There was a dormitory at Mount Margaret Mission, established around 1928, where children were housed separately to their parents. It was called Graham Homes.
Mount Margaret Mission accommodated children as part of family groups but these children, even when living with their families were under the guardianship of the authorities responsible for Aboriginal welfare in Western Australia.
The 'Bringing them home' report (1997) describes how missions like Mount Margaret attracted families whose children would otherwise be taken from them.
According to the State Solicitor's Office in Western Australia (Guide to Institutions Attended by Aboriginal People in Western Australia 2005, pp.93-94), R. Schenk, the manager of Mount Margaret Mission, established in 1933 'an outpost at Warburton Ranges Mission, which became an entirely separate mission in 1937' (p.93).
By 1942, there were 'several hundred' Aboriginal people living at the mission in 'cottage residences' and 70 children went to the mission primary school. Schenk took an active role in the 'vocational education' of children at the Mission (p.93) '.
Young people were educated generally along practical lines, with what could be considered to be relatively high aspirations for the pre-World War II period. Boys were trained in carpentry, shearing, mechanics and mining skills so that they could get jobs in industries common to the Goldfields area. Girls were trained not only in domestic work but also as typists and nurses.
In 1933, Mrs Mary Montgomerie Bennett, teacher and advocate for Aboriginal people's rights, joined the staff at Mount Margaret, and emphasised 'learning', teaching classes in 'personal hygiene, money transactions, arithmetic and bible history'.
Bennett's entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography states that at Mount Margaret:
'… she devoted herself principally to unorthodox but highly successful primary teaching of Aboriginal children and the promotion of handicrafts among Aboriginal women. Her teaching was supplemented by tireless agitation for Aboriginal rights, which made her anathema to State officials and politicians.'
In 1949, the mission school received the services of a government teacher.
According to the Guide (p.94) there were only a 'number of families' living at the mission by the end of the 1960s, with 18 children being taught in a one-teacher school.
By 1971 (Wilson and Robinson, quoted in Signposts 2004, p.359) there were 39 children enrolled at the mission school. Wilson and Robinson also stated that Mount Margaret Mission was run by the Department of Native Welfare but other reliable sources report that the UAM ran the mission until 1975.
In 1972, responsibility for child welfare at Mount Margaret Mission was transferred from the Department of Native Welfare to the Department for Community Welfare (DCW) in accordance with government policy at that time.
Mount Margaret Mission closed in 1975 (Guide, p.94), and the lands were transferred to the Aboriginal Movement for Outback Survival.
Some young people may have been placed with adults resident at Mount Margaret Mission after the lands were transferred in 1975.
Mount Margaret Mission was mentioned in the Bringing Them Home Report (1997) as an institution that housed Indigenous children removed from their families.
16 July 2019
Cite this: https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/wa/WE00152
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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