The difficult, divisive and disruptive heritage of the Queensland Native Mounted Police

Heather Burke, Lynley A. Wallis, Nicholas Hadnutt, Iain Davidson, Galiina Elwood, Lance Sullivan

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The colonial history of nineteenth-century Queensland was arguably dominated by the actions of the Native Mounted Police, Australia’s most punitive native policing force. The centrality of the Native Mounted Police to the sustained economic success of Queensland for over half a century, and their widespread, devastating effects on Aboriginal societies across the colony, have left a complex legacy. For non-Indigenous Queenslanders, a process of obscuring the Native Mounted Police began perhaps as soon as a detachment was removed from an area, reflected today in the minimisation of the Native Mounted Police in official histories and their omission from non-Indigenous heritage lists. In contrast, the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Database preserves several elements of frontier conflict and Native Mounted Police presence, giving rise to parallel state-level narratives, neither of which map directly onto local and regional memory. This highlights potential issues for formal processes of truth-telling relating to frontier conflict that have recently been initiated by the Queensland and Federal Governments. Of particular concern is the form that such a process might adopt. Drawing on a 4-year project to document the workings of the Queensland Native Mounted Police through archival, archaeological and oral historical sources, we suggest that this conflicted and conflictual heritage can best be bridged through empathetic truth-telling, using Rothberg’s notion of the implicated subject to consider contemporary contexts of responsibility and connect present-day Queenslanders with this difficult, divisive and disruptive past.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalMemory Studies
Early online date2 May 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 May 2023


  • Native Mounted Police
  • frontier conflict
  • heritage
  • truth-telling
  • memory


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