Abstract: In the brief massacre scene at the end of David Malouf’s 1993 novel Remembering Babylon an unusual weapon of frontier murder is introduced to Australian narrative prose: the swinging stirrup iron. In Alex Miller’s 2002 novel, Journey to the Stone Country, the stirrup iron returns to wreak even more murderous havoc. The stirrup iron functions here to provide a symbolic link to the particularities of violence in colonial Queensland, for it specifically connects the iconic national figure of the cattleman/drover with the killing of Aboriginal people on the frontier. This article examines these texts, and, more briefly, other representations of the Australian cattleman in contemporary Queensland fiction, against a backdrop of recent historical research that reconfigures cattle and their human managers as central to the story of frontier murder and the stealing of Aboriginal land that constituted the colonisation of large parts of Australia, especially of Queensland, in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Keywords: David Malouf; Alex Miller; Queensland history; Queensland fiction; frontier war; cattle pastoralism; cattlemen; drover

Copyright © Geoff Rodoreda 2014. This text may be archived and redistributed both in electronic form and in hard copy, provided that the author and journal are properly cited and no fee is charged.