, indiscriminate, extrajudicial killings of First Nations people. Crimes which, even Queensland parliamentarians admitted, would see other perpetrators hanged. Tens of thousands of First Nations people died during Queensland’s frontier wars.
We know this from the records left by members of the Native Police themselves.
WRO Hill was one of three sons of an impoverished baronet who came to Queensland in 1861 in search of fortune. ‘Willie’, as he was known, an officer in the Native Police for many years, later wrote a book with the snappy title, Forty-five years’ experiences in north Queensland, 1861 to 1905 : with a few incidents in England 1844 to 1861.
Shoot, and shoot straight
Hill insisted in the book that the Native Police never killed Aboriginals without due cause. But he also wrote the following.
“The only wise thing to do on seeing a black was to shoot, and shoot straight.”
Hill’s book provides evidence of the casualness with which the Native Police went about their genocidal duty.
“Once, when coming home from patrol, Vick [a native policeman] was carrying a little boy piccaninny about four years of age, whose father had been deservedly shot, and I was riding about fifty yards behind, when I was horrified to see Vick ride up to a tree and knock the poor little chap’s brains out!
“I galloped up to the bloodthirsty wretch and knocked him off his horse with my hunting crop. In fact, I was within an ace of shooting him. I then handcuffed and made him walk back to the camp.
“Next day I said, ‘Vick, what for you kill that piccaninny?’
“His reply was, ‘I couldn’t stand him. He spit in my eye!’
“Vick got a flogging he never forgot.”
However, Hill assured his readers, that no matter how arduous his work slaughtering Aboriginals, he always made it back to town on weekends to take the local (white) children for Sunday School.
Forty-five years’ experiences in north Queensland, 1861 to 1905: with a few incidents in England 1844 to 1861 / by W.R.O. Hill. Available to download at Text Queensland.
Most Australians know so little of our real history. Who is aware that our first ‘bushranger’ was a West Indian man of African origin? Or that many Indians made New South Wales their home after coming here as sailors with the Second Fleet? Who knew there were more Chinese north of Rockhampton from the mid-1870s than whites?
And who of us knows very much at all of the true history of First Nations Australians? There’s a lot available if we just look. Have a look and you just might decide to Vote YES to The Voice.
Pompo and Christie Palmerston: tearing down statues. (A legendary North Queensland ‘explorer’ and his young First Nations ‘companion’.)
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