finnane and richards on aboriginal violence and the queensland state, 1860-1940


Mark Finnane, Jonathan Richards ‘Aboriginal Violence and State Response: Histories, Policies and Legacies in Queensland 1860–1940’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology 43, 2 (August 2010), pp. 238-262


During the long era of ‘protection’ (enacted in 1897, flourishing in the interwar years and with effects continuing to this day) policy towards Australian Indigenous people suspected of interpersonal violence was ambiguous in its objectives and its means. Formally, Indigenous peoples in Australia were British subjects entitled to the full protection of the law. As a consequence, violence between Indigenous people was made visible through the conduct of inquests, police inquiries and, in many cases, subsequent arrest and charge with a criminal offence. Disposal of those charged or even suspected of crimes reflects tension between the universalising presumptions of the criminal law and the particularising effects of welfare regimes that ruled the lives of Indigenous people. Drawing on archives of inquests, courts and prisons in the Queensland jurisdiction before 1940, this article examines the policies and decision-making that characterised a state that remained determinedly colonial in its practices and ambitions. In conclusion, we consider briefly the question of how distinctive or how representative was Queensland practice as a state response to Indigenous violence during these decades of colonial subordination.

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