Andrew Markus, Governing Savages (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1990), pp. 22-36


From the earliest period of contact, those seeking to absorb Aborigines into the European culture have looked to children as their best hope: it took little time to realise that adult Aborigines were not attracted to most aspects of European civilisation. Beginning in the second half of the nineteenth century, a special interest developed in children of mixed descent. There were several justifications for this interest: all children were more amenable to cultural absorption; in a society increasingly characterised by its adherence to principles of racial determinism, children with some 'white blood' were regarded as having greater intelligence, and hence a greater potential for education; and as these children were of partly white stock, it was felt that there was more justification, when justification was considered, to remove them from their mothers. Of greater relevance than the need for justification, the sight of pale-skinned children living with Aborigines was an affront to white sensibilities. In the words of one visitor to the outback:

At times one is startled to find, in a black's camp, children with white skins and golden hair . . . It seems particularly painful that these children should be growing up to the life of the camps -- in a word, white savages.1

In the inter-war period the forcible removal of children was regarded as a matter of course and did not provoke controversy in the world of white Australians. For many years it represented one of the few areas in which the administration sought to discharge its responsibilities. Removal was said to be in the best interest of the children and of minor significance for the mothers. A few individuals pointed to the grief inflicted but it was rare to find protest by white groups formed to further what they defined as Aboriginal interests. The Commonwealth government took pride in the policy 'to collect all half-castes from the native [23] camps at an early age'.2 A Minister of the Interior assured a correspondent that:

no 'babies' are taken away from their mothers, but every effort is made to place the child in a Home before it has been able to adopt customs suitable only for full-blooded aboriginals.3

The children's home at the back of the pub, by the urinal

In 1914, after the death of her white de facto husband on the Arltunga gold field, an Aboriginal woman named Topsy Smith came to Alice Springs township (officially known as Stuart until 1933), bringing her seven children. A tent was provided by the Chief Protector, Sergeant Stott, who also supplied the family with rations. He informed the Administrator in Darwin of his action and suggested that two township allotments near the police station should be reserved for 'half-castes'. The Administrator agreed and authorised the building of an iron shed. Topsy Smith was placed in charge, under the supervision of Sergeant Stott.4 Light-skinned children living in camps around the town were rounded up and by November 1914 sixteen children and two women were living in the shed.5 Numbers rose as police on patrol were instructed to seize children and bring them to Alice Springs.

In the home the children were taught to despise the life of 'wild blacks' and were cut off from their kin, although mothers were sometimes permitted to make visits. An old resident recalled approvingly in 1931 that:

When the school premises were in the Town of Stuart, opposite Sergeant Stott's residence and Police Station, an abo. or native (as the school children called them) very seldom intruded his unwelcome self -- unwelcome to the scholars, who look down on a black native . . . I will say this for Mr. Stott, that he most strictly kept any abos. away from them, so as to keep them going towards whites and give them their future chance, among whites . . . The abos, know very well that they have to keep away from the 1/2 caste (3/4 or 7/8 white) scholars location, and only in 2 or 3 instances some years ago were they known to intrude themselves. When they [24] did and Sergeant Stott caught them, they would get a vigorous application of his fist and boot and would make a very hasty departure, never game to risk returning.6

In 1915 the Administrator, after visiting the 'bungalow', as it had come to be known, authorised the extension of the building. In the same year Mrs Standley, the schoolteacher, agreed to accept the position of matron: she was paid 50 in addition to her normal salary. Goats were purchased and a garden was formed. The staff in 1923 consisted of the matron, two goat shepherds, a gardener and his wife, and three women. All the staff except for the matron were of Aboriginal descent and received clothes and rations, but no pay.7

About 50 children and ten adults lived at the home in the 1920s, with a slight increase towards the end of the decade. This compared with a permanent white population for Alice Springs of about 40 in 1927. It was estimated that at least 50 children remained 'to be collected' in central Australia.8 Following the completion of additions the 'bungalow' consisted of three buildings of simple construction: sheets of corrugated iron nailed to a timber frame. There was no lining. Gaps had been left in the iron to make room for doors and windows, and the gaps could be closed with iron shutters. The floors were of dirt.9

