When colonists began settling in the North West they brought British laws with them. For more than a century, the lives of Aboriginal people in the region were shaped by rules and regulations that restricted their movement, interactions and rights.
This sign, printed on cloth, highlights sections of the Western Australian Native Administration Act.
It was displayed in Broome to remind locals of the regulations relating to Aboriginal reserves.
The law restricted Aboriginal people to particular areas and prohibited others from entering these areas.
With permission from a government ‘protector or inspector’, Aboriginal people could gain a permit to seek employment. Many Aboriginal people worked in Broome, particularly as domestic helpers, and for payment received rations, clothes, blankets and medicines.
In this image, Doctor Blick and his family pose with their helpers in 1906.
Supplying Aboriginal people with alcohol was illegal, but common.
Many offenders were charged and these cases kept the Broome court busy.
The Native Administration Act did not apply to all Aboriginal people. People who were ‘one-fourth’ Aboriginal were described as ‘quadroons’ and not considered to be ‘native’ by law.
This led to situations where members of the same family could not legally mix with one another.
Forms similar to this one were completed if a ‘quadroon’ wished to be considered ‘native’.
Rules and regulations shaped all aspects of life for Broome’s Aboriginal community, including a visit to the movie theatre. Aboriginal customers had their own entry door and seating area at the popular Sun Picture Garden, shown here in about 1920.