Roelands Native Mission Farm, near Bunbury, was opened by Mr Albany Bell in 1938 on his Seven Hills property that had previously been the site of the Chandler Boys' Farm. Mr Bell was a well-known sponsor of child welfare activities in Western Australia and was the first president of the Native Welfare Council of WA.
It was envisioned that Roelands would be a self-sustaining farm for Aboriginal families. It has been reported that the wages at Roelands were poor and that people did not stay long at Roelands.
In 1941, Roelands changed its focus to become a home for 'part-Aboriginal' children, classified as 'quadroons', under 8 years old. The first children came from the Moore River Native Settlement in October 1941. By 1944, there were 26 children at Roelands and a 'part-Aboriginal kindergarten teacher' was appointed in 1945.
According to the State Solicitor's Office Guide to Institutions, Roelands was taken over by the United Aborigines Mission (UAM) in 1946 but it is unclear whether any formal change in management occurred, or whether there was an informal cooperation between the Roelands Native Mission Farm Council and the UAM:
'At a meeting with the Council of the Roelands Native Mission Farm it was agreed that the two Missions should work in closest association ; our aims and methods and missionaries are indeed part of one work. Thus, Mr. Bell presided at our Annual Meetings; supplies of fruit on a generous scale have come to our stations from the Farm through the years; and we want it known that the two bodies work in full harmony. There are 85 boys and girls now cared for at Roelands; their graduates are doing well in such fields as electrical work, dairying, and preparation for nursing. Ten young folk were baptized into Christian fellowship this year. Schooling and farm training help to prepare the children for useful adult life in the white community. Report by the United Aborigines Mission in the Annual Report of the Commissioner for Native Affairs 1951 pp.22-23'
In 1952, there were 78 children and young people at Roelands, which had an onsite primary school up to Grade 6. Older children went to Harvey High School in the mission bus. There were no 'adult natives' resident there.
Until 1963, all children and young people at Roelands were under the guardianship of the head of the departments responsible for Aboriginal welfare.
It was common practice for the Commissioner for Native Affairs to report on the achievements of young people who had been to Roelands and the other mission schools and training centres. In 1952, for example, he wrote in the Annual Report that a girl who had been trained atRoelands was employed as a domestic in Government House and one of the boys was share-farming on a property at Yallingup. At this time, the curriculum included farming and vehicle maintenance and driving for boys and domestic science for girls, who were reportedly encouraged to continue with their studies so that they could enter nursing or other female professions. Any young people needing medical treatment were taken to Bunbury.
The Annual Reports of the Child Welfare Department show that the numbers at Roelands remained fairly consistent during the 1960s, with around 70 to 80 children or young people classified as 'native wards' living there each year.
From 1 July 1973, the Roelands Native Mission Farm was known as Roelands Homes Incorporated. It was affiliated with a group known as the Missionary Fellowship, described by Wilson & Robinson as a 'loose organisation consisting of Baptist, U.A.M, Roelands Mission, Wongutha Training Farm, the Australian Aborigines Evangelical Mission Board and the Kurrawang Aboriginal Christian Centre'. At this time, there were a number of 'satellite' cottages associated with Roelands, including Wollaston in Bunbury and the Valima Girls' Hostel in Perth. It is likely that young people were transferred from Roelands to these cottages to take up employment or education opportunities in larger centres.
In 1975, the Roelands property was offered to the Churches of Christ Federal Aborigines Mission Board Inc. who purchased the site and reopened it as Roelands Village.
In 2013, the site - known as 'Roelands Mission' was being renovated to re-open as a 'place of healing'.
16 July 2019
Cite this: http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/wa/WE00187
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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