Native Welfare

Banner Credit: Perth's Prohibited Area Map 1927-1954 (SWALSC, Kaartdijin Noongar)

The Aborigines Act of 1905 cast a long shadow over Noongar residents of East Perth. 

The Act assumed Aboriginal people were a ‘dying race’ to be assimilated.  It created the position of Chief Protector of Aborigines who became the legal guardian of every Aboriginal child to the age of 16 years, and permitted authorities to 'send and detain' Aboriginal children in institutions and work.  Under the Act the Governor could declare Aboriginal Reserves and remove Noongar families to the reserves, as well as declare any town or place a prohibited area for Aboriginal people.  These prohibitions applied not only to rural towns around the state, but also to Perth.

From 1927 to 1954, central Perth was a prohibited area for Aboriginal people after 6pm.  Native Welfare Department staff patrolled with police locking up Aboriginal people in the city without permits. 

The Perth branch of the Department of Native Welfare was located at 176 Wellington Street, near Wellington Square in East Perth.  Aboriginal people from all over went to the offices to try and fix problems or seek support for housing and welfare. 

In 1963, the Aborigines Act 1905 was replaced by the Native Welfare Act 1963-1972. The Commissioner of Native Welfare ceased to be the guardian of Aboriginal children, but was still responsible for their care.  Department officials could still make recommendations for the removal of children and many storytellers recall the trauma of being taken away from East Perth, and the lengths that families would go to in order to avoid removal by officials.

Lindsay’s Story

Noongar Elder Lindsay Calyun was removed from his family in East Perth and sent to Roelands Mission near Bunbury in 1965.  After a few years, he eventually busted out of Roelands and made his way back to East Perth. 

In 1965 I was taken from primary school, two police men took me from school. I didn’t know where I was going to stop next. I ended up in Mt Lawley Receiving Home. Then was taken to Longmore for one night and then next morning I was picked up by a missionary and taken to Roelands.

In 1968 me and two mission boys, they were like brothers to me, growing up with them we all went to school together, we ran away from the mission. We didn’t like being in that place and the treatment they put us through, so me and the brothers ran away from the mission. We ran all the way to Brunswick and got a lift in a truck, which was parked in truck bay. We asked if he would take us to Perth and he said yes. That was about 5.30 in the morning and by about 8.30 we got to Guildford railway station. Me and the brothers’, boy we were fit and young so we ran all the way down Guildford Road to East Perth.

I caught up with my mother and father, the boys stayed with us at my aunties’ place in East Perth for a week. One boy said he had to go back home, up North. He went to Midland to hitch a ride back to Mt Magnet, the other boy went home to Albany. The boy that went back home, up north, I never saw him again since we ran away. He was a good mate, like a brother. I heard that he passed away back a long time ago. The other brother, he’s still going, I see him when he comes up to see me now and then.  (Lindsay Calyun) 

Learn more about Lindsay’s Story 


Marie Pryor

Shirley Harris

Valerie Woods

Ron Gidgup Snr


Perth's Prohibited Area Map 1927-1954 (SWALSC, Kaartdijin Noongar)

Native Pass replica in Coolbaroo Club artwork at Weld Square, 2016 (City of Vincent)