The largest shed measured 15.25 metres by 3.7 metres (50 feet by twelve feet) and was divided into three areas: the first served as a store room; the second and third were used for distribution of food and washing up during the day, and as a dormitory at night during the winter. The second shed, measuring 8.8 metres by 3.7 metres (29 feet by twelve feet), was also used as a dormitory, and the third, 3.7 metres by 2.4 metres (12 feet by 8 feet), served as the kitchen. Only a few metres from the buildings were two toilets and a 'primitive bathroom'. There was no water supply, and water had to be carried by the children from a well at the police station.10 The furnishings consisted of benches, a few chains and a few wooden bunks. The children slept on the ground, outside when the weather was suitable. In 1924 a reporter found about 30 girls asleep in the larger shed and twenty boys in the smaller.11 There were no tables for eating. In winter heating was provided by the burning of timber in an old kerosene drum. Each child received one blanket per year, and clothes were made as required by the assistants and older girls.

The home was located on a bare, dusty, unfenced block of about 0.4 of a hectare (an acre). The police station was about 180 metres (200 yards) away to the west, across a road; the matron's home about 135 metres (150 yards) to the north. The nearest building was the Alice [25] Springs Hotel, the back fence of which was only 60 metres (65 yards) to the east of the 'bungalow'. A gate opened through this fence directly on to the children's home. By the side of this gate were the hotel toilets. There was no effective supervision of the children at night.

The children attended a segregated school, taught by Mrs Standley in a room in the police station. The handful of white children, at times as few as five, attended class in the morning, while most children of mixed descent played at the bungalow grounds and the older girls sewed under the supervision of Topsy Smith. In the afternoon those who could fit in the room -- about 35 -- attended school for two hours: an attempt was made to teach them their three 'rs', as well as some basic vocational skills.12

Upon reaching the age of fourteen the boys were sent for work on pastoral properties and the girls to domestic service, the final decision about their fate being in the hands of Sergeant Stott. The Sergeant, who was also the Chief Protector of Aborigines, was known far and wide as 'the King of Central Australia'.13 In the 1920s, by way of experiment, the girls were found jobs in the south; by 1925 eighteen were in South Australia, and at least one was in Melbourne.14 The Commonwealth paid local authorities an annual fee of 5 to supervise each girl, If a girl became pregnant she was returned to central Australia.15

Visitors, both official and unofficial, praised the work of the matron, Mrs Standley. Professor Baldwin Spencer noted after his visit in 1923 that:

the teaching included singing, reading, writing, arithmetic, sewing -- the elder girls making their own clothes. Under the very difficult conditions the results attained seemed to me to be excellent and to hold forth great promise as to what could be done with the half castes under more favourable conditions of tuition. The children were evidently greatly interested in their work, and could write and read very well . . .16

But while Mrs Standley's work was praised, practically every government official or visiting parliamentarian condemned the physical conditions and the home's location. In 1921 the Acting Chief Protector reported that 'this bungalow has been, and is, very unsatisfactory, being in immediate touch with the public and near an hotel'.17 About the same time a visiting Commonwealth Parliamentary Works Committee recommended that the home be moved to a different site. In mid 1922 the Administrator of the Territory observed that 'it is necessary that [26] something be promptly done' and initiated planning for a new site.18 In 1924 the Minister for Works and Railways, P. Stewart, visited the town. He declined to put his observations in writing, deciding instead to make an urgent appointment to discuss the situation with Senator Pearce, the responsible Minister. In 1926 even Chief Protector Stott conceded that 'the position is absolutely unsuitable [and] the accommodation is not all that could be desired'.19

