Aboriginal prisoners in neck chains at Wyndham, Northern Western Australia. State Library of Victoria.

Aboriginal prisoners in neck chains at Wyndham, Northern Western Australia. State Library of Victoria.

The colonisation of Australia by Europeans had a massive negative impact on a peoples and culture that has existed for over 50,000 years.

The first settlers brought diseases that wiped out large numbers of Aboriginal people, as they had no immunity to European diseases. Many of the survivors existed at starvation levels, as they were denied access to their traditional hunting grounds by the invaders. Physical violence against Aboriginal people was widespread. The abduction of Aboriginal women and children for both economic misuse and sexual abuse was common. Racism was endemic.

A second phase of traumas occurred when governments started sending Aboriginal people to native reserves, which were in fact sub-standard camps for people dislocated from their own country. Aboriginal people were prevented from leaving these reserves by law. This policy was part of the infamous 1905 Aborigines Act of Western Australia, which subjected Aboriginal people to tyrannical control. It gave a white Chief Protector legal guardianship over all Aboriginal children.

Chief Protector Mr A O Neville developed a plan for setting up ‘native settlements’, run by the government, where Aboriginal children taken from their parents would be educated and trained for unskilled occupations. He also intended to ‘breed out’ Aboriginality through inter-marriage within the white community.

A cornerstone of these policies was the belief that Aboriginal people are ‘intellectually inferior’ to white people.

Carrolup, located 40 kilometres from the South West Australian town of Katanning, was one of the native settlements established by Mr. Neville. The Settlement was opened in 1915, but was closed in 1922. It was re-opened in 1939.

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