On the issue of 'protection', the Bringing Them Home report (1997) stated that:
'There was a significant divergence between the imported British notions of fairness and liberty and the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Australia. The major components of forcible removal were:
In Western Australia, the government official responsible for Aboriginal protection was known by various titles throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries:
From 1832 to 1838 Superintendent of Natives was one of the names given to the official who was responsible for the 'protection' of the Aboriginal population in the early years of European settlement. From 1833 Captain Ellis served as Superintendent of Natives in the Crown Colony of Western Australia until he was killed in the 'Battle of Pinjarra' in 1834. Francis Armstrong replaced Ellis as Superintendent of Natives from 1834 -1838.
From 1839 to 1849, the official responsible for the 'protection' was known as the Protector of Aborigines, although the title seems to have been used interchangeably with the term, 'Protector of Natives'. For example, in his annual report for 1848 (published in 1849), Charles Symmons begins: 'As Protector of Aborigines, I have the honor to submit' the report, which he signs as 'Protector of Natives'. In 1839 Peter Barrow and Charles Symmons were appointed in England to the roles of Protectors of Aborigines in the Crown Colony of Western Australia, roles they took up in 1840. Peter Barrow left Western Australia in 1841.
From 1849 to 1857, the official responsible for protection was called the Guardian of Aborigines, and from 1857 to 1873, was also known as the Guardian of Aborigines and Protector of Settlers. Charles Symmons served in these various roles in Western Australia from 1841 to 1873.
During this time, much of the direct interest in the education and 'care' of Aboriginal children was by Christian missionaries through the establishment of orphanages, schools, missions and homes.
In 1883, there was an Inquiry into the treatment of Aboriginal Native Prisoners of the Crown (also known as the Rottnest Commission). In addition to Indigenous prisoners, the Inquiry also advised on missions and how to look after sick, aged or young Aboriginal people in Western Australia. The report of the Inquiry gave a view of Aboriginal people as unable to look after themselves 'properly'.
Following this Inquiry, the Western Australian government enacted the Aborigines Protection Act in 1886. This law established the Aborigines Protection Board, which oversaw 'protection' from 1887 until 1898.
These new powers brought in changes that were to heavily impact Aborigninal children in Western Australia. The functions of the Aborigines Protection Board included the 'care', custody or education of Aboriginal children, and the power to apprentice any 'Aboriginal' or 'half-caste' child.
The Aborigines Act 1897 abolished the Aborigines Protection Board and created the Aborignes Department in 1898, with the Chief Protector as head. The role was given legal authority by the Aborigines Act 1905.
The Chief Protector was the legal guardian of all Aboriginal children in Western Australia. He had the the power to remove Aboriginal chidlren from their families and 'confine' them, and place them in Homes, or in 'service' (work). This power became a central part of the racialist policies of assimiliation of that time.
The first Chief Protector Henry Charles Prinsep, replaced by Charles Frederick Gale in 1908. Gale's successor, appointed on 7 May 1915 was Auber Octavius Neville, who was responsible for the most notorious assimilation polices in Western Australia, believing it was necessary to 'breed out' the Aboriginal population.
In 1936 the role of Chief Protector was renamed the Commissioner for Native Affairs, a role Neville held until he was succeeded in the post by Francis Illingworth Bray in 1940. Bray, who had been working in Aboriginal affairs in Western Australia since 1932, was Commissioner from 1940 until 1948. Stanley Middleton was appointed to this position in 1954, following the Survey of Native Affairs 1947 (also known as the Bateman Survey) into the 'native problem'.
The year 1955 saw the establishment of a new Department of Native Welfare (or DNW) and yet another job title: the Commissioner of Native Welfare. The Commissioner for Native Welfare was the guardian of all 'native' children except those who had been made wards under the Child Welfare Act 1947. Middleton served in this role until 1962.
The next Commissioner for Native Welfare in Western Australia was Frank Ellis Gare, in the role from 1962 until 1972. From 1962 to 1963, Gare was the guardian of all Aboriginal children except for those who were already wards of the State under child welfare legislation.
Under the Native Welfare Act 1963, the Commissioner ceased to be the guardian of 'native minors'. Duties of the Department of Native Welfare included providing for 'the custody, maintenance and education of the children of natives' and to assist in the 'economic and social assimilation by the community' of 'natives'. Only 'natives' and specified persons were to enter or remain on reserves. Regulations may be made for 'the control, care and education of the children of natives'.
The Native Welfare Act 1963 was repealed by the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act 1972. In June 1972, when the Department of Native Welfare ceased to be, its remaining child welfare responsibilities were transferred to the newly-created Department of Community Welfare. (The key government organisation responsible for Aboriginal matters in Western Australia from 1972 to 1994 was the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority, which from 1 November 1994, AAPA continued as the Aboriginal Affairs Department.
09 July 2014
Cite this: http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/wa/WE00492
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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