Rumours concerning the interest of hotel patrons in the home were commonplace in the Territory and these were given substance in reports reaching the government. The Acting Chief Protector noted in 1921 that 'girls leave the premises and visit men at night, returning to the bungalow before daylight'. Spencer reported that the site was 'eminently unsuitable'.20 According to the Anglican church, which considered taking charge of the children, 'many have learnt very vicious habits'.21 A visitor to the Territory in 1928 claimed that it was common knowledge that 'the female half-castes are nothing but "public property" '. He was told that it was the custom was to go near the fence and whistle if a girl was desired.22

In 1924 conditions in the home attracted attention in the south following scathing criticism by a journalist, M.H. Ellis. Ellis wrote several articles on conditions in the Territory for newspapers in the eastern states. Under the headline 'A squalid horror/The Alice Springs bungalow/Children herded like swine', Ellis' article described the home as:

an institution which must make everyone who sees it burn with indignation. It is more than a scandal. It is a horror. The best that can be said of it is that it is reasonably clean, but that is the fault of its mistress and not of the Commonwealth Government and of those Federal Ministers and members who let it remain as a blot on Australia . . . At night the doors cannot be locked. Inevitable trouble results. Residents of Central Australia a hundred miles from Alice Springs told me that the place was a moral cesspit, and if the stories which they related were only an eighth true . . . they would make the whole community recoil with horror if they could be repeated . . . At the Alice Springs bungalow the appearance of everybody and everything convicts the Home and Territories Department of the progressive destruction of 50 young promising human lives and souls.23

[27] Thereafter reports of a similar nature occasionally appeared in the southern press and conditions in the home became a subject of fleeting public controversy: it was criticised, for example, at the 1924 interstate conference of the National Council of Women of Australia. In 1928 Dr W. Walker found the inmates asleep on the ground outside the bungalow:

like sardines in a tin, male and female along side one another, as many as five on one blanket in an area not greater than 10 yards by 7 [9 metres by 6.3 metres] . . . Lying as close as it is possible to pack them, I doubt if they could all lie down much less sleep inside that shameful structure. Their ages vary from birth to about 25 years; babies are born amongst this crowded mass of humanity without any privacy whatsoever.24

The government sought to refute the charges of Ellis and others. Senator Pearce issued a press statement dismissing Ellis' article as 'grossly exaggerated':

The only complaint received in recent years has been with regard to the unsuitableness of the present buildings and the site on which they stand . . . Although the present buildings are close to the hotel, they are also immediately opposite the police station and under close supervision of the local police sergeant. The children are under the care of a competent white matron, who has three half-caste assistants . . . Only one case has occurred where a girl was found absent from her quarters. The person responsible for this was proceeded against under the Aboriginals' Ordinance, the provisions of which are most stringent, and was fined. The children receive excellent training in the institution for domestic work, and many of them have been placed in employment in private homes and have rendered highly satisfactory service.25

In 1926 the new Minister, Mr Marr, was given the same statement to read by his public service advisors.26 It seems that, in addition to assuring the public that all was well, attempts had begun in 1923 to move the home to a new site. Consideration was given to placing the children in the Police Paddock reserve, 3 kilometres from the town, where it was suggested that a home could be erected for 557. The Works Director, Darwin, however, estimated the cost at 13 850, with an annual salary of 500 plus allowances for the superintendent and matron. Treasury [28] rejected such a large outlay, although a sum of 5000 was set aside for construction in October 1924.27 Given the limited amount of money that the government was willing to spend, great difficulty was encountered in finding a suitable site.

In February 1925 it was decided to locate the new home at Jay Creek, 47 kilometres west of Alice Springs. An area of 65 square kilometres was acquired for 175 and in May 1925 instructions were issued to begin construction. The plan provided for six buildings, comprising two large dormitories with accommodation for 100 children, a kitchen and dining room, officers' quarters, school and store room. It was hoped that the home could be built for 6000.28

Construction at Jay Creek was dependent on finding water. Sergeant Stott had assured the government that there would be no problem locating water on the site and he volunteered to supervise the work. Construction began. The concrete floor and framework of one dormitory building was nearly complete and work had commenced on the second when it was halted. Sergeant Stott had fallen ill and water had not been found. Efforts to locate water were resumed but again abandoned in June 1927; over 3000 had been spent.29

