4 September 2014
Black War: Fear, Sex and Resistance in Tasmania
- Mr President, I suppose if you applied the language of production
to the halls of academe you would call a book that develops from a
PhD thesis 'downstream processing'. Anecdotal evidence suggests
that more and more graduate theses are ending up as books.
born and bred Rosevears constituent, Nicholas Clements, has done just
that. His book, The
Black War: Fear, Sex and Resistance in Tasmania,
is changing the way Tasmanians view their history. A brief
quote from the book:
black war was the most intense frontier conflict in Australia's
history. It was a clash between the most culturally and
technologically dissimilar humans to have ever come into conflict.
quote starts us on a totally new view of Tasmania's early European
settlement. Nick Clements is an honorary research associate and
a lecturer in the schools of philosophy and Aboriginal studies at the
University of Tasmania. He completed his PhD at UTAS in 2013,
looking at the conflict between Aborigines and settlers in the then
Van Diemen's Land between 1803 and 1842. It is interesting that
between 1825 and 1831 close to 200 Europeans and 1 000
Aborigines died violently. These were in conflicts between the
recent settlers and Tasmania's original inhabitants
Clements' book takes a unique approach to this historic event,
looking chiefly at the experiences and attitudes of those who took
part in the conflict. The book's narrative is strengthened by
vividly told incidents like one at Hadspen in the member for Western
Tiers' electorate. In the early 1800s, Hadspen came under
sustained attack from Aborigines who were incensed at European
incursions on their land, women and hunting grounds. I quote:
1827 (the exact date is unknown) indigenous warriors besieged the
Hadspen home of ex-convict and farmer Thomas Beams. The
Aborigines killed two of Beams's servants, both convicts.
According to an account written by a Beams descendant in 1947, the
farmer and his neighbours quickly formed an armed 'war party'.
They stormed a blacks' camp in a deep gully late at night; one of the
Europeans took off his boots and wore several pairs of borrowed socks
so he could move silently through the bush. When dawn broke, 11
Aborigines lay dead.
killings near Hadspen are personal. Thomas Beams was a direct
descendant of his mother and the story has been handed down through
the generations in his family. Nick Clements says he made no
judgement on historical figures but rather tries to understand why
they did what they did. Each chapter of his book is told from
alternating black and white perspectives interesting reading.
know the member for Montgomery has read the book and has been
fascinated. As the title of this book suggests, sex was a
factor for woman-deprived European settlers but you will have to read
the book, like the member for Montgomery, to get a full explanation.
Clements, born in 1982, is from Flowery Gully in my electorate.
Soon after his return to Tasmania from travels as you do after
schooling, he shattered his spine in a cliff diving accident which
has left him with prosthetic vertebrae and lifelong chronic pain.
The road to recovery was long and he was forced to abandon manual
work. He was a fitter and machinist with Gunns and then, unsure
of what else to do, he enrolled in an arts degree where he discovered
passions and talents he never knew he had.
won two scholarships, including a bursary, to do his honours project
under historian Henry Reynolds looking at Aboriginal representation
in Van Diemen's Land's newspapers. Nick graduated with first
class honours and after a break in Europe again worked with Henry
Reynolds on his PhD on frontier conflict. That became The
Black War: Fear, Sex and Resistance in
which has received glowing reviews. Part of the reason for the
book's success is its structure. In an attempt to circumvent
the arguments and blame games of the so-called history wars, Nick
wrote each chapter of the black war half from the colonists'
perspective and half from the Aborigines' perspective. Thus it
forces readers to empathise with both sides.
who recently married his long-term partner Kristy, is an honorary
research associate at the University of Tasmania but he does not
intend to continue much longer in academia. Rather, he has
decided to devote his life to what he calls Tasmania's future - young
people. He is currently working at Exeter High School and is
looking forward to a life of teaching, learning and community
building in the Tamar Valley. I wish him well in those endeavours.