"A Question of Necessity" : The Native Police in Queensland

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Finnane, Mark
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Weaver, John
Ganter, Regina
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Frontier issues are an inevitable part of Australian historiography, and have often been dealt with in either an indifferent or a moralistic manner. Specifically, it has been widely argued that records of officially condoned frontier violence have been destroyed or lost. This thesis, which deals with the Native Police in Queensland from 1860 to 1905, attempts to move the discussion on to firmer ground. It is driven by a passionate commitment to the rights of Indigenous Australians, and shows that detailed archival research does not support those who deny the violence that accompanied the colonisation of Australia. Apologists for dispossession will find no comfort in the archival records. The Native Police force was widely reputed to have been the most violent police force on the Australian frontier. Long-standing and widely cited references about the lack of Native Police records have been tied into arguments about the kind of force it was.

This dissertation is the first significant archival work on the Native Police force after Separation. The force was part of broader colonial settler-society, and I analyse the Native Police in that context. The problem with existing literature is that the archives have not been adequately consulted, and historians have neglected vital contextual aspects of the force in Queensland. The sociology of policing has not been integrated with a model of military force in the Queensland case, even though in colonial Queensland the same men formed the dual function of soldiers and police. The aim of the thesis is to provide an integrated model documented by detailed research in the archives. The research hypothesis is that the Native Police played a central role in the dispossession and punitive treatment of Indigenous people. Chapter 1 sets up the research problem in the context of the existing scholarship on native policing. Chapter 2 looks at the officers. Chapter 3 is concerned with the Aboriginal troopers of the force, and Chapter 4 examines the operations of the Native Police in Queensland. The thesis is very detailed, as the topic requires, but it still only opens up essential avenues of research. In particular, more work needs to be done on the experiences of the troopers and on the records of frontier violence in general.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Arts, Media and Culture
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native police
Australian history
indigenous Australians
frontier history
colonial settler society
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