Timeline of Aboriginal history of Western Australia

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This is a timeline of Aboriginal history of Western Australia.



Aboriginal life in the two centuries from 1629 to 1829, was characterized by the increased presence of Europeans around the Western Australian coastline. First contact appears to have been characterized by open trust and curiosity, with Aborigines willing to defend themselves against any unwarranted intrusion. [1]


The settlement of Western Australia by Europeans, under James Stirling, in the early 1840s, created a new generation of colony born young men who were engaged in hostilities with Aborigines and the imprisonment of those who dared question their authority. The settlement proceeded with the expropriation of land and the exploitation of cheap labour and the extermination of any resistance by Aborigines. [11]

Francis Armstrong visits the 8 Wadjuk campsites around Perth and records only 295 people out of the 1500 there were estimated to have lived there at the time of the arrival of the first settlers 7 years before. The smallest groups were those in greatest proximity to the white settlements. This would seem to indicate that contact with the Djanga (Spirits of the dead = the name given to the settlers) was proving fatal to Aboriginal groups, through killings and reprisals, starvation, or disease, and there may have also been elevated intra-Aboriginal payback killings with a rising rate of accusation for sorcery – (a result of the increase inexplicable to Aboriginal people, of the rise in fatal diseases). Neville Green [19] also believes there may have been a deliberate wish to avoid contact, amongst people who still had a viable culture.
Stirling warns the York settlers to have no dealings with Aboriginal people, trying to "impress on every European the necessity there is by keeping arms in [working] order". As a result, Heal, a local "settler" set his dogs against a group of women trying to access what had been their local waterhole. The women were obliged to seek safety in a deep pool. A reprisal spearing of Heal, obtained whilst working with his partner, on Mr Burns, was prevented from becoming fatal by Mrs Burns threatening the attackers with a gun. Despite an offer of reward the "aggressors" were never captured. A corroboree and an offer of restitution by two men, brought the matter to a satisfactory conclusion. The new Government resident in York only made matters worse, when he arrested the two men supposedly involved and sent them to Perth for trial. One died along the way as a result of the brutality of his treatment in white hands initiated a new round of violence. Peter Chidlow and Edward Jones, were speared by Balardong Noongar, who had believed they had been deliberately tricked into taking lime instead of flour. Woods, a York settler, left a poisoned damper for Aboriginal people, and other gifts of poisoned flour were the cause of another round of reprisals.
Moore then travelled throughout the York District, with Garbung, the son of one of the Aborigines defended by Giustianini, hoping to mediate a peace to the almost continuous killings that had been occurring over the previous 2 years.
The Mount Eliza Aboriginal Feeding Station, the sacred site of Goonininup, is closed, and the site was purchased for a steam mill. (The Swan Brewery later acquired the site as it had sufficient fresh water to aid the brewing of beer).
With the closure of the Mount Eliza Feeding Station, Francis Armstrong was given a town house in St Georges Tce, and his neighbours complain of the Aborigines who were coming to see him. A petition was started which claimed for the first time that the "proximity of Aborigines would lower the value of the land". This culminated in new legislation to ban Aborigines from the Perth settlement.
The London based Aboriginal Protection Society sets up an Australian sub-committee that ruled that Britain had oppressed the Aborigines by taking their land "without treaties or consent founded on sufficient compensation".


The sixty years from 1881 to the 1940s can be neatly divided into two by the passage of the 1905 Aboriginal Act, which created institutionalised racism and created what amounted to Aboriginal "concentration camps" in which the Aboriginal people were to be confined until the race became extinct. It began with the Fairburn Report which first drew attention to the "Aboriginal Problem." This institutionalised racism, like the racism of the Nazi period in Germany, the racism of the southern states of the US, and the racism of South Africa, reached its peak in the 1930s. The "final solution to the Aboriginal problem" was to take all children from Aboriginal parents, who were considered as "biologically capable of having children, but not socially capable of raising them." This "solution" continued beyond this period until well into the 1970s. The major task confronting Aboriginal people throughout this period was how their cultures could survive.

1900 - 1942

The Honourable J.M. Drew stated

I think it is our duty not to allow these children, whose blood is half-British, to grow up as vagrants and outcasts, as their mothers are now. There is a large number of absolutely worthless black and half-castes about who grow up to lives of prostitution and idleness; they are a perfect nuisance; if they were taken away from their surroundings of temptation much good might be done with them. There is no power to do this now, consequently a half – caste who possesses few of the virtues and nearly all the vices of whites, grows up to be a mischievous and very immoral subject. This Bill will tend, in a great measure, to remedy this abuse. I may say it may appear to be a cruel thing to tear away an Aborigine child from its mother, but it is necessary in some cases to be cruel to be kind. [26]

  • Full blood Aborigines, who were to be segregated from the community in order that they could become extinct.
  • Half-caste Aborigines, who were to be assimilated through intermarriage within the white community as quickly as possible.
Nevertheless Neville continued in his role as Chief Protector to argue before the Moseley Royal Commission of 1934 for an extension of his powers, and despite some opposition to this the commission agreed to support his recommendation. In 1936 Sections 8 and 12 of the new Native Administration Act the Chief Protector's guardianship powers were increased still further by a new definition of "native child" to mean any child with any Aboriginal descent, and further widened the scope of the Chief Protector's guardianship and therefore jurisdiction over all Aboriginal people in Western Australia.

