Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/2440/111598
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Type: Journal article
Title: Salutary lessons: nativepolice and the ‘civilising’ role of legalised violence in Colonial Australia
Author: Nettelbeck, A.
Ryan, L.
Citation: Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 2018; 46(1):47-68
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Issue Date: 2018
ISSN: 0308-6534
1743-9329
Statement of
Responsibility: 
Amanda Nettelbeck and Lyndall Ryan
Abstract: Over much of the nineteenth century, recurring problems of covert and opportunistic conflict between settlers and Indigenous peoples produced considerable debate across the British settler world about how frontier violence could be legally curbed. At the same time, the difficulty of imposing a rule of law on new frontiers was often seen by colonial states as justification for the imposition of order through force. Examining all the mainland Australian colonies from the 1830s to the end of the nineteenth century, this paper asks how this contradictory dilemma played out through deployment of ‘native police’ and the ‘civilising’ role of legalised violence as a strategy for managing the settler frontier. In light of wider debate about a humanely administered empire, Australia’s first native police force established in New South Wales in 1837 was conceived as a measure that would assist in the conciliation and ‘amelioration’ of Aboriginal people. In the coming decades, other Australian colonies employed native police either as dedicated forces or as individual assistants attached to mounted police detachments. Over time, the capacity they held to impose extreme violence on Aboriginal populations in the service of protecting pastoral investments came to reflect an implicit acceptance that punitive measures were required to bring order to disorderly frontiers. By tracing a gradual shift in the perceived role of native police from one of ‘civilising’ Aboriginal people to one of ‘civilising’ the settler state itself, this paper draws out some of the conditions under which state-sanctioned force became naturalised and legitimated. It concludes that, as an instrument of frontier management, native policing reflected an enduring problem for Australia’s colonial governments in reconciling a legal obligation to treat Aboriginal people as subjects of the crown with a perceived requirement to bring them under colonial authority through the ‘salutary lessons’ of legalised violence.
Keywords: Native police; frontier policing; settler colonialism; colonial governance; Aboriginal history; violence
Rights: © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
RMID: 0030077180
DOI: 10.1080/03086534.2017.1390894
Grant ID: http://purl.org/au-research/grants/arc/DP150100914
Appears in Collections:History publications

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