How Indigenous people contributed to the history of European settlement in Queensland is the focus of a new Griffith University study.

The study by Dr Dale Kerwin, from Griffith’s Institute for Educational Research, aims to reconstruct the life experiences of Aboriginal people. It will highlight their contribution to Queensland history from the start of colonial settlement in 1824 to Federation in 1901.

Dr Kerwin said Aboriginal people were basically portrayed in a negative way as a generic group in most history books.

“Indigenous people are often seen as footnotes to Australian history,” he said.

“This study aims to put Aboriginals on the same level as non-Aboriginal Australians.”

Through a combination of archival records, published sources and oral histories, the project will bring to life histories and achievements of Aboriginal people.

The research includes giving identities to the Aboriginal men who fought in the Boer War, the four trackers who helped the colonists find Ned Kelly in 1880, and to Charlie Flannagan, the first man to be hung in the Northern Territory.

Flannagan, an Aboriginal stockman, drove 20,000 head of cattle from Rockhampton to the Northern Territory. Once there, he killed a man after losing a card game. While waiting for execution, he produced a series of drawings which were the first recorded illustrations of stockmen’s life in early Australia.

“They are wonderful, insightful drawings that are a piece of Queensland’s early history,” Dr Kerwin said.

“This project addresses Aboriginal peoples’ demand to be accorded their rightful place in Australian history.

“It reveals the true richness and complexities of cross-cultural relations during Queensland’s colonial era.”

Dr Kerwin is a Goori (Aboriginal) man from Worimi Nation, New South Wales. He holds a Diploma of Primary Teaching, a Graduate Diploma of Museum Studies and Cultural Heritage Management and a Master of Philosophy. He was awarded a PhD in 2006 for his study of Aboriginal trading paths.

His research will be published in a textbook with plans to incorporate it into the Queensland School curriculum.

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