Mounted Constable William Willshire commanded a corps of Native Police in Central Australia during the 1880s, a tim when conflict on that pastoral frontier was at its height. Notorious for the violence of his patrols, he was eventually tried in 1891 for the murder of two Aboriginal men, and was posted to an even more remote frontier in the Top End.
During his time in the Territory, Willshire wrote of his experiences in several extraordinary memoirs. In these he represents himself as an explorer in the service of his country, as an anthoropologist gathering knowledge about Aboriginal Australia, and as an exemplary Australian bushman, at a time when the bushman legend was in its gensis and the nation was yet to be. Most of all, he appears as the representative of the law, working to make the country safe for the 'brave pioneers who push out the frontier'. After his murder trial in 1891, he becomes its martyr.
What were the forces that led to the power Willshire held on the frontiers of settlement, and to his downfall? Part murder mystery and part courtroom drama, his story illuminates unfolding issues of race and nationalism in colonial Australia on the eve of Federation.
1. Opening the Centre
2. 'The Rule of Law'
3. The Native Police
4. Ethnography as Surveillance
5. The Missionaries Under Scrutiny
6. The Police Under Scrutiny
7. The Trial of William Willshire
8. Thrilling Tales
9. Land of the Dawning, End of an Era
10. Race and Nationalism in the Shadow of the Frontier