Historical town blocks granted to Aboriginal people in Western Australia

Produced by Aboriginal History WA (AHWA) to assist people seeking to learn more about their family histories.

Photo: Extract of a redacted Western Australian land lease register showing details of an application. Source: State Records Office of Western Australia.

This resource is an index to residential town blocks purchased, leased or licensed by Aboriginal men and women in Western Australia between 1900 and 1960. The index, spanning 60 years and almost 200 individual listings, can be used to trace those who came before us. It may provide some insight into the lives and stories of the people listed.

Between 1900 and 1960, and under section 6 of the Land Act 1898 (WA) and later section 9 of the Land Act 1933 (WA), Aboriginal men and women in Western Australia could purchase, lease and license land. Identical in wording, both section 6 and section 9 of the respective acts state: ‘The Governor may grant or lease to any aboriginal (sic) native, or the descendant of an aboriginal (sic) native, any Crown land not exceeding two hundred acres, upon such terms and conditions as he (sic), the Governor, shall think fit’. The types of land available varied. Both acts included pastoral lands, timber lands, working men’s blocks, and town and suburban lands to name a few.

Despite there being different land types, this index solely focuses on the purchasing, leasing and licensing of town and suburban lands, and special purpose leases.

Each entry in the Historical Town Blocks Index includes the following details:

  • land holder name
  • purchase type
  • town
  • lot number
  • lot size
  • date of purchase
  • act acquired under
  • application number
  • link to townsite plan showing lot location.

Although the index is designed to reveal individual stories, each record helps to build a picture of the group. For example, a search of the index reveals that Aboriginal men and women purchased and leased small plots of land in more than 45 locations across the state. Some of these locations include Albany, Badjaling, Carnarvon, Meekatharra, Port Hedland, and Wyndham. In addition, an estimated 136 men held a deed, licence or lease compared to approximately 46 women. Nearly all the land grants in the index were issued to individuals. Though, there are some instances where a block was jointly purchased, presumably by a husband and wife. By themselves, these points of fact make interesting reading. But collectively, they create a meaningful story about people and place.

Working townsite plan of Badjaling

Photo: Working townsite plan of Badjaling where 8 residential blocks featured in this index were taken up. Source: Department of Lands and Surveys, and Crown Lands and Surveys Department. (1914 to 1973) Badjaling Sheet 1 [Tally No. 503694]. AU WA S2168- cons5698 0069. State Records office of Western Australia.

Types of town blocks applied for in Western Australia

Opportunities to take up town blocks in Western Australia between 1900 and 1960 were provided under various sections of the Land Act 1898, and its successor Land Act 1933. The different sections under which applications were typically applied for are summarised in the table below.

Town and suburban land sold by auction

Town and suburban land disposed of by sale at public auction at upset prices (the legally lowest price) determined by the Governor/Minister and subject to conditions determined by the Governor/Minister.

Land Act, 1898 Section 47
The Land Act, 1933 Section 38

Licence to occupy town or suburban land

The issuing of a licence entitling the holder to occupy land under certain conditions prescribed by the Act.

Land Act, 1898 Section 51
The Land Act, 1933 Section 43

Special purpose lease

Leases granted for a special purpose defined within s.152 of the Land Act 1898, for land not exceeding 25 acres and for a period of up to 25 years, and at an annual rental of not less than five shillings per acre.

Land Act, 1898 Section 152


Leases granted for a special purpose defined within s.116 of the Land Act 1933, for a term not exceeding 50 years at a yearly rental of not less than $4.

The Land Act, 1933 Section 116

Town or suburban lease

The leasing of any town, suburban or village lands on such terms as the Governor or Minister may think fit.

Land Act, 1898 Section 153
The Land Act, 1933 Section 117

Source of information

The information featured in this index has been sourced from historical lease registers held at the State Records Office of Western Australia (SRO). Please note that limited SRO records exist and for this reason, the index does not include town blocks within the Perth Central Business District nor does it include transfers from an original or subsequent owner. For more information about a town block please contact Landgate, the Western Australian land information authority, which holds further records. For information about agricultural and pastoral leases, please see AHWA’s Agricultural and Pastoral Leases Index.

Page reviewed 13 September 2023