Born in England around 1820, he moved to Australia as a young man.
He became Clerk of Petty Sessions at Tumut in NSW before being appointed the first Commandant of the Native Police in 1847.
Walker brought an enforced peace to his police district by the annihilation of "wild blacks", which he referred to as "charcoals". After one occasion when Walker, his Aboriginal troopers and some local squatters had been firing upon some Bigambul Aborigines at dusk, Walker wrote to the Colonial Secretary,
Colonial Secretary, Earl Gray, told Walker the position of Commandant of Native Police was "not for the purpose of carrying warfare to an enemy country" and cautioned him not to "commit acts of aggressive warfare against the Aboriginal natives". Walker's posting to the MacIntyre River was a disaster for the Bigambul and resulted in a heavy loss of indigenous life. Walker admitted "using his own discretion", and although the Attorney General feared he had not acted legally throughout, Walker felt his actions were "morally right" and the value of pastoral land in the district increased dramatically.
Walker believed the squatters' policy of forcing Aborigines off pastoral land caused problems and he tried to break up large bands of Aborigines by encouraging settlers to allow small groups access to their stations. This approach found little favour with the squatters, and he gained a reputation for carrying out the law with due process. Walker faced increasing opposition from landowners and faced a Board of Enquiry. He appeared before the Board while drunk and was eventually dismissed from the force.
Walker went on to form his own independent Native Mounted Police Force, but this was disbanded by the government. He surveyed a line for Queensland's overseas telegraphic terminal at Burketown. He died of gulf fever in November 1866 and is buried on Floraville Station on the Leichhardt River. His grave was rediscovered by Walter Camp of Floraville Station in 1979.
Attitudes to Captain Walker's actions as Commandant vary widely. Fels (Good Men and True, 1988), believes Walker's actions to have been a success. Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, called Walker "an outstanding man in every respect" (OM72.090, 1980). Copland (1999), argues that Walker's actions were carried out "with a disregard for human life and legal process" and that the Native Police under Walker "established the premise of acting illegally within the pretence of a legal framework". Rowley (1970) called the establishment of the Queensland Native Police "the final bankruptcy of frontier policy" and in 1999 the Queensland Police Commissioner apologised to indigenous Queenslanders for the actions of Police Force.
Walker's Memorial at Hughenden
Extract from Chapter 15 of The Explorers of Australia and their life-work
by Ernest Favenc,
Whitcombe & Tombs, Christchurch, 1908.
Frederick Walker commenced his bush career as a pioneer squatter in the districts of Southern Queensland, but afterwards made his residence near the centre, where he joined the Native Police. He had long bush experience, was a firm believer in the training of the natives in quasi-military duty, and had taken a prominent part in the formation of the Queensland Native Police. On this relief expedition, the party was composed almost entirely of Native Police troopers under his leadership.
On receiving his commission, he pushed rapidly out to the Barcoo, and, near the Thomson River, came upon another tree marked L. This might have been made by Leichhardt. He ascended the main watershed, and crossed it coming down on to the head of the Flinders River. Here he experienced many hindrances arising from the rough basaltic nature of the country that borders the northern head-waters of that river. When he finally debouched upon the wide western plains, he crossed the Flinders, without recognising it as the main branch, in the search for which he went on northward. Approaching the Gulf of Carpentaria, he had several encounters with the aboriginals. As he neared the coast, the bend of the Flinders brought that river again across his route, and it was then that he came on some camel tracks, which assured him that the missing party, the object of his search, had at any rate reached the Gulf safely. On his outward way Walker may be said to have pursued a course parallel with that of the Flinders, a little further to the northward.
He pushed on to the Albert River, to replenish his provisions at the Depot provided for the use of the various relief parties. He arrived there safely, after having had two more skirmishes with the blacks on the way. He reported the finding of the camel tracks, and having come to the conclusion that Burke and Wills had probably made for the Queensland settlements, he decided to follow them thither. He traced out a tributary of the Flinders, the Saxby, on his homeward route, but saw no more of the camel tracks, and finally crossed the water-shed on to the rough basaltic country at the head of the Burdekin. Here his horses suffered so severely from the rugged nature of the country, that by the time they reached Strathalbyn, a station on the lower Burdekin, the whole of the party were well-nigh horseless, as well as almost out of provisions.
Walker was afterwards engaged by the Queensland Government to mark out a course for a telegraph line between Rockingham Bay and the mouth of the Norman River in Carpentaria. This work he carried out successfully; but when at the Gulf, he was attacked by the prevalent malarial fever, and died there.
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