1943 to the Mabo case of 1992

This period began with the Great Stockman's Strike of 1946. It, like the other periods, can be divided into two by the events of 1967, in which Aboriginal people were recognised as Australian, and by the passage of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, which for the first time since 1829 recognised Aboriginal people as equal under Australian law. The passing of the Mabo and Wik High Court Decisions, which recognised Aboriginal people as in possession of the land at the date of European settlement, is an appendix to these changes. This period is still not complete, as the Western Australian Labor and Liberal Coalition governments are still resisting the Native Title claim of the Noongar people.

Nedlands Road Board, without warning sends a bulldozer and destroys the Swanbourne Aboriginal campsite, without replacing homes for the displaced. no-one complained and the media reports applauded the Road Board action.
More than 50% of Kimberley population is found to have trachoma to some extent.

1992 Year of Indigenous Peoples - present

  • The urgent need to strengthen and improve responses to abuse and violence in Aboriginal communities.
  • The need for long term strategies and solutions to address the endemic nature of abuse and violence in many communities.
  • Meeting the needs of current and future generations of Aboriginal children through simultaneous, long-term environmental, social and economic improvements that will result in sustainable communities. [36]

See also

Related Research Articles

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yagan</span> Australian Noongar warrior (c 1795 – 1833)

Yagan was an Aboriginal Australian warrior from the Noongar people. Yagan was pursued by the local authorities after he killed Erin Entwhistle, a servant of farmer Archibald Butler. It was an act of retaliation after Thomas Smedley, another of Butler's servants, shot at a group of Noongar people stealing potatoes and fowls, killing one of them. The government offered a bounty for Yagan's capture, dead or alive, and a young settler, William Keats, shot and killed him. He is considered a legendary figure by the Noongar.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Heirisson Island</span> Island in Perth, Western Australia

Heirisson Island is an island in the Swan River in Western Australia at the eastern end of Perth Water, between the suburbs of East Perth and Victoria Park. It occupies an area of 285600 m2, and is connected to the two foreshores by The Causeway. The next upstream island is Kuljak Island, then Ron Courtney Island, with no islands in the Swan River downstream between Heirisson Island and the Indian Ocean other than the artificial islet in Elizabeth Quay.

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Robert Menli Lyon was a pioneering Western Australian settler who became one of the earliest outspoken advocates for Indigenous Australian rights and welfare in the colony. He published the first information on the Aboriginal language of the Perth area.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Beeliar, Western Australia</span> Suburb of Perth, Western Australia

Beeliar is a suburb of Perth, Western Australia, located within the City of Cockburn. The name refers to the Beeliar people, a group of Aboriginal Australians who had land rights over the southern half of Perth's metropolitan area. The suburb contains the Thomsons Lake Nature Reserve.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pindjarup</span> Indigenous people of Western Australia

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  3. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-05-14/author-raises-prospect-of-dutch-settlement/4689488 "sighted 25th April 2017"
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  11. Statham-Drew (2003)
  12. Bourke (1987) , p. 30
  13. Bourke (1987) , p. 68
  14. Bourke (1987) , p. 51
  15. Dale, R. 1834 Descriptive Account of the Panoramic View &c. of King George's Sound and the Adjacent Country p. 9
  16. Bourke (1987) , p. 70
  17. Bourke (1987) , p. 71
  18. 1 2 Reynolds (1998)
  19. Green (1984)
  20. Biggs (1997) , pp. 35–40
  21. This tale is told to Daisy Bates in 1907 by Joobaitj, grandson of Yellagonga, who was at that time a Beedawa (=uninitiated boy) witnessing the corroboree
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  26. Western Australian Hansard 1897
  27. Find and Connect: History and Information About Australian Children's Orphanages.
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  33. Mann (2001)
  34. Indigenous Land Corporation Archived 2 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  35. Mann (2001) , pp. 4–5
  36. "Gordon Inquiry, Western Australia". gordonresponse.dpc.wa.gov.au. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
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  40. "The Australian" Monday 21 May 2007
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  43. "Kevin Rudd says sorry". The Sydney Morning Herald. 13 February 2008. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
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  46. "Robert Bropho, 78, jailed for sex assault on girl". 27 February 2008. Archived from the original on 3 March 2008.
  47. The West Australian Newspaper 6 March 2012
  48. The Australian, Nicholas Perpitch" West Australian Aborigines challenge 'racist' law on wills"
  49. "Abbott's lifestyle comments 'hopeless' and 'disrespectful'". www.abc.net.au. 11 March 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  50. https://thewest.com.au/news/pilbara/burrup-peninsula-deregistered-as-sacred-site-ng-ya-203510 "sighted 25th April 2017"
  51. ABC Background Briefing "WA's stolen wages shame"
  52. Government of Western Australia (2015)"Progress Against Closing the Gap"
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  • Biggs, Hazel (1997). Exploring in Western Australia. Western Australian Museum. ISBN   0-7309-8395-1.
  • Bourke, Michael J. (1987). On the Swan: a History of the Swan District of Western Australia. Nedlands, WA: University of Western Australia Press. ISBN   9780855642587.
  • Broome, Richard (2010). Aboriginal Australians: a History Since 1788. Allen & Unwin.
  • Green, Neville (1984). Broken Spears: Aborigines and Europeans in the Southwest of Australia. Focus Education Services. ISBN   9780959182811.
  • Haebich, A. (2008). Spinning the Dream: Assimilation in Australia 1950–1970. Fremantle Press.
  • Mann, Robert (2001). In Denial: the Stolen Generations and the Right. Black Inc.
  • Reynolds, Henry (1998). This Whispering in Our Hearts.
  • Statham-Drew, Pamela (2003). James Stirling: Admiral and Founding Governor of Western Australia. Crawley, WA: University of Western Australia Press. ISBN   9781876268947.