Mapping and tracking the Native Police in Moreton Bay and nearby districts (Southeast Queensland)
Dr Jonathan Richards, Visiting Fellow 2017/2018


Indigenous people were killed by settlers and police during the European colonisation of Australia, and records show that units of the Native Police (an armed and mobile frontier force) were often involved in the killing and massacre of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in modern-day Queensland from 1848 onwards. As in other parts of Empire, the colonised were often enlisted by force, to subdue other Indigenous people. Aboriginal troopers served in the Native Police from 1848 to about 1915.

Tracking the movements of the force is difficult because only a limited amount of primary records have survived, including very few actual patrol reports. Mapping the Native Police patrol routes in the northern districts of New South Wales (which became the separate colony of Queensland in 1859) using archival documents is a new step in advancing our historical understanding of frontier violence and conquest.

This project is based on Native Police records held at the Queensland State Archives. These archival files, consisting of 15 items in 7 series, contain a mixture of supply orders, accounts, bank statements and other general correspondence, for the period between 1848 and 1857. These fragile records, transferred from New South Wales State Records and Archives to Queensland State Archives in 1972, were virtually unreadable on microfilm, but digitisation in 2015 allowed a more thorough analysis to be conducted. Careful interpretation of these ‘house-keeping’ records allow us to partially follow the movements of Native Police patrols across the ‘Northern Districts of New South Wales’ that later became Queensland.