The government also explored other ways of dealing with at least some of the children. The preferred option was to shift at least part of the burden either to South Australia or to a religious organisation in the Territory. Prime Minister S.M. Bruce wrote to the Premier of South Australia to ask if his state would accept 'quadroons' and 'octoroons' under the age of five:

[They] could be hardly distinguished from ordinary white children . . . If these babies were removed, at their present early age, from their present environment to homes in South Australia, they would not know in later life that they had aboriginal blood and would probably be absorbed into the white population and become useful citizens.30

The Premier promptly rejected the offer. There was no suitable institution in his state to which children under five could be sent, and further, the entry of the infants would:

be greatly to the disadvantage of South Australia, as it would be increasing an undesirable element in the population. The experience of the Chief Protector of Aborigines is that mixed marriages, so far as South Australia is concerned, are often not a success and separations are frequent, especially as [29] these persons with aboriginal blood almost invariably mate with the lowest class of whites, and, in many cases, the girls become prostitutes.31

The government also failed to make progress with plans for removal of the children to a home run by a religious body; agreement could not be reached with the Australian Board of Missions and it was unwilling to have all the children handed over to the Roman Catholic church.32

Meanwhile the problem was becoming more urgent. Late in 1928 construction gangs working on the railway link between Alice Springs and Oodnadatta were nearing Alice Springs, and the thought of the navvies loose in the children's home, as well as the increase in visitors from the south once the line was completed, moved the government to immediate action. Twenty-six boys and nineteen girls, together with three Aboriginal women, were sent to Jay Creek when school closed for the 1928 Christmas holidays. Of the 45 children, 37 were under the age of twelve.33

In the desert

The bungalow at Alice Springs was demolished and the galvanised iron, already in poor condition, was used to enclose a building at Jay Creek. Further boring for water had yielded a supply of 500 gallons per day, a far-from-adequate quantity. In the prevailing drought conditions the supply was soon cut to 50 gallons of poor quality well water a day and a little soakage obtained from the bed of the creek.34

Mrs Standley, although in ill-health, agreed to take charge temporarily, but she was forced to quit in March 1929. An itinerant missionary, E.E. Kramer, took over while a superintendent and matron were recruited.35 The Department of Home Affairs conceded that conditions at Jay Creek were unsatisfactory, but given the funding constraints that had been imposed it argued that there was little alternative. An Anglican Bishop who expressed concern was assured that the arrangement was 'purely temporary'.36

In July 1929 the Reverend W.M. Davies, Rector of Port Lincoln, spent three days at Jay Creek. His observations received widespread coverage in the press.37 Davies described the conditions as an 'absolute disgrace, . . . a standing disgrace to any civilised government . . . The whole place makes one boil that such a thing can be tolerated for one [30] moment in a Christian country'. The living accommodation of the superintendent and matron consisted of two small navy tents. They had no tools of any description except what they had been able to borrow, no means of communication with Alice Springs, and no medical supplies. The children's dormitory, measuring 7.3 metres by 15.3 metres (24 feet by 50 feet) and housing 48 children, consisted of old sheets of corrugated iron nailed to a rough timber frame. The floor was a form of cement made from burnt lime and sand and the children slept on this surface. The building had no doors or windows, merely seven large gaps in the iron sheeting. Davies commented that 'a more draughty ugly dilapidated place one could hardly imagine. I think that the children would be less liable to colds in the open than in the disgraceful accommodation provided for them'. The only lighting was provided by two hurricane lamps. There was one small stove on which to cook for over 50 people. There were practically no cooking utensils and there were but six bowls and twenty towels. There were no fruit or vegetables, although in the provision of food the children were relatively well off compared with the fate of many Aborigines left to starve in the drought.38 When Dr Cecil Cook, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Protector of Northern Australia, but with no jurisdiction at the time in Central Australia, visited Jay Creek at the end of August 1929 he recorded cases of trachoma and ophthalmia in need of attention, and several children requiring a tonsillectomy.39

