Conflict is part of every society, and can be traced to struggles over resources, relationships, land or cultural transgressions.  Conflict in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies is controlled through social and cultural laws. Conflicts can be resolved through these processes and meetings and gatherings are important means of maintaining harmony and addressing issues.

Queensland Museum collections include a large number of weapons from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural groups throughout Queensland. These include ancient artefacts used to hunt, to perform ceremonies and to fight. These technologies were an important part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander resistance to European invasion

Colonial Conflict

Aboriginal Peoples’ conflicts with European colonisers were initiated in the earliest days of Invasion. Land was at the heart of much of these disputes, but cultural difference and ignorance exacerbated many conflicts.

Aboriginal groups and European settlers viewed land as a means of survival, but they had very different customs in how to use the land and its resources. Aboriginal custom respected land as sacred and integral to life itself. Europeans viewed land for its agricultural potential and saw it as something to transform through toil and harvest. 

These different attitudes to land generated conflict. In the absence of obvious visible farming, Europeans assumed the land to be insignificant to Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders. Settlers cleared land, destroyed resources and desecrated significant sites. Aboriginal people were denied access to an important resource that sustained their social, cultural, economic and spiritual wellbeing.

These cultures clashed with weapons; one with spears, the other with guns.

Major battles were fought across the land. Aboriginal people fought the colonial invasion of their lands with honour. To this day Aboriginal People have never surrendered their fight for the proper fair and equitable recognition of Aboriginal rights of land and justice of their people.

Queensland Museum's Find out about... is proudly supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.