Mount Margaret Mission, south of Laverton, was established in 1921 by R. Schenk, with assistance from the Australian Aborigines Mission. Around 1928, the Schenks established a dormitory system at the Mission, where Aboriginal children were housed separately from their parents. It was called the Graham Homes. By 1942 several hundred Aboriginal families, including children, lived at the Mission. The head of the government departments responsible for Aboriginal welfare was the guardian of these children until 1963. Mount Margaret Mission closed in 1975 and the lands were transferred to the Aboriginal Movement for Outback Survival.
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.
Sources used to compile this entry: To Remove and Protect: Aboriginal Lives Under Control [website], 2010, https://aiatsis.gov.au/collection/featured-collections/remove-and-protect; 'Mount Margaret Mission was mentioned in the Bringing Them Home Report (1997) as an institution that housed Indigenous children removed from their families.', Bringing Them Home: The 'Stolen Children' Report (1997), Australian Human Rights Commission, 2011, https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-social-justice/publications/bringing-them-home; Bolton & Gibbney, 'Bennett, Mary Montgomerie (1881-1961)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, 1979, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bennett-mary-montgomerie-5212; Information Services, Department for Community Development, 'pp.360-361', Signposts: A Guide for Children and Young People in Care in WA from 1920, Government of Western Australia, 2004, http://signposts.cpfs.wa.gov.au/pdf/pdf.aspx; Jacobs, Margaret D., White mother to a dark race: settler colonialism, maternalism and the removal of Indigenous children in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940, University of Nebraska Press, 2011; Longworth, Alison, Was it worthwhile?, An historical analysis of five women missionaries and their encounters with the Nyungar people of south-west Australia, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia, 2005, http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/163/2/02Whole.pdf. pp.298-299.; State Solicitor's Office of Western Australia, 'pp.93-94', Guide to Institutions Attended by Aboriginal People in Western Australia, Government of Western Australia, 2005, http://web.archive.org/web/20140126131607/http://www.dpc.wa.gov.au/lantu/MediaPublications/Documents/Guide-to-Institutions-attended-by-Aboriginal-people-in-WA-2005.pdf; State Records Office of Western Australia, Wards - Director's Approval to Transfer from one Institution to Another and Amend Training, Reference Code AU WA S1099- cons2607 A0191 V4 (p.185) - page numbers refer to PDF page number in digital file held by the Department of Communities (Child Protection and Family Support) in 2017.
Prepared by: Debra Rosser
Created: 15 March 2011, Last modified: 22 November 2018