The children remained in this 'temporary' home for nearly four years while the search for a new location close to Alice Springs continued. The Minister of the Interior, A. Blakeley, stated in March 1930 that 'all available sites have been inspected and reported upon, but those where adequate water supplies were available were objectionable for other reasons, and those which were suitable as to location were devoid of adequate water'. Blakeley took comfort in the knowledge that under his administration more galvanised iron had been obtained and accommodation increased by half; the general conditions of the children 'although not yet quite satisfactory', had been 'improved considerably'.40

A new superintendent reported in 1931 that there were 56 girls and boys at Jay Creek, with a further sixteen on the waiting list for admission. The children were:

neatly clad -- the boys in khaki, the girls in blue; they are excellently fed; they are taught the three r's and simple prayers . . . Their mothers come to see them sometimes at the institution, mute lubras from far-off stations, a little scared, wholly alien. Their fathers seldom, if ever, come. Few white [31] parents contribute to the cost of the children's upkeep.41

The children were 'kept right away from the native environment',42 and had been imbued with a fear of being captured by the 'old blacks' and taken into the bush 'for their ceremonies'43 They attended daily prayers and Sunday school, and were visited by ministers of religion until a denominational squabble put an end to the practice. Their lives were strictly regimented: there was a daily timetable of chores for the girls -- scrubbing the infants, washing up, sweeping, washing clothes and sewing. The cooking was carried out by two women and three girls. The aim was to teach all aspects of housework. Boys were trained, as far as possible, for work on the stations: to cart water and wood, work in the garden, shepherd the goats, learn to ride and shoe, using donkeys and horses borrowed from a neighbour, fence and sink wells. They were also taught to drive in the superintendent's car and were given limited instruction in mechanical repairs and bush carpentering. The superintendent also attempted with little success to teach the boys, enrolled in troops of cubs and scouts, to track.44 The children were permitted to play cricket, hockey, rounders and other games approved by the Education Department of New South Wales.

The lack of water led to periodic crises. In January 1932, for example, the water was reported to be nearly black, the garden had failed and there were no fresh vegetables or milk from the goats. The galvanised iron building was full of dust in the summer and extremely cold in winter. When it rained water penetrated the building, soaking some of the children to the skin.45 There was no place to isolate the sick or the girls who were returned pregnant to have their babies. The matron wrote in March 1932:

with the material at my disposal it was impossible to erect a separate building for the use of obstetric cases, so I have partitioned off a portion of the main dormitory, with flour bags and rough timber making a stretcher with boxwood. Having these cases in the main building is most unsatisfactory from all viewpoints, however this is the best arrangement which can be made under the circumstances . . .46

For the Chief Protector, Dr Cook, whose area of control now included central Australia, this expedient was close to the limits of tolerance. In a rare protest against the conditions of life endured by his charges, he wrote to his superior:

[32] It is unthinkable that official approval can be given for such an expedient . . . It is impossible for me, unless definitely so instructed by the Minister, to approve of such an inadequately partitioned portion of a dormitory used as sleeping quarters by children of both sexes.47

At the Telegraph Station

Sporadic efforts to relocate the home were made after 1929. Temple Bar, about 11 kilometres from Alice Springs, was a favoured location, but as elsewhere there were problems in finding water. It was rumoured that with the completion of the railway postal services would be moved into the town from the telegraph station, some 3 kilometres distant, and on two occasions in 1929 a request was put to the Post-Master General to make the telegraph station available as a home for the children but on both occasions they were rejected.48 New plans for a home were prepared by the Works Department. They provided for the superintendent's quarters, four dormitories to accommodate 96, dining room and kitchen block, school, workshop, laundry, store and lavatories. The estimated cost was 14 180.49 Requested to come up with a cheaper proposal, the Works Department removed two dormitories from the plans and, with other savings, the cost was reduced to about 8000.

