Wadjemup online database

A history of Aboriginal incarceration at Rottnest Prison 1900 to 1931.

The department has completed research for an online database that focuses on the prison history of Wadjemup (Rottnest) between 1900 to 1931. Families and community members with ancestors who were imprisoned at Wadjemup are invited to participate in this initiative by contacting us.  


Between 1838 to 1931 Wadjemup was used to incarcerate many Aboriginal people from across Western Australia who were convicted of committing a crime. Offences ranged from stealing a loaf of bread, to offences committed under the Aborigines Act 1905 which sought to control the lives of Aboriginal people to more serious crimes. Some offences related to tribal acts including payback or other cultural practices that were offences under Western Law but not so within the cultural groups of the offenders. Irrespective of the conviction, the sentencing of an Aboriginal person to Wadjemup was often seen as an opportunity to remove them from a location.

What is the project?

The project is an online database that provides new research discoveries and material in relation to the prison history and the 390 Aboriginal people who were sent there between 1900 to 1931, with information about where each person was sent from, their admission and discharge dates, offences committed, occupation and occurrences while on the island, a photograph where possible, and life after their release. The database also includes birthdate, place of birth, family connections and other notes.

Why this project?

The earlier history of incarceration on the island extending from 1838 to 1900 has been researched and documented by several authors in the past. The current project is unique in that it incorporates a thematic overview, a comprehensive online database and over 100 individual photographs, collectively providing an insight into the lives of the prisoners during the final 31 years of the prison.

Where can I find the Wadjemup project?

The project will be launched and published on this website in November 2020. We will be providing regular updates and information on this page.

Register your interest

Families and community members who have an ancestor that was imprisoned at Wadjemup are encouraged to participate in this initiative by registering their interest by email to Mr Duane Kelly. The AHWA will also be holding a series of online information sessions for those seeking to learn more about the project.

For further information or to register your interest please contact:

Duane Kelly
Research and Administration Officer, AHWA
Telephone 61 8 9427 3473
Email duane.kelly@dlgsc.wa.gov.au

Information Flyer

Map of Wadjemup prepared by surveyor A.J. Lewis with later amendments, c.1909. S2168, cons5698, item 1493, State Records Office of WA
Page reviewed 20 August 2020