State Records Archive
Title: Messrs Bell & Male, Weedong. Relief to natives
Keywords: Toorgabur, Juigabur, Joongabur, Coongoo, Billy, Molge, Sambo, Archie Male, Weedong Station, James Isdell, Beagle Bay Mission, Nicholas Emo, Josef Bischofs, Cygnet Bay Mission, Lacepede Islands, Harry Hunter, pearling, pastoral stations, Kimberley, Boolgin
[Account authorising payment for rations]
To: Bell & Male, Weedong Station
1908 Maintenance of Aborigines:
8d per day
Apr 1 – Jun 30
Toorgabur, Jenny, 60, infirm
Juigabur, Mary, 60, infirm
Joongabur, 65, blind
Coongoo, Billy, 60, infirm
May 27 – Jun 30
Molge, Sambo, 50, wooden leg
From: Streeter & Male, Broome
To: Chief Protector of Aborigines, Perth
4 July, 1908
I enclose vouchers for maintenance of several natives in April, May, June.
Some four months ago, Mr Isdell was at our small station recently started at Pender Bay (some 30 miles north of Beagle Bay Mission) and arranged with our manager to look after a few old and infirm natives, also any others Mr Isdell might send whilst journeying further towards Derby.
The particulars as on the vouchers are supplied by my manager, but to me personally Mr Isdell has been unable to communicate. On the May voucher appears one man with a wooden leg – he was sent down by Mr Isdell after being some weeks away from Pender Bay.
Bell & Male
Mr Isdell replied no such authority given as he considered the station should support the natives.
E W P [Edmund Pechell]
[Telegram – no date]
To: Isdell, Fitzroy
From: Pechell, Aborigines Dept
Please say if you sanctioned Bell Male Weedong five natives at eight-pence
By letter 13/162
Messrs Bell & Male informed that Mr Isdell had been communicated with and that it was found that he had given no authority for the relief of five natives at the Weedong Station. Therefore, under the circumstances, relief could not be passed.
E W P
From: Streeter & Male, Broome
To: Chief Protector of Aborigines, Perth
21 Aug, 1908
We are in receipt of your letter 13/162 and I must say we are very surprised at the contents. Mr Bell is now in Broome and the writer has gone into the matter thoroughly with him. The natives mentioned in the vouchers attached were sent to Weedong (Pender Bay) by your inspector Mr Isdell – some of them were, we believe, from Cygnet Bay, who had been looked after by Father Nicholas. These natives, as you see by the vouchers, are very old and quite helpless, one blind and one with a wooden leg, and to leave them without support would mean the end of their existence. We fail to see any reason why Mr Isdell should have said that these natives should be supported by us after having sent them. The station has been in existence barely two years and considering Mr Bell does not use natives, only one horse boy who is well-looked after by us, it seems rather absurd to say that they should be kept by the station. I would suggest that you get confirmation of our case from Father Bischoff of the Beagle Bay Mission who is a man taking grate interest in the natives and doing a great work. We certainly can’t afford to keep them ourselves and would much prefer to have them sent elsewhere than on our premises, but it would be a most inhumane thing to leave them unprotected so that until we hear from you again we shall continue to support them on your account being sent us by Mr Isdell. Since Father Nicholas left Cygnet Bay there are numbers of old natives in this district not being looked after as they should be, as we have reason to believe although they should be looked after by Mr Hunter of Swan Point, it is evidently not being done. The latter information we would ask you to be confidential and get a report from Father Bischoff who is a Protector as to whether it is a fact. Had Mr Isdell been in the district we would have communicated with him, but if the above is correct it is certainly your duty to remedy same.
Bell & Male
To C P A [Chief Protector of Aborigines]
I have written again to Mr Isdell re this relief at Weedong. Also to Father Bischof
E W P
12 Nov 1908
To: Aborigines Dept
Wired August first no sanction or authority from me. Charge relief Weedong Station Male & Bell can well afford feed few indigents. Beagle Bay Mission relief only sixteen miles from Weedong
C P A
In face of Mr Isdell’s telegram, do you consider relief should be given to the Weedong Station for natives mentioned in voucher form and by Messrs Bell & Male.
