• Organisation

New Norcia Mission


New Norcia Mission is the collective name for St Mary’s Mission (1848-1974) for boys and St Joseph’s Native School and Orphanage (1861-1974) for girls. These institutions were run by Benedictine monks and nuns until they closed in 1974.

New Norcia Mission was the collective name for the St Mary’s Mission (from 1848) and the St Joseph’s Native School and Orphanage (from 1861) which were ‘segregated’ and run as separate institutions by the Benedictine monks and nuns at New Norcia, 120 kilometres north of Perth, Western Australia. Schooling was focused on practical skills and young people worked at the Mission after school age.

A child endowment officer visiting New Norcia in 1943 gave a description of the mission and its aims. He stated that the mission was designed to be a “permanent home or niche” for the children living there, and that following their training they would be “automatically absorbed into the economy”. In his view this training was the “only method of effectively using the native”, otherwise they “revert to their old habits” (NAA, A885 B202).

The New Norcia Mission was scheduled under the ‘Industrial Schools Act 1874’, giving the Abbot ‘complete control’ over the children on the mission.

In 1974, with a ‘new appreciation of the importance of Aboriginal family and culture’ the Mission was closed.

In 2001, former residents of New Norcia organised a reunion. An account of that reunion is given by Massam, and indicates the complexity of relationships between people who grew up in out of home care and the people and institutions that accommodated them:

The reunion was about bonds between people, not structures. It brought together people who had publicly and vehemently criticised the Sisters and the institutions at New Norcia with others who had spent their savings to finance a return. Most often the women and men who gathered could speak in more than one voice, from more than one standpoint about their childhood. Women who had fought all their lives against the threat that their own children might end up in care brought grandchildren to town, proud and keen that the next generation might meet ‘the ladies who looked after Nanna’. Again and again, the reunion was about relationships that had persisted through dreadful, and sometimes wonderful, experiences and held firm over many years. That There was Love in This Home: The Benedictine Missionary Sisters at New Norcia p.211

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  • 1848 - 1974

    New Norcia Mission was located in New Norcia, on the western banks of the Moore River, 120km North of Perth, Western Australia (Building Still standing)


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