The history wars in Australia is a term which is used to describe the public debate about the interpretation of the history of the European colonisation of Australia and the development of contemporary Australian society (particularly with regard to their impact on Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders). Although this debate is ongoing, the term “history wars” was first used in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and its use corresponded with the Howard government‘s term in office.
The Australian debate often concerns the extent to which the history of European colonisation post-1788 and government administration since Federation in 1901 may be characterised as having been:
- a relatively minor conflict between European settlers and Indigenous Australians, and generally lacking in events that might be termed “invasion“, “warfare“, “guerrilla warfare“, “conquest” or “genocide“, and generally marked instead by humane intent by government authorities, with damage to Indigenous Australians largely attributable to unintended factors (such as the unintentional spread of infectious diseases from Europe) rather than to malicious policies; or
- an invasion marked by violent frontier conflicts and guerrilla warfare between European settlers and Indigenous Australians involving numerous massacres of Aboriginals by the settlers as a result of the former’s resistance to colonisation; a situation which can be said to have developed into a pan-Australian “genocide of Indigenous Australians” and continues to affect Aboriginals today as a result of experiencing continued dispossession, exploitation, mistreatment and cultural genocide.