Item 1909/0007

State Records Archive
Consignment: 652
Item: 1909/0007
Title: Trilbys three children. Disposal of re
Keywords: Trilby, Michael Brophy, Magging, Paddy, Tommy, Rev Alfred Burton, Salvation Army Home Kalgoorlie, Swan Native and Half-Caste Mission, missions, Boulder, Woolgas, Coolgardie

Key phrases:

[Trilby was sentenced to 6 months hard labour in Fremantle for theft]
“From inquiries made along the line and amongst the natives I am of the opinion that this woman did not steal any of the beer”

[Justification for taking away Trilby’s daughters, aged 8 and 5, and son, aged 9]
“Unless the children are promptly removed from their present surroundings, then the two females will be forced to a life of prostitution. It is the only means of livelihood open to the female native on the Eastern Goldfields.”
“The boy has not really committed any offence but has been living by begging from the white people of Woolgas. He is apparently a very smart child as a half caste but a thorough Aboriginal in his habits.”

[Evidence that the children were protected by the Aboriginal community]
“I have to inform you that the two girls referred to are said to have gone towards Edjudina with other natives. I am having inquiries made in that direction with a view to getting possession of the girls. Will advise you as soon as they are found.”

[Report]
WA Police Dept
East Coogardie district, Boulder Station
Dec 13th 1908
Report of P E Cusack PC, relative to Aboriginal woman arrested by me at Woolgas on Sunday last the 13th inst.
I most respectfully report for your information that Aboriginal woman “Trilby” which was arrested at Woolgas on Sunday last, has three children, 2 little girls and one boy, two of them are her own and one she reared since childhood, when its mother died, their ages are about one boy 8, girl about 8 years, and the youngest little girl I think between 4 & 5 years. Those three are all half cast children, and which are now at Woolgas. The natives there promised me that they would look after these for a while.
And from inquiries made along the line and amongst the natives I am of the opinion that this woman did not steal any of the beer but certainly drunk it and was under the influence of liquor when caught be the Railway officials.
15.12.08 P E Cusack
[note on bottom of report]
Inspector Brophy
Respectfully forwarded for your information
[signature illegible]

[Letter]
16.12.08
To Commissioner of Police, Perth
Submitted. Unless the children are promptly removed from their present surroundings, then the two females will be forced to a life of prostitution. It is the only means of livelihood open to the female native on the Eastern Goldfields.
Perhaps you will be pleased to bring this matter under the notice of the Chief Protector of Aborigines
M H Brophy
Inspector of Police

[Telegram]
19.12.08
To Inspector Police, Protector Aborigines, Kalgoorlie
Please arrange to send Trilby’s two girls from Coolgardie to Salvation Army, Ward Street, Kalgoorlie. Make arrangements for their reception. See Matron and say Army officials Perth communicating with her. Boy cannot be admitted. What do you recommend?
Chief Protector of Aborgines

[Report]
WA Police Dept, North Coolgardie district, Menzies Station
1st Jan 1909
Report of Sgt Gordidge?
Relative to Tommy (Half caste)
I beg to report that this lad is about 9 years old and has been wandering about with Abo Natives since the arrest of his Abo Native mother Trilby and his Abo Native foster father “Magging” alias Paddy who are now each serving sentence of 6 months hard labour for stealing from 21.12.08 in Fremantle Gaol.
The boy has not really committed any offence but has been living by begging from the white people of Woolgas. He is apparently a very smart child as a half caste but a thorough Aboriginal in his habits.
I respectfully ask to be instructed what I am to do with him.
P H Gordidge?
[Note at bottom of report]
To CPA, Perth
Will you please advise re this boy who is now in the care of the Police here
P Duncan, District Police Officer

[Telegram]
5/1/09
To Chief Protector of Aborigines
This boys’ two sisters are already at the Sal Army Home Kalgoorlie – the matron informed me that the boy could be taken in.
Inspector Price informed instructions would be sent in a day regards the boy.

