Norseman Mission was a 'children's mission' established in 1935 by members of the Churches of Christ and then run from 1942 by the Churches of Christ Federal Aborigines Mission Board Inc. Its purpose was to provide accommodation, education and vocational training for children and young people aged 2-15 years. The number of children at the mission varied over time, with fewer than 30 children in some years (1948, 1965) and up to 70 in others (1958, 1970). Norseman Mission closed in 1985 and the pastoral lease was transferred to a local Aboriginal Community.
Norseman Mission began as a dormitory for children, set up in 1935 by two members of the Churches of Christ, Miss Eadie and Miss Bentley, on the Native Reserve 2.5 kilometres from the Norseman township. In 1942, they asked the newly-formed Churches of Christ Federal Aborigines Mission Board (Inc) (CCFAMB) to take over the management of Norseman Mission. In 2013, CCFAMB was known as Global Mission Partners.
The CCFAMB appointed a superintendent in November 1942. In January 1943, the CCFAMB was formally requested by the government of Western Australia to operate a mission on Native Reserve No. 22179 at Norseman and in July 1945, the CCFAMB was granted a lease over 8,100 hectares of land including a pastoral lease, 16.5 kilometres from the Norseman township on the Coolgardie Road. This became the Norseman Mission's permanent home.
Government reports show that the number of children living at the Mission varied over the years. There were 27 children in 1948; 45 children in 1954; 70 children in 1958 and 1959; 23 children in 1965; 64 children in 1970; and 10 children in the year before the Mission closed, 1984.
Although family groups lived on the Reserve, the Mission focused on, and from 1943, accommodated children only. The youngest children stayed in 'Bethany', which was a 'kindergarten dormitory' set up for the little children at the Mission. Churches of Christ missionaries remember that children were encouraged to participate in activities in Norseman, such as local sports. By 1968, 50 children were going to school in Norseman. The Mission also aimed to provide vocational training for older children in pastoral and rural employment.
Children were permitted to go into the bush by themselves, according to missionaries. Groups of boys and girls would take turns on alternate Saturdays, spending a day in the bush. They were unsupervised, and provided they didn't cross the main road, they could wander as they wished. Children went to the bush in formal groups, too, such as on art excursions to Dundas Rocks.
Children from Norseman Mission were taken to the 'coast' for a three-week holiday during January, according to the annual report of the Commissioner for Native Affairs in 1953. By the 1960s, possibly earlier, children who could not return home to family during school holidays were taken to a Churches of Christ house in Mandurah for their summer vacation. The house was one block back from the main street in Mandurah.
From 1974, cottage homes were established at the Mission, replacing the communal living facilities. From 1976 to 1980 there was also a 'scatter cottage' in the Norseman township. From at least July 1978, this cottage had been located in Talbot Street. The Talbot Street house had been purchased by the Department for Community Welfare in 1978 but continued to be run as part of the mission, which was then known as the Norseman Children's Home, until 1980. After Talbot Street was no longer needed by the mission, it was used to accommodate departmental staff.
The mission continued to operate as the Norseman Children's Home until it closed in 1985. In 1987, the property that had been the site of the Norseman mission was transferred by the The Churches of Christ Federal Aborigines Mission Board Inc to the Iragul Aboriginal Community.
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; Information Services, Department for Community Development, 'pp.379-381, Table 32 Young People at Norseman Mission Certain Years between 1965 and 1984', Signposts: A Guide for Children and Young People in Care in WA from 1920, Government of Western Australia, 2004, https://signposts.communities.wa.gov.au//pdf/pdf.aspx; Norseman Mission [Document], Date: 8 May 2014; Norseman Mission view [Image], Date: 1960s; State Solicitor's Office of Western Australia, 'p.102', 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; 'Western Australia Protectors Reports 1899-1959', in To Remove and Protect: Aboriginal Lives Under Control [website], Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, National Library of Australia, http://aiatsis.gov.au/collections/collections-online/digitised-collections/remove-and-protect/western-australia. Annual Report of the Commissioner of Native Welfare 1959 p.9.; Interview conducted by Debra Rosser with Avon and Deslee Moyle, Duncraig, on 15 April 2013.
Prepared by: Debra Rosser
Created: 15 March 2011, Last modified: 8 January 2019