E W P
Inform Male & Bell that from information received from our inspector they must have misunderstood the authority quoted by them. It appears to be a genuine case of relief and the account must be paid. Inform the ? when paying that as the Mission Beagle Bay Station is so near them I consider it advisable that these natives should be sent there & that no further accounts will be paid.
C F Gale
To: Messrs Bell & Male, Weedong Station, near Broome
23rd Nov 1908
I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 21st August, received here a short time back, re relief to the natives at your Weedong Station and inform you that from information received from our inspector you must have mistaken the authority given and quoted amount.
However, as the natives maintained by you seem to be genuine cases for relief, I have forwarded the voucher for payment through the Treasury at Broome. As the mission at Beagle Bay is near you, I consider it advisable that these indigent natives should be sent there and that no further accounts should be forwarded for their relief from Weedong.
I have the honor to be, Sirs, your obedient servant,
C F Gale
From: Beagle Bay Mission
To: Aborigines Dept
2nd Dec 1908
In your letter from the 3rd Nov you asked my opinion as to the relief of 5 natives on Mr Bell’s station, Weedong. Personally I have been different times at the said station of Messrs Bell and Male, where I have seen the old and infirm natives. These natives surely should be on the infirm list.
As to the Department bearing the expenses, I can only mention that Mr Bell himself is a very upright and honest man, but as his station is only in the beginning, he will have scarcely any profit from his work for the first 5 years.
Under these circumstances I doubt very much if he would have the inclination to look after the infirm natives, if the Department should refuse to bear at least part of the expense.
I am, Sir, your faithful servant,
Fr Jos Bischofs
31 Dec 1908
To: The Protector of Aborigines, Perth
We are in receipt of your letter of 23 Nov re natives at Weedong Station.
I regret to see you think our information from your Inspector is incorrect. On this point I must again say there was no misunderstanding as your Inspector even pointed out to Mr Bell, our Manager, the method of applying for payment and the details required. This fact alone should show you that at that time he considered the claim just.
Personally, the writer does not believe in the often made attempt to get your Dept to pay for natives which are often used on stations. As in the instance the firm I am managing Messrs Streeter & Co, who I can say support perhaps more old natives than any station in the North but still in this case many of them are old servants or have children working there in which case or cases I am quite in accord with you – its the duty of the many stations to support such natives.
However, in this case at Weedong, the facts are very different – the country has never before been opened up or used and the natives, which are a fair charge on the station, are maintained by it although only the horseboy is used. These natives sent by Mr Isdell are from Cygnet Bay country and I would not either myself or allow my manager to claim unless such was just.
To get stores to these parts is very expensive as a lugger has to be hired to get supplies sent up so you will see it is no advantage to us to have them there.
I trust you will arrange for the B. B. Mission or someone else to take them away as they are too old and decrepit to go on their own. In the meantime, I enclose the amount to date and shall continue to support them at your expense until some such arrangement is made to relieve me of them.
I trust you are making inquiries re the old natives about this part of the north for since Father Nicholas left Cygnet Bay and shall be pleased to hear from you that this is being done.
Bell & Male
To: Messrs Bell & Male, Weedong Station, Broome
Jan 26th, 1909
I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 31st ultimo and to inform you that I have made enquiries re the old Natives now in your neighbourhood and formerly of the Cygnet Bay Mission.
I have the honor to be, Sir, your’s obediently,
Chief Protector of Aborigines
To: J Isdell Esq, Travelling Protector of Aborigines, Halls Creek
Messrs Bell and Male of the Weedong Station have written two or three times re old and decrepit Natives from Cygnet Bay, hanging about the country in their neighbourhood.
I understand from your report that arrangements were made to send all Father Nicholas Emo’s old Natives to Hunter of Boolgin; was not this idea out, if not what arrangements were made for the Natives who did not go to Boolgin.
Chief Protector of Aborigines
To: Chief Protector, Perth
Letter undated or numbered to hand with reference to granting of relief to old natives at Bell & Male’s Weedong Station. I never sanctioned the granting of relief to any natives on Weedong, if so, I would have at once acquainted the Aborigine Dept. Neither Messrs Bell or Male never made any written application to me for relief, if they had I would have refused it. I could not recommend it and what’s more they ought to be ashamed of themselves for asking for it – Mr Male is a large cattle run with a big pearling fleet, large store business, and has had all exclusive monopoly of the very best butchering business in West Australia, that of Broome, and could well afford to feed 100 old natives. On my visit there were 3 od women and 1 old man, and if I am not mistaken the old man is the father of one of the stockboys, though I am not certain.
