A name index of children of Aboriginal descent admitted to the Perth and Swan orphanages and missions between 1871 and 1920.
Please be aware that the following database contains the names of people who have passed away. The following also includes historically accurate names of institutions that are considered offensive today. The department does not condone this language and apologises for any distress caused.
This database includes children admitted to the following four historical institutions:
The database has been compiled from a range of historical sources including admission registers, microfilms, historical state government files, death and burial records and newspapers.
Please note that the Aboriginal History WA may hold further information and records. To request more information, please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1800 161 301.
The Perth Native and Half-Caste Mission was founded by Bishop Hale of the Anglican Church in 1871. Initially located on the corner of Mount Street and St Georges Terrace, the mission relocated to a new site near the present-day Swan Christian Centre in 1888 and was renamed The Swan Native and Half-Caste Mission.
Operating alongside the mission were the Perth Girls’ and Boys’ Orphanages. Although these orphanages were predominantly for non-Aboriginal children, a number of children of Aboriginal descent, particularly older boys, were sent to live there. The orphanages initially occupied the cottage adjacent to the Bishop’s House, with the Boys’ Orphanage moving to a new location in the Middle Swan in 1876 and a new Girls’ Orphanage constructed at 108 Adelaide Terrace around 1902.
Over the course of the lifespan of these institutions around 280 Aboriginal children were removed from their families and placed into care. Some were as young as 2 years old.
Those who were old enough to attend school on the mission were instructed in religious and elementary subject matter. In the afternoons the girls were engaged in household duties and needlework that produced the clothing for the mission while the boys attended to the garden and outdoor work. By the age of 12 to 14 the children were typically placed in service, either as domestic servants or into farm work or labouring.
In 1905 a change in the political landscape saw the introduction of the Aborigines Act and the appointment of a Chief Protector who became the legal guardian of ‘every Aboriginal and half-caste child’ under 16 years. AO Neville replaced the original Chief Protector in 1915 and subsequently opened 2 major reserves, the Moore River Native Settlement near Mogumber and the Carrolup Native Settlement near Katanning.In 1920 Neville discontinued government subsidies for church-run institutions, forcing the closure of the mission, and by the end of the year the remaining 9 children were transferred to the Moore River Native Settlement.
The information below has been compiled from annual reports of the mission and online newspapers.
Right Reverend Mathew Blagden Hale of the Anglican Church establishes an orphanage for girls (non-Aboriginal) adjoining the Bishop’s House near the Causeway in Perth. 17 admitted during the year.
Admission of boys (non-Aboriginal) to the orphanage.
Introduction of the Industrial Schools Act 1874 — this was the first law in WA to officially sanction the removal of children. The Act stated that any Aboriginal child 'surrendered' to an institution could be detained without parental consent or contracted to employment from the age of 12 to 21 years.
Death of 3 children residing at the mission (1 male, 2 female).
Establishment of the Aborigines Protection Act 1886 gives wide powers to an Aborigines Protection Board and Protectors to involve themselves in the lives of Aboriginal people in WA, including the care, custody and education of Aboriginal children.
Death of 1 female at the mission.
Epidemic of whooping cough and measles, 1 death.
Tuberculosis and measles outbreak. 20 cases of measles reported, 2 deaths.
New building containing quarters for staff, kitchen and dining room erected at the mission.
Death of a 9-year-old male at the Boys' Orphanage leads to a coroner’s inquiry revealing instances of child abuse and accounts of unsatisfactory meals being provided at the institution.
Another cyclone occurs in February, on this occasion destroying the newly built female dormitory. The senior males work in the darkness of the storm to help release the females who are buried in the wreck. Tragic death of 1 female. Another female suffers a broken leg.
Arrangements made to transfer children residing at the mission to the Moore River Native Settlement.
Mission officially closes.
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