As with Aboriginal adults living in the North West, Aboriginal children had few rights and freedoms. For many, their childhoods were short-lived, harsh and without family support.
The lives of Aboriginal and European children living in early Broome varied significantly.
This image from 1908 shows Annie, herself a child, working as a nursemaid for Theo Male, the child of local business owners.
The Commissioner shall be the legal guardian of every native child notwithstanding that the child has a parent or other relative living, until such child attains the age of twenty-one years.
Section 8, Western Australian Native Administration Act (1936)
Located 140 kilometres north of Broome, the Beagle Bay mission became home to many Aboriginal children from Broome and the entire Kimberley region.
Many of the children selected for mission life were described as ‘half-caste’.
The children, like these pictured in 1928, were educated and prepared for employment by the missionaries.
. . . I should like to point out how important for the future of the State of Western Australia and for the future of the black race, that the children, both half-caste and black, should be removed from those centres of vice, such as Broome and other places, and brought to this or any other institution which is working in the interests of the blacks.
George Walter, in charge of Mission, Beagle Bay, 29 September 1904 (Roth Royal Commission)
Listen to the following oral history by Eric Cox from 2012 in which he talks about growing up at the Beagle Bay mission.
Click here to read the transcript of this audio recording
Many of the children sent to the mission lost all contact with their parents.
Often separated against their parents’ wishes, these children became part of the Stolen Generation.
In 2008, the hardship these children experienced was acknowledged by Prime Minister Rudd in a national apology.
This image of boys playing at Beagle Bay is from 1939.