Mr Harris of Carnet Bay Station is a poor man, struggling hard, yet he feeds 7 old natives besides children and never hinted at relief. Weedong is only 16 miles from Beagle Bay Mission Station where old natives can get relief there if they want. When one comes to travel through Kimberley, and compares the price of stores paid by inland natives with those on the coast, I can only say all coastal station owners ought to be ashamed of themselves, it’s pure and simple.
From Derby to Upper Fitzroy and Margaret River carriage[?] is from £25 to £30 per ton, flour is over £40 per ton, and every station finds indigents and also bush natives and not a single station owner or manager ever mentioned the word relief, excepting one station over the Leopold, Mount Barnett, and that was for beef only. I would stop all relief on coastal stations, where stores are cheap and compel them to feed a certain number of natives, for having use of land and service of younger natives, if they hadn’t the younger natives, they could be looking after and feeding the old people, stores on coast are only 2 or 3 pounds over Fremantle prices. I will sanction no relief without approval of the Aborigines Dept and applications must be made in writing.
The only relief that is necessary in that portion of the coast is at Hunter’s Boolgin Creek where nearly all the old Cygnet Bay natives belong to.
I remain, yours obediently,
May 18th, 1909
I beg to acknowledge per private river mail yours dated Jan 14th & 26th, no 13/305 and 13/337 with reference to Bell & Males complaint about indigents and the heavy expense incurred feeding indigents at Hunters Boolgin Homestead.
I have already written Department with reference to Bell & Males application. I look on it as an imposition asking for assistance to feed a few old natives. If the old natives are troubling them there is a police constable stationed at Beagle Bay. They should request him to remove them to the Beagle Bay Mission relief station, which is only 16 miles from Mr Bell’s homestead.
With regard to Boolgin, it is a difficult matter to settle. Mr Hunter absolutely refuses to have anything to do with the old people. When I first asked him, he would not take relief money but at last agreed to serve out natives if supplied by the Dept. From Disaster Bay King Sound along this coast as far as Pender Bay there are a number of old natives men and women, but very few young natives. Father Nicholas had most of them at his Cygnet Bay Mission, and if I mistake not (I have not got the records with me) he got relief money for 32 natives. It was on that basis I calculated the supplies for Hunter. If it has been exceeded it is so without authority. Sunday Island natives are nearly all young men & women from 20 years to 35 years old – very few old ones & few very young ones. Nearly if not all these natives belong to the mainland, along the coast I have named, if such is the case it accounts for so many old people being thrown on their own resources. I want to investigate that point and find out how many of the Sunday Islanders are related to the old people. These old people on mainland will not live in the islands, there are really no natives belonging to Sunday or the other Islands, they all belong on the mainland, and only used the Islands for hunting & fishing purposes. Then again the regulations regarding the taking of natives as crews on boats are so lax that many of the younger men have been taken away and not been returned. I write very strongly on this particular question whilst in Broome early last year, suggesting alterations to protect these coastal natives. The proportion of women to men is so much larger on the coast it shows that a number of men must have disappeared. Whilst at Boolgin I would like to talk to take a run over to the Lacepedes in Hunter’s boat and inspect it in regard to its suitability to keep native prisoners on to work the guano deposits. Will you wire me to the Fitzroy if I can do so. The whole of that coast, as well as Derby, is a veritable death trap for horses from Kimberley worms, I am sure to lose some, as they are bound to contract the disease, although it may be months before they die.
I hope you do not blame me for not getting answers to your letters and telegrams in reasonable time, some of my correspondence is six months old before reaching me – your two January letters only reached me three days ago per private person.