In April 1930 Cabinet approved construction at Temple Bar and agreed to provide 5500. In May a contract was let. A few days later the level of water in the well dropped significantly and work was halted.50 Drilling for water was undertaken, but before it was completed the Postal Department changed its mind and offered the old telegraph station, provided agreement could be reached before closure of estimates for the next financial year. The offer was accepted and all work at Temple Bar was halted. It was agreed to provide 4000 to postal authorities for the Telegraph Station and to retain 1500 for possible compensation to the contractor and alterations to the buildings.51

It had taken the Commonwealth government almost a decade to find a permanent home after it was accepted that the site at the back of the pub was unsatisfactory. It soon become apparent that the move to the telegraph station had not solved the government's problems. While the acquisition was financially attractive for two departments, there were doubts from the start about its suitability as a children's home. The [33] distance from the town and the assured water supply were in its favour, but the buildings were of solid stone and would be very difficult to alter. Aware of the amount of money available, the Works Department saved itself some trouble when it came up with a minimum figure of 1200 to make it habitable for 50 children.52 But when the Deputy Administrator inspected the site in November 1931 he found the accommodation, lavatory and bathroom facilities to be inadequate. Additional expenditure of 1587 was necessary. The Treasury was outraged at such profligate use of government funds and refused to approve further expenditure. In a time of financial emergency brought on by the Depression the department was embarking on:

a programme of works which requires a total expenditure not contemplated originally, and which the Minister might have discountenanced if he had been fully aware of the facts in the first instance . . . The necessity for economy is more than ever pronounced and it is evident that the amount of funds which can be made available in the future must be reduced to an absolute minimum.

To get the work completed it was necessary for the Department of the Interior to remove items already approved in its new works program.53

The move from Jay Creek took place on 17 November 1932 and inaugurated a period of rapid expansion which saw the number of inmates more than double from about 60 in 1932 to over 130 in 1935. The practice of police 'collecting' children from the bush resumed; in addition, 28 boys from the Darwin region, temporarily housed at Pine Creek, were transferred to Alice Springs in 1933.54 In 1937 about one third of the children were under seven years of age and many could not speak English. Twelve mothers were allowed to live with their children in return for working without pay.55 In addition to the children and some mothers, the home provided shelter for girls who were returned by their employers after they became pregnant, as well as girls or women suffering venereal disease. From 1934 to 1936 nineteen females were returned for these reasons: in the words of the Deputy Chief Protector, the figures represented a 'very high percentage of the total number of girls in outside employment'.56 In keeping with earlier policy, Aborigines were not permitted to enter the reserve set aside for the children's home; it was the 'fixed policy of the Government to segregate half-castes from aboriginals'.57

[34] While the number of children more than doubled, the full-time white staff increased from two to five. Until the move to Jay Creek, only a part-time matron had been employed; the first full-time superintendent and matron were appointed in 1929, and the first full-time teacher in 1935. By 1938 there was a male head teacher and two female assistant teachers. Eighteen months were taken to cover work normally completed in one year as it was generally assumed that 'half-castes . . . are not as bright and quick to learn as white children'.58 The first full time teacher described the average student as 'sub-normal'.59 In August 1936, however, the Inspector of Schools, possibly at the request of Chief Protector Cook, issued instructions to remove this discrimination and teach the full curriculum by way of an 'experiment'. The Inspector, V.L. Lampe, expected that:

the percentage of promotions each year will most probably be much lower than is usually the case in ordinary public schools, but it is also considered that the alteration will materially benefit the smarter children, while being of no detriment to the less bright ones.60

A common feature of such institutions was a frequent turnover of staff; many resigned after short terms, while one superintendent was dismissed following conviction for 'an offence against a half-caste girl'.61 There are occasional glimpses of the tensions amongst the staff; thus a major dispute which came to involve the Deputy Administrator and solicitors was sparked by an argument over the possession of a chair.62 Rebellious behaviour by the children was manifested in vandalism. An inspection in 1935 revealed that windows had been broken, the flyproof wire torn off in a section of the dormitory, and the toilets damaged. The children could not be trusted with school equipment outside school hours. Approval was given for the superintendent to inflict corporal punishment with a strap or cane, 'such as would is administered to scholars and inmates of institutions housing white children',63 and orders were issued by Chief Protector Cook that no one was to leave the premises without written permission.64

