Evidence of conflict can be traced to the earliest human societies. Throughout the past groups have sort to resolve issues, often based around competition over resources (e.g. food, land, raw materials) through conflict. Some anthropologists have argued that warfare and conflict have played a pivotal role in the development of human society, ranging from the extinction of the Neanderthals to the origins of agriculture and the emergence of states.

In Queensland tribal conflict amongst Aboriginal groups was sometimes part of resolving issues. In parts of northern Australia rock art has been interpreted by archaeologists as representing battle scenes between groups of warriors.



Queensland’s history of Aboriginal and European conflict is marked by a series of violent incidents, including massacres, retributions, incidents akin to guerrilla warfare, and police ‘dispersals’. Some of these events are well documented, while others are controversially debated. Nevertheless conflict characterised Colonial-Aboriginal interactions as settlers claimed land by forcing Aboriginal people from their homelands and Aboriginal people defended their territory from the invaders.


World Conflict

As part of Colonial Britain, the Colony of Queensland developed and maintained its own defence force between 1860 and 1901. This was designed for the defence of Queensland against possible attack by the Russian Empire. Elements of Queensland’s colonial forces also took part in the Boer War in South Africa.  

World War I

With the outbreak of the First World War, tens of thousands of Queenslanders were involved in the Great War which saw the death of thousands of men. The Great War changed many Queenslanders’ perceptions of conflict. Much of the romance of defence in the name of the British Empire had been shattered. Small monuments and cenotaphs dot the Queensland landscape. Most small towns record the names of the thousands who fell.  

Conservator working on a World War II air raid bunker now held in the Queensland Museum collection Conservator working on a World War II air raid bunker now held in the Queensland Museum collection

World War II

In 1939 a Second World War commenced which once again saw Queenslanders involved in conflict, this time in the Mediterranean and North Africa. With the entrance of the Japanese in the War in 1941 conflict was for the first time brought to the doorstep of Australia. Some of the most violent conflict on Australian land and water occurred in Queensland, with numerous Japanese air raids in the north targeting military facilities at Horne Island and Townsville. The destruction of the neutral AHS Centaur off Brisbane in 1943 was representing one of the most dramatic incidents on the home front.

Queenslanders continue to be involved in conflicts across the globe, with soldiers serving in remote corners of the world such as Afghanistan.  

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

Related Links