The Garden Point Mission was established on Melville Island in 1941 by the Catholic Church to take charge of all Catholic Aboriginal children from The Bungalow, Alice Springs, and Kahlin Compound in Darwin. A residential school operated at the mission for children aged 5 to 17 years. In 1942 many children were evacuated to Carrieton in South Australia, returning in 1946. The government took over responsibility for the Mission in 1967, and the last of the children returned to the mainland in 1969.
In 1939 the new Native Affairs Branch, on a recommendation from the then Chief Medical Officer and Protector of Aborigines for the Northern Territory, Dr Cecil Cook, began negotiations to have religious Missions take charge of all the children, then considered to be 'half-caste' or 'part-coloured', from the government run facilities at Kahlin Compound in Darwin and The Bungalow in Alice Springs. Garden Point was chosen to be the site for a Catholic Mission for these Aboriginal children.
The area had previously been utilised from 1937 as a place to send so called 'incorrigible natives' from the Darwin area where they were placed under the supervision of a Control Officer. The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart began work on the Mission for Aboriginal children in 1939 and by 1941 dormitories and housing for both girls and boys were completed at the site. Boys arrived first and assisted with work in preparation of the Mission. Fifteen girls were brought from the mainland and a further fourteen girls of Aboriginal and Japanese background were transferred from the Bathurst Island Mission. The girls were between 18 months and 14 years old.
In 1941 the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart established a school at the mission for Aboriginal boys and girls aged 5 to 17 years. They provided accommodation, education, medical care and religious instruction. The girls were under the charge of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, and the boys were supervised by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
In 1942, after the bombing of Darwin during World War II, 41 children from the Mission were evacuated to Carrieton, a small country town in South Australia. The group included 37 girls, which was the majority of the girls from the Mission, and 7 boys. The rest of the boys remained on Melville Island. The children were returned to Melville Island during 1945-46.
Healthy children of patients from the Channel Island and East Arm Leprosariums, who were not allowed to stay with their parents, were often brought to Garden Point between the 1930s and 1960s. Throughout the Mission's history the Welfare Branch and its successors sent a number of children under its charge to Garden Point.
By 1949, 150 Aboriginal people, who were then considered to be 'part coloured', were living at Garden Point Mission. In 1967 the Mission lease was not renewed and control of the Mission was taken over by the government. In 1968 the Mission School closed and the last of the children returned to the mainland in 1969.
Garden Point Mission was mentioned in the Bringing Them Home Report (1997) as an institution that housed Indigenous children removed from their families.
Sources used to compile this entry: 'Northern Territory: Protectors /Administration / Welfare Branch reports', in To remove and protect: laws that changed Aboriginal lives, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2010, http://aiatsis.gov.au/collections/collections-online/digitised-collections/remove-and-protect/northern-territory; "A Piece of the Story": National Directory of Records of Catholic Organisations Caring for Children Separated from Families, December 2001, https://cssa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/A-Piece-of-the-Story.pdf; George, Gary, 'Carrieton', in Find & Connect web resource, Find & Connect web resource project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2012, http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/ref/sa/biogs/SE01179b.htm; Kettle, Ellen, Health Services in the Northern Territory - a History 1824-1970 Volume 1, Australian National University, Darwin, 1991; Pye, John, The Tiwi Islands, Australian National Library, Canberra, 1977; NAA: F1, 1949/455 Roman Catholic Mission Garden Point - Part-Aboriginal 1944-1951.
Prepared by: Karen George and Gary George
Created: 27 January 2011, Last modified: 6 November 2018