Politicians and bureaucrats had expected that once the move to the telegraph station was completed they would be freed of the problem of the 'half-caste' children. In 1931 Minister Blakeley assured the Reverend William Morley, the Secretary of the Association for the Protection of Native Races, that:

[35] when the Telegraph Station is re-conditioned, and the children transferred thereto, the unsatisfactory conditions which have existed for such a long period will disappear and the half-castes will be afforded the care, attention and proper housing which it has been my ambition to provide for them.65

Government spokespersons opted for the adjective 'comfortable' to describe conditions in the home. An outline of Commonwealth policy asserted that 'alterations to the existing buildings have made the home very comfortable'.66 In 1936 the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, J.A. Carrodus, a resident of the leafy suburb of Forrest in the Federal Capital Territory, informed a correspondent that 'the half-caste children are now comfortably accommodated in the former Telegraph Station buildings'.67

This picture of comfortable surroundings was not, however, apparent to those who actually visited the establishment. A report in 1934 disclosed that a larger purifying chamber was required for the septic tank, the roof of the storeroom was starting to fall in, and an extra-water tank was required for the garden, while the walls of the kitchen were in urgent need of cleaning and re-painting.68 A report three years later noted that the well was downstream of the septic tank drain and the institution had no common room or electric light.69 The building which housed the school had been built for the batteries of the original telegraph station and was not fit for human occupation. Three classes occupied the building, the infants being located on the verandah, which was so draughty and cold in winter that the children were unable to concentrate on their work. Further, the roof leaked. In 1940 the building was described as being in a 'shocking state of disrepair', completely unfit for a school and an insult to any self-respecting teacher.70

In 1937 the head of the Works Department wrote that 'the renovation and repair of the various buildings is a matter of great urgency'.71 In 1938 the Government Secretary was even more forthright in his comments: 'the Half caste school and its furniture was in keeping with the rest of the institution which could only be described as nauseating and long overdue for demolition'.72

Similar comments continued to reach the government, but nothing was done. Following continual representations, the Administrator, C.L. Abbott, visited the home in January 1939. He informed his superiors in Canberra that:

[36] I went carefully through this building this week and to use entirely unofficial language, the whole place stinks and is in an exceedingly bad condition . . . The present conditions are exceedingly bad and must be rectified. I am, frankly, rather apprehensive of publicity and comment on this matter, which would be very unpleasant . . . The position is too pressing to allow any further delay.73


  1. J.R. Love The Aborigines. Their Present Condition Melbourne, 1915, p. 21

  2. J.A. Carrodus 'Report on the Northern Territory' s. 179, 20 November 1934, A1, 34/10021

  3. 2 June 1933, A1, 33/5423

  4. W.B. Spencer 'Report on the Half Castes and Aboriginals of the Southern Division of the Northern Territory', A1, 30.1542

