Yaama. I’m Boe Spearim, a Gamilaraay, Kooma and Murrawarri man. I’m a radio host and podcaster who lives in Brisbane. I’d like to yarn about my first podcast series, Frontier War Stories. I kicked off the series yarning with Callum Clayton-Dixon about his book Surviving New England.
Frontier War Stories is a podcast dedicated to truth telling about a side of Australian history that has been left out of the history books. In each episode I speak to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people about research, books and oral histories which document the first 140 years of conflict and resistance. These times are the frontier wars, and these are our war stories.
I’ve always been interested in history, not just here in Australia but worldwide. The transmission of history is something Aboriginal people on this continent have always done through culture and storytelling. History connects us to who we are. It gives us a way to connect to the past and gives context for us to understand the world today.
The history on this continent is one of conflict where Aboriginal people were dehumanised. Even though our humanity was being taken from us we were still resilient in maintaining our cultural obligations while also defending our country.
Aboriginal people are murdered today, and there is no justice because our humanity was – and still is – stripped from us. If you look through history you can clearly see when we as a people didn’t matter to anyone else on this continent. Not long after the invasion commenced in 1788, our people began a war of resistance and we fought fiercely for 140 years. This history gives context to the relationship between Aboriginal people and settlers today.
People often don’t know about our warriors unless they have done specialised studies or these stories have been passed down to them. What we see because of this is a denial of the frontier wars and massacres.
There is this notion that our people just lay down and died. Australia does a good job of denying this history despite historians telling some of these stories. Aboriginal people sacrificed their lives for us to be here and still have some remaining culture and country. I wanted to honour them by making their stories more accessible to everyone.
I use podcasting as a platform to tell these stories as you can listen to a podcast while doing anything. It makes the stories more accessible to busy people or people like me who have trouble picking up a book. I wanted to engage people in the storytelling process; I’m having these conversations and learning things for the first time too. I wanted Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people to have an opportunity to learn this history through one of the oldest forms of storytelling: oral history.
My favourite episode so far was with Libby Connors, author of Warrior: A Legendary Leader’s Dramatic Life and Violent Death on the Colonial Frontier. We spoke about Dundalli, a warrior who was hanged and killed in Brisbane for fighting for his people. It’s my favourite episode because it’s important to know the history of the area that you live in. I don’t know all the history of this area but what is most important is continuing that learning.
My goal with the Frontier War Stories series is to do an episode a week until the end of the year. I’d like to focus on the not so prominent Aboriginal figures out there as well.
In one of my episodes I speak to Paddy Gibson – an activist and researcher at the Jumbunna Indigenous Research Institute – about a Yolngu leader, Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda, who fatally speared Northern Territory police officer constable Albert McColl 87 years ago. Territory police then planned to go in and massacre the Yolngu people. Activists and communists from different parts of this continent supported Dhakiyarr’s act of resistance. Demonstrations were held in the streets and this stopped the government from going in and massacring these people.
This was in 1933 – one of the last known open discussions about going in and “teaching the blacks a lesson”. That Yolngu leader, Dhakiyarr, isn’t as well known outside of his community. Most of the research done is about the bigger names like Pelmulwuy or Jandamarra, which I would like to cover but I would also like to focus on the lesser-known warriors too.
These times are the frontier wars, and these are our war stories.
• Frontier War Stories podcast can be found on Spotify, Podbean, Google Podcast, and Apple Podcasts. You can donate to the podcast through Boe Spearim’s Paypal account or email him for further details at [email protected]