State Records Archive
Title: J Isdell, Broome. General report (as Travelling Protector)
Keywords: James Isdell, Broome, Willy Creek, Barred Creek, John McCarthy, police
8 Feb ’08
To: Chief Protector, Perth
Two of my horses having gone astray I have been delayed but have just got them and leave on Monday 10th.
With reference to the murder of a black woman by her man and of which I wired now. I was acquainted with both and considered [illeg.] a dangerous character and I think there will be some difficulty in capturing him. My complaint in the matter shared with most of Broome residents is the totally inadequate police protection for such a town as Broome with its population of over 1000 Asiatic and 200 Aborigines. I do not know of any northern coastal town that has greater claims for mounted police than Broome. This large number of aborigines within a hundred miles radius alone entitles the place to one. The foul murder of a black woman within a mile of the town, shows the necessity of it. It was not a tribal murder, but I think that drink and coloured men had something to do with it, at any rate owing to there being [illeg.] mounted police our outfit for such, no steps were taken to follow up the murderer. I can safely say that if it had been a white man or woman that was so fatally murdered both horses and police would have been quickly formed. At present there are only two foot police in Broome. One of those is a water policeman having charge of the jetty. The other one is a new arrival straight off the streets of Perth, totally ignorant of aborigines and asiatics, who is although willing enough, totally unacquainted with natives and their ways and equally so with the horde of aliens. The corporal in charge cannot do outside duty, as his whole time is taken up in the office, writing red tape reports, etc. There is one solitary useless horse worth about £5 at most and this is the [illeg.] to the district, murder or any other legally foul crime can be committed with impunity and no police to check or follow up the criminals. The whole police arrangements are a real disgrace to the police dept and the govt for allowing it to exist. I blame Sub-Inspector McCarthy who is in charge of the district and resides in Derby. He is well aware of the state of affairs, but as economy in the police dept means practically [illeg.] promotion of course it is his interest to keep down expenses even the use of a native to look the horse or as a tracker is a farce. I’m having to get a boy if available at his own expense. The whole business is a disgrace and I hope questions will be asked as soon as [illeg.] that will expose the present mal-administration of the dept.
I remain yours obediently,
To: Chief Protector, Perth
I left Broome on Tuesday 11th en route for Carnot Bay. On Sunday before leaving a native named Jacky murdered his woman about a mile from Broome. As there is only the corporal and one foot policeman and a water policeman at the jetty, with no horses nor outfit to follow up the murder however I am glad to say I succeeded in capturing Jacky yesterday evening, with a little strategy and assistance from Capt Frances of the schooner Hercules he is now safe on board the schooner and I am sending him into Broome on a lugger today. I have no means of securing him in camp otherwise have taken him by horses.
I visited Willy Creek and saw a fair number of natives, as this creek is the best fishing ground along this coast, between Broome and Carnot Bay, I will shift all natives from Barred Creek to there. There are three coloured men camped cutting firewood and only boats for firewood enter the Creek. I visited some native wells in the Pindan but found these all dry. From Willy Creek I pushed on to Barred Creek arriving on Sunday. A very large number of natives were camped here but they had cleared our before I arrived. However most of them went away to Willy Creek and Streeter’s Station, of course when I leave they will all come back as they are well aware that there is no mounted police in the district. Capt Frances, who has a large staff of coloured me, overhauling his boats, complains very truthfully and bitterly about the neglect of the police dept in not having a mounted man to keep the natives away. They demoralise his men and prevent him keeping order amongst them. He wrote to Corp Stewart on the matter, I saw his letters on the day I left Broome. I told the Corporal to take it to the Acting Resident Magistrate as he had charge of the district and that I had done my best to get a mounted man and would not bother any more. Last December I had a wire from your department stating a good man was coming from Wyndham but have heard nothing further. On Sunday 9th, Capt Frances informs me a boat arrived from Broome with grog on board. Consequently there was a wild orgie amoungst the natives for a day or two, many of them getting knocked about fighting. I would strongly recommend the closing of Barred Creek against all natives starting from south bank of the mouth of the creek, thence 2 miles south, thence 2 miles east, thence 4 miles north, thence 2 miles west to coast, this would take in all the camping ground. Barred Creek is not a good fishing ground and after the boats leave no natives come near the creek until following lay up season. Willy Creek, 10 miles south of Barred Creek, is their main camping ground.
There has been very little rain anywhere, the country being very dry, last year up to end of January the average was 27 inches, this year to date it is barely 9 inches, a vast difference. I am afraid that if a change does not soon take place large numbers of back country abos will flock into the coast for food and water. I am afraid that along the southern coast from Broome to Wallal will be very bad and a large number of abos thrown on hands of the Dept for food. It must be remembered that the whole of that line of coast has been leased. The natives have not any acre of land of their own. The Govt stock route wells are being used by some [illeg.] stations and a native is not allowed to camp on any of them. This is a public scandal unless some provision is made by the way of reserves in the near future I am sure the relief expenditure will keep mounting. My past correspondence I have spoken strongly re this point and hope the [illeg.] country will be resumed for native purposes.
I remain yours obediently,