1905 Roth Report

Dr Walter Edmund Roth (1861-1933) Photo: John Oxley Library, State Library, Qld

Dr Walter Edmund Roth (1861-1933)
Photo: John Oxley Library, State Library, Qld

The 1905 Royal Commission on the Condition of the Natives was commonly known as the Roth Report, referring to the controversial Commissioner, Walter Edmund Roth*, who had been the Chief Protector of the Aborigines in Queensland. It was initiated after reports of cruelty and mistreatment of Aboriginal people, particularly on remote pastoral stations in the north-west. The Report concluded that Aborigines lived in poor conditions, Aboriginal prisoners were maltreated, and that there considerable irregularities regarding the distribution of government rations. It was recommended that large hunting grounds be reserved for the sole use of Aboriginal people and that the current excessive “land-grabbing” by the colonisers be curtailed. As a result of the Royal Commission, the Aborigines Act 1905 was implemented, which substantially increased the government’s control over the lives and movements of Aboriginal people, by establishing the position of Chief Protector who was the legal guardian of `every aboriginal and half-caste child’ up until the age of 16 years.

There was considerable media interest in this Report, which can be seen here. The Report was also discussed at length in the British Parliament, which was recorded in Hansard.

*For more information on Walter E Roth:
Haebich, Anna. Broken circles: fragmenting Indigenous families 1800 – 2000. Fremantle: Fremantle Press
McDougall, Russell (ed.) & Iain Davidson (ed.). 2008. The Roth family, anthropology, and colonial administration. Walnut Creek, Calif: Left Coast Press

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