The United Aborigines' Mission (UAM) was an interdenominational Mission organisation established in New South Wales in 1895. In South Australia, the first UAM children's Home was established in Oodnadatta in 1924. In 1927 the UAM established Colebrook Home in Quorn, residents of which included the residents and matron of the former Oodnadatta Children's Home. The UAM was later renamed the United Aboriginal Ministries. The UAM was wound up at the end of 2020.
The UAM and its antecedents understood mission as the conversion to Christianity of Aboriginal people (Longworth, p.5). The United Aborigines Mission was mentioned in the Bringing Them Home Report (1997) as an institution that housed Indigenous children removed from their families. In the second half of the twentieth century, the shift in Australian government policy towards assimilation led to challenges for UAM and its institutions.
The United Aborigines Mission was mentioned in the Bringing Them Home Report (1997) as an institution that housed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children removed from their families.
Note: The UAM webpage is no longer in operation. This URL is taken from the Wayback Machine and is dated 16 March 2018.
Even after the closure of the last of its children's institutions, the UAM continued to exist, the corporate body (also known as UAM Ministries) was based in the state of Victoria, as were its archives.
In October 2019, Sharrock Pitman Legal Pty Ltd, a legal firm based in Melbourne, advised the Find & Connect web resource that the United Aborigines Mission and UAM Ministries were in the process of being wound up.
According to the website of the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission, UAM Ministries' charity registration was voluntarily revoked on 31 December 2021.
The Find & Connect web resource contains descriptions of records known to have been held by the United Aborigines Mission Archives. These descriptions have been compiled from publicly available sources, such as the publications Finding your own way (2005) and Connecting Kin (1998). The UAM provided access to the records to researchers during the Mullighan Inquiry in South Australia (2004-2008), who recorded details about the contents of UAM's collection.
Former residents of institutions run by UAM have advised the Find & Connect web resource that since the end of 2018, it has not been possible to get access to UAM records.
In October 2019, Sharrock Pitman Legal Pty Ltd, a legal firm based in Melbourne, advised the Find & Connect web resource that the United Aborigines Mission and UAM Ministries were in the process of being wound up. These organisations' status as registered charities were voluntarily revoked in December 2021.
In late 2022, a collection of UAM records was deposited with the State Library of South Australia. This collection comprises some records from the United Aborigines Mission archives, relating to Colebrook, Tanderra and Oodnadatta Homes in South Australia, and the Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home in New South Wales.
As at March 2023, research and consultation by the Find & Connect web resource team and other stakeholders has been unable to establish the current whereabouts of other records previously held by United Aborigines Mission Archives, last known to be located in Williamstown, Victoria.
This is a distressing situation for former residents of UAM institutions and for their family members. Support is available from organisations such as Link Up and the Find & Connect support services.
If you can provide any further information please contact the Find & Connect web resource. We will update this website should any new information come to light.
In 2021, the New South Wales, South Australian and Western Australian governments agreed to be a funder of last resort for institutions run by United Aborigines Mission. This means that although the institution is now defunct, it is participating in the National Redress Scheme, and the government has agreed to pay the institution's share of costs of providing redress to a person (as long as the government is found to be equally responsible for the abuse a person experienced).
Sources used to compile this entry: Barry, Amanda et al, Evangelists of Empire? Missionaries in Colonial History, The University of Melbourne, 2008; George, Karen, Finding your own way, Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia Inc., 2005, http://nunku.org.au/resources/; Gerard, A E, United Aborigines Mission (of Australia): an outline of the history of the mission particularly in South Australia, Adelaide, 1950; Haebich, Anna and Doreen Mellor, Many Voices: Reflections on Experiences of Indigenous Child Separation, National Library of Australia, 2002; Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission, 'U.A.M. Ministries' Charity details, ABN 13062042951 (website accessed 14 February 2020).
Prepared by: Ann McCarthy
Created: 15 February 2011, Last modified: 30 March 2023