The Aborigines Act 1897 (Act no. 1897 (61 Vict. No.5)) was proclaimed on 28 March 1898. Its long title was 'An Act to further amend the Constitution Act of 1889, and for the better Protection of the Aboriginal Race of Western Australia.' It abolished the Aborigines Protection Board and established the Aborigines Department. The Act enabled the Governor to appoint new Protectors of Aborigines and limited the expenditure on Aboriginal welfare to a fixed sum rather than the one percent of revenue that was required under the Constitution. This made the Act invalid; an issue that was not resolved until the Aborigines Act 1897 was repealed by the Aborigines Act 1905 on 23 April 1906.
The major change in the Aborigines Act 1897 was the abolition of the Aborigines Protection Board, which was replaced by the Aborigines Department on 1 April 1898. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies' To Remove and Protect website gives some history about this Act:
The Aborigines Act 1897, abolished the Aborigines Protection Board and the powers and duties of existing protectors of Aborigines. The Act created the WA Aborigines Department with similar duties to the former Board as well as to provide for the custody, maintenance and education of the children of Aborigines. The Department was given an annual budget of five thousand pounds sterling instead of one percent of the annual government revenue as specified in the 1889 WA Constitution. (One percent was a much larger amount after the discovery of gold boosted government revenue. As this provision was inconsistent with the WA Constitution, an Act of the British Parliament, the Act was actually invalid. The invalidity was realised in 1904 and retrospectively validated in the Aborigines Act 1905.) The Aborigines Act 1897 was repealed by the Aborigines Act 1905.
Sources used to compile this entry: 'AU WA A1200 - Aborigines Protection Board', in State Records Office of Western Australia - Organisations & People, State Records Office of Western Australia, 2015, https://archive.sro.wa.gov.au/index.php/aborigines-protection-board-au-wa-a1200; To Remove and Protect: Aboriginal Lives Under Control [website], 2010, http://aiatsis.gov.au/collections/collections-online/digitised-collections/remove-and-protect; Law Research Service, Melbourne Law School, Law Library, The University of Melbourne. 'Find and Connect Project - Western Australia Legislation', 13 December 2013, held in the project files at the University of Melbourne eScholarship Research Centre.
Prepared by: Debra Rosser
Created: 28 June 2011, Last modified: 16 October 2018