SYDNEY (Reuters) - A new map that tracks the massacres of indigenous Australians by European settlers over more than 80 years, dating from the 18th century, could prove to be the country's most comprehensive guide to the strife when it is completed.
The exact number of indigenous deaths since Australia's settlement has long been debated, but the map is the first to detail evidence of more than 150 massacres involving almost every aboriginal clan between 1788 and 1872.
That compares with six recorded massacres of colonists during the same period.
"At present, it's a preliminary list, as we expect to find more massacres, as people come forward with more evidence," historian and project author Lyndall Ryan said at the launch of the map on Wednesday.
The map, published by the University of Newcastle's Centre for the 21st Century, drew on sources such as settler diaries, newspaper reports, evidence from Aboriginal groups and state and federal archives, Ryan told reporters.
The map was an "incredible historical project that will have positive repercussions," aboriginal leader Warren Mundine told Reuters.
"Knowledge is so important because with it you can do things; we can add to the education of our nation and know how we got where we are today."
The project, which now covers only massacres on Australia's eastern seaboard, took four years of painstaking research, with more expected over the next two years as incidents in the country's west are mapped.
The map showed there had been "very intense periods of violence in particular regions," added Ryan, inviting those who had information on massacres to come forward.
Reporting by Ben Cooper; Editing by Clarence Fernandez