  5. 27 November 1914, A1, 27/2982

  6. G.T. Ballingal, ?2 April 1931, F1, 42/70A

  7. Spencer 'Report on the Half Castes'

  8. 7 December 1928, A659, 39/1/996, part 2

  9. Brisbane Daily Mail 13 November 1924, A1, 27/2982

  10. Spencer, 'Report on the Half Castes'

  11. Brisbane Daily Mail 13 November 1924, A1, 27/2982

  12. Memorandum 28 September 1932, A1, 27/2982; Spencer, 'Report on the Half Castes'

  13. Northern Standard , 25 May 34, A1, 33/5423

  14. Memorandum 28 September 1922, A1, 27/2982; A1; 27/1106; 3 July 25, A461, F300/1

  15. Bishop of Carpentaria, 4 July 1927, A1, 27/2982

  16. Spencer, 'Report on the Half Castes'

  17. Quoted Brisbane Daily Mail 13 November 1924, A1, 27/2982

  18. 28 September 1922, 8 March 1923, A1; 27/2982; 1 August 1922, A1, 30/1542

  19. 2 June 1924, 16 May 1926, A1, 27/2982

  20. Quoted Brisbane Daily Mail 13 November 1924, ibid; Spencer, 'Report on the Half Castes'

  21. 26 February 1926, A1, 27/2982

  22. Dr W. Walker, 28 August 1928, A1, 28/10743

  23. Brisbane Daily Mail 13 November 1924, A1, 27/2982

  24. A1, 28/10743

  25. Hobart Mercury 17 January 1925, A1, 27/2982

  26. Hansard 13 July 1926, ibid

  27. 28 September 1922, 8 March 1923, 31 October 1924, ibid

  28. Senator G.F. Pearce, statement to deputation, 24 August 1925; R. Stott, 16 May 1926, A1, 27/2982

  29. 11 May 1927, 24 June 1927, A1, 27/2982; 21 June 1929, A659, 39/1/996, part 2

  30. 30 August 1927, A461, F300/1

  31. 30 September 1927, A1, 27/2982

  32. 10 March 1926, 23 February 1927, A1, 27/2982; 4 April 1929, 9 December 1929, A659, 39/1/996, part 2

  33. 25 October 1929, ibid

  34. Interview with Mrs Standley, Sydney Sun 13 August 1929; 21 June 1929, ibid

  35. February-March 1929, ibid

  36. 30 August 1929, A461, F300/1

  37. See, for example, Melbourne Herald 7 August 1929, Adelaide Chronicle 8 August 1929, A659, 39/1/996, part 2

  38. A461, F300/1

  39. 25 October 1929, A659, 39/1/996, part 2

  40. 7 March 1930, Blakeley to Earp, A1, 36/6595; 10 February 1930, A659, 39/1/996, part 2

  41. Northern Standard 13 October 31, A659, 39/1/996, part 2

  42. Report of the Superintendent 22 June 1932, ibid

  43. J. Sexton, 19 April 1929, ibid

  44. Report of the Superintendent 26 March 1932, 22 June 1932, ibid

  45. ibid

  46. ibid, 26 March 1932

  47. 10 August 32, A1, 34/1881

  48. 18 April 1929, December 1929, A659, 39/1/996, part 2

  49. ibid, 20 December 1929

  50. 24 February 1931, Blakeley to Earp, A1, 36/6595; 14 May 1930, 11 June 1930, A659, 39/1/996, part 2

  51. 27 June 1930, 1 July 1930, A659, 39/1/996, part 2

  52. 25 September 1931, ibid

  53. 7 April 1932, 12 April 1932, ibid

  54. 22 June 1936, F1, 42/70A; 3 July 34, A1, 36/6595

  55. 29 October 1937, letter from Deputy Chief Protector and marginal notation, F1, 37/30

  56. 25 August 1936, F1, 42/70A

  57. 6 January 1933, A1, 33.479

  58. 10 January 1934; Deputyt Administrator to Administrator, 1 March 1934, F1, 37/30

  59. 27 February 1935, ibid

  60. 28 August 1936, F1, 42/91

  61. Argus 6 March 1934, p. 8; Report on the Administration of the Northern Territory for the Year Ended 30th June 1934 p. 9; 3 March 1934, A1, 36/10413

  62. February-March 1937, F1, 42/70A

  63. 30 March 1936, 7 May 1935, F1, 37/30

  64. 10 June 1936, F1, 42/70A

  65. 29 September 1931, A659, 39/1/996

  66. 'Commonwealth Government's Policy in Respect of the Northern Territory', p. 11, A461, A300/1, part 1

  67. 22 June 1936, F1, 42/70A.

  68. 8 September 1934, F1, 37/30

  69. 4 November 1937, F1, 42/70A

  70. 2 March 1940, F1, 42/70B

  71. 22 June 1937, F1, 40/153

  72. 16 April 1938, ibid

  73. 6 January 1939, F1, 42/70B