I remain, yours obediently,
Archie Male (1877-1923)
Archie Male worked in partnership with his older brother Arthur Male (a Liberal MP for many years), with large cattle holdings in the North-West, which were exported to Java in exchange for rice and sugar used as provisions for the indentured Asian labourers of their extensive pearling fleets. Due to his interests in employing Japanese divers for the pearling industry, Male was the Honorary Consul for Japan in Broome from 1910 until his death in 1923. He was opposed to certain applications of the White Australian Policy that worked to prevent the employment of Asians, and the Male brothers worked vigorously to exempt Asians working in the pearling industry from the prohibitions of the Policy. Archie Male was Mayor of Broome for many years.
James Isdell was a pastoralist, parliamentarian, and traveling protector of Aborigines. Although he expresses compassion in his communications in this record, he was more notoriously known for being the instigator of the Canning Stock Route and an “enthusiastic child removalist.” The following quote is from a chapter by Robert Manne, in the book Genocide and settler society: frontier violence and stolen indigenous children in Australian history (2004), edited by A. Dirk Moses:
The most enthusiastic West Australian child removalist in these early days was James Isdell, the former pastoralist and parliamentarian, who was appointed traveling protector for the north in 1907. On 13 Nov 1908, Isdell wrote from the Fitzroy River district to the Chief Inspector, Charles Gale. “I consider it a great scandal to allow any of these half-caste girls to remain with the natives.” On 15 Jan 1909, Gale issued Isdell with the authority to “collect all half-caste boys and girls” and to transport them to Beagle Bay. Isdell expressed his gratitude: “It should have been done years ago.” By May 1909, he was able to report from Wyndham that the entire East Kimberley region had been “cleaned up.”
Isdell was aware that sentimentalists from the south sometimes wrote letters to newspapers “detailing the cruelty and harrowing grief of the mothers.” He regarded such complaints as nonsensical. “Let them visit and reside for a while” in one of the native camps and see for themselves “the open indecency and immorality and hear the vile conversations ordinarily carried on which these young children see, listen to, and repeat.” Isdell did not believe that the Aboriginal mother felt the forcible removal of her child more deeply than did a bitch the loss of a pup. “I would not hesitate,” he wrote, “to separate any half-caste from its Aboriginal mother, no matter how frantic momentary grief might be at the time. They soon forget their offspring.” “All Aboriginal women,” he explained in letters to Gale “are prostitutes at heart” and all Aborigines are “dirty, filthy, immoral.” (Moses 2004, 222-223)
Harry Hunter (1865-19) is a controversial figure: he was a pearling master who set up a camp at Boolgin Creek and subsequently lived there. The following is an extract from the book “Harry Hunter and Sydney Hadley“:
“Harry Hunter walked down to his store, revolver on his hip as always, whip and knife in hand. He took out a large burlap sack and a length of rope, locked the door again, and went on down to the beach.” “Just above the edge of the sea, a rowing boat lay on the sand. Nearby a group of Aboriginal children was playing, one of them a big boy, almost full grown. Harry Hunter told that boy, ‘Row this boat’.” “Soon after they set off, he said, ‘This boat is too light. Pull across to the island and bring some rocks’. The boy did so, lowering them in carefully, so they wouldn’t go through the bottom, then rowed out to the deep water, where sharks pass down King Sound when the tide runs full” “Out there, Harry Hunter put his revolver to the boy’s head, killed him, put the body and rocks in the sack which he tied with the rope and dropped over the stern.” “Taking the oars, he rowed back to the mainland shore, pulled the boat up on the beach and walked away.” Jack Hunter.
Bischofs, Josef (1878-1958)
Father Josef Bischofs was a German missionary, who arrived in WA in 1905 as part of the Pallotine Mission, who built up the Beagle Bay Mission after the Cistercians left in 1899, and stayed until 1920. He translated the bible into Nyul-nyul and wrote extensively on Aboriginal customs. He was very outspoken in his objection to marriages between Aboriginal women and Asian men.
Father Nicholas D’Emo was a Spanish missionary of the Cistercian Order, who was the first priest at Broome and helped to establish the Beagle Bay Missionary. He arrived in 1895 and remained after the Cisterian Mission left in 1899. He was President of the Broome Filipino Association and employed an Aboriginal woman, who was married a Filipino man, as teacher in the school he established in Broome. After leaving the Cistercian Order, he ran a schooner with other Filipinos and then went on to establish the Lombadina Mission, where he died in 1915.