They did not involve the Australian military, runs the objection.This is technically correct; Tasmania was a British colony until 1901.There were six times as many white men in the colony as there were women, and almost none of the latter were available to frontiersmen.Predictably, some of these men employed violence to procure sex with Aboriginal women and children, and this appears to have been the war’s main proximate trigger.Around 1000 lives were lost, but the loss of cultures and histories was far costlier.Had it happened elsewhere, the Black War would be common knowledge.
Some had never held a gun, much less fired it into an Aboriginal camp; others had killed their black enemies at every opportunity, but all were victims of circumstance.
Even more devastating was the human toll: 223 colonists killed and 226 wounded.
This represents an annual per capita death rate two-and-a-half times higher than that of Australians in World War Two. The war’s 200 or so Aboriginal survivors, exiled to Flinders Island in the early 1830s, lost nearly everyone they knew, together with their country and their way of life.
Yet nearly two centuries on, most Australians know almost nothing about it.
This Anzac Day it is worth reflecting on the price we pay for such ignorance.