[Telegram]
8/1/09
To Inspector Duncan, Protector Aborigines, Police Station Menzies
Your wire received this morning – too late to make arrangements half-caste boy – please look after him Police Station few days – will write when arrangements complete.
Chief Protector of Aborigines

[Note]
Called up Mr Burton – not in – message sent to know if he could take the boy with the Swan Mission – reply will be sent tomorrow – there will be the same difficulty at the Swan as at the Collie re mixing of the races as they have received instructions to keep them apart.
E D P
[Edward Pechell]

[Telegram]
From Menzies Station
7/1/09
To Chief Protector of Aborigines Perth
Escort leaving for Fremantls tomorrow. ? can I forward half-caste boy referred to in Police report of second inst.
Duncan

[Memo]
WA Police Dept, Inspector’s Office, Menzies
9th Jan 1909
To Chief Protector of Aborigines, Perth
In reply to your memo of the 7th inst, I have to inform you that the two girls referred to are said to have gone towards Edjudina with other natives. I am having inquiries made in that direction with a view to getting possession of the girls. Will advise you as soon as they are found.
Duncan, District Police Officer

[Letter]
11/1/09
To Rev A Burton
Swan Native & Half-Caste Mission
Middle Swan, Perth
Dear Sir,
There is a half-caste boy named Tommy, aged 9, son of a woman named “Trilby” who has been sent to Gaol for 6 months and consequently is destitute and temporarily under charge of the Police at Menzies. I would feel obliged by your informing me whether you can receive this boy as an inmate of you mission at the usual rate paid by the Government. An early answer would oblige.
I am, dear Sir,
Yours Obediently

[Note]
Mr Burton consented verbally to take this child

[Memo]
To Inspector Duncan, Protector Aborigines, Police Station, Menzies
17/1/09
The Manager of the Swan Native and Half-caste Mission consents to take the boy Tommy. Please send him down when opportunity occurs to Midland Junction. Please let me know date and time of departure so that I can make necessary arrangements to have him met.
C F Gale
Chief Protector of Aborigines
For E D Pechell

[Memo]
From Duncan at Police Station, Menzies
To Chief Protector of Aborigines, Perth
22 Jan 1909
Re native boy Tommy. It may be some considerable time before an opportunity occurs to send the boy down. Can I send him by special escort? He is very uneasy here and cannot be trusted out of sight, spends most of his time in the lockup. I have got no further trace of the two girls yet.

[Memo]
23/1/09
To Inspector Duncan, Protector Aborigines, Menzies
In reply to your memo of 22nd inst re Tommy, please inform me what the special escort would cost and also what are the expenses incurred by his stay at Menzies per day.

[Memo]
To Chief Protector of Aborigines
26/1/09
The cost of an escort from Menzies to Midland Junction 2nd class return is £3.9.1. The expense incurred for the keep of the boy at Menzies is 1/6 per day. I expect to have an escort to Fremantle this week.
Duncan

[Note]
The two girls were received in the Girls Home at Kalgoorlie on 22/1/09

[Memo]
To Inspector Duncan, Protector Aborigines, Police Dept, Menzies
28/1/09
In reply to your memo of 26th inst re boy Tommy, please send him down by the escort expected to leave next week and give me sufficient notice to make arrangements to have him met at the Midland Junction by the mission authorities.
E D P

[Telegram]
To Chief Protector of Aborigines, Perth
From Menzies
Forwarding native boy Tommy tomorrow’s train. Please arrange to have him met at Midland Saturday morning.
Duncan

Katitjin Notes:

Question: Suggestive as it is of “garbage disposal,” is the word “disposal” appropriate for breaking up Trilby’s family through the removal of her children?

Question: Why was Tommy sent to Swan Native & Half-Caste Mission in Midland, even though the Salvation Army Home in Kalgoorlie had agreed to take him, along with his two sisters, and thus creating a further rupture in the family?

Question: If the police considered that Trilby was innocent, why was she still imprisoned?

Question: If Trilby was imprisoned (clearly unjustly) for 6 months from 21st Dec 1908 until June 1909, why weren’t the children allowed to return to her on her release? Was she informed?

Inspector Michael Brophy (1858-1923), born in New Zealand, started his police career in the Kimberley region as a trooper in 1891, before being promoted to Inspector at Kalgoorlie in 1902. He went on to Bunbury and then to Fremantle, before retiring in 1922. While in the Kimberley, Brophy led a punitive expedition which resulted in the shooting of 30 Aboriginal people. Brophy reports that, “‘In all my experience with natives I have never known them to make such plucky and determined fight as those blacks.”
Source: Chris Owen

Rev Alfred Burton was the superintendent of the Swan Native and Half-Caste Mission. He was criticised heavily in the media, as this 1907 article from the Sunday Times attests with headlines “Another Burton Bomb – The Orphanage Autocrat Reaches the Limit – The Acme of Arrogance and Heartlessness.”

Salvation Army Home, Kalgoorlie
For details on this home, visit the Find and Connect website

Swan Native and Half-Caste Mission
For details on this mission, visit the Find and Connect website

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