State Records Office of Western Australia
Acc 2922/1-2
Title: Transcript of evidence 1934
Item 1 & Item 2

Aborigines Royal Commission

Tuesday, 13th March, 1934

H. D. Moseley, Esq., Commissioner

AUBER [sic] OCTAVIUS NEVILLE, Chief Protector of Aborigines, further examined:

[Day 1] [Day 2] Continued…

Wednesday, 14th March, 1934

H. D. Moseley, Esq., Commissioner

Auber Octavius Neville, Chief Protector of Aborigines, further examined:


By the Commissioner: There are not many questions that I desire to ask you. Your evidence has been very comprehensive and I think that I at least understand the departmental point of view. Regarding the number of aborigines in the state, you gave the total number as disclosed in the latest departmental report, as 29,021, and of those you said that approximately 15,134 represented full bloods, and 3,891 individuals of mixed colour. That left a considerable balance. I take it that the balance represents natives who are out of touch with the department?——Yes. We regard them as outside the confines of civilisation.


How are those figures arrived at?——In the case of the natives outside the confines of civilisation, the figures are purely approximate, and I am inclined to think they are wrong. I fancy they are overstated. I should say the number was near 8,000.


Where would those natives be?——If you take the area north of the Leopold Ranges and of the Durack Ranges too, the number of natives estimated to exist there is purely approximate. That is really a terra incognito, and in a sense a no-man’s land. The people at the three missions on the coast in the far north do not know what number of natives are in the interior.


Do those people come in touch with your department or with any form of civilisation?——Apart from the surveyors who went through in the first instance, my own officers are about the only ones who have traversed that country. Then if you take the area from about Sturt Creek and the Billiluna Station

[End of page 112]

eastward and to the Canning Stock Route, thence through the desert right down to the trans line, that area also includes an unknown number of natives.


And someone has estimated that the number of natives in the area you have mentioned total in the vicinity of 10,000?——Yes, including those in the areas I have mentioned. We are sometimes inclined to think that there are more natives in those unknown parts than they really are, because of the number that come into touch with civilisation when there is no rain out east. When those conditions obtain, the friendliest of the natives come into the stations, leaving the others still in the desert.


Do you have some idea as to the character of those natives?——Yes, we know a good deal about them because their representatives come into touch with civilisation. They really let us know when things are so bad that they cannot carry on. We have even sent out food supplies as far as we can get them.


What was the object in establishing the very large reserve on the borderline of the State adjacent to South Australia?——There is supposed to be a very large number of natives in that area and contiguous reserves have been declared in the Northern Territory and Central Australia, the three making a huge reserve intended for the natives for all time.


I should have thought the reserve would be more useful to the South Australian natives?——No, there are many in Western Australia who make use of that area. They continue to travel down to the trans line, and they are the people with whom Mrs Daisy Bates is so familiar, and about whom she writes so much. The natives work down through the goldfields areas to the trans line and once they get there they do not go back.


Is there anyone in charge of that reserve?——No.

[End of page 113]

Missionaries and others have traversed the area, and in view of the size of the parties met from time to time, the natives were considered to be more numerous than had been anticipated. Physically, however, they are a poor a lot. They represent, in all probability, the remainder of the original cannibal tribes.


Speaking of the condition of the night is generally, you said that those on the Gascoyne and the Murchison were not in good condition?——I meant from the moral standpoint; physically they are fairly good.


When you referred to the natives on the Gascoyne and the Murchison, did you mean those employed on the stations?——Mainly, although there are still a fair number in the bush. There is a considerable white population in the area, which accounts for the condition of the natives, more or less. I think I was speaking about the general demoralisation of the natives.


Your statement was general, and I wanted to be a little more definite about it. Apart from that one aspect, you have nothing against their state in life?——No, they are living on rations. Generally speaking, the stations are looking after their natives, from the physical standpoint.


When you referred to that trouble regarding the proximity of camps to towns, that applied to the southern parts?——Yes, from Geraldton to Albany and east to Merredin and Ravensthorpe.


I understood you to say that you had nowhere to send those people who were living in camps close to town?——We have only the Moore River settlement, which is full now. Unless we have other settlements, the present conditions must continue.

[End page 114]


To use only the Moore River settlement, apart from its inappropriate geographical position, would involve moving all natives from their own country to another centre?——It would involve that phase, which is vital, and it would also mean the construction of additional buildings. Then again, the country there is not suitable for farming; it is sand plain. It was never intended as a settlement where farming operations could be carried on. In other words, there would be no occupation for the natives if they were sent there.

[End page 115]


Have you formed an idea as to where settlements should be located to do away with the necessity for keeping these people close to the town?——They must be somewhere within call of the community. It would not be wise to put them right out of the way because they rely upon the community to employ them.


In the South-West we are dealing with an employable type, the half-caste?——Yes. There was a suggestion that there should be a settlement at Bremer Bay. That is ridiculous from that point of view, for we must have the natives where we can employ them.


That is why I should like some suggestions as to where additional settlements could be established?——There could be nothing better than the restoration of the Carrolup settlement.


Would that be sufficient?——No. Do you want another subsidiary place somewhere near Merredin, Quaraiding and Northam.


What area would be sufficient?——A small farm of 2,000 acres would suffice. Then we want another place in the vicinity of the Tone River, 50 miles south-west of Kojonup for certain people that will not mix with the others at all, being of a different race. They are something of a menace to the other people, and should be kept apart. We have a reserve of 8,000 acres there. The institutional nature of the place would be different; it would be merely a home for those people with a man and his wife in charge. Other institutions have to contain hospitals and schools. The subsiduary institutions would not be nearly so expensive to run.


I am trying to foresee the division of the State into three districts for the purpose of the aborigines, each district to be under the control of a responsible officer and supplied with as many settlements as could be arranged for?——In the South-West division there would not be any need for other than the Chief Protector. In the Gascoyne and Murchison districts,

[End page 116]

possibly including the Northern Goldfields, there should be another official?


You could extend that further than the Murchison?——Yes. We might be able to work up as far as the Ashburton. Then you would need another official between that and say the Leopold Ranges. Above that there would be no necessity for officers other than as station managers. This plan (Exhibit no. 9) illustrates the position in the South-West. Here is Geraldton. The tribes work down to the east-west line. The southern tribes work up to about the same boundary. We have the Moore River in the Midlands, which is the central corroboree ground for all those natives, and we have Carollup there which was the central corroboree ground for all these other people. That site suits more people in the South-West than any other site. The other day I found Kellerberrin natives visiting at Collie. So none of them have any objection to that site, and the majority claim it as their own. Of course we would have to move natives from the trans line by force mageure if we wished to put them there, but these other people are on visiting terms.


If we could transfer those on the trans-line to the reserve you propose near Merredin would not that be preferable?——Yes, prefer it to be in the city of Meriden. We also use the Mt Margaret Mission, which is so well conducted that we look upon it as almost an agency of the department. To that mission we send people who otherwise would be destined for the native settlement. It also attracts the trans-line natives, but we do not attempt to force them into the mission.


Have you any power to force them?——No, none of the missions are on a reserve under the Aborigines Act. That has been purposely withheld because under the regulations it gives them powers we do not wish them to have at present. My experience is that the existing plan on which we work at our settlement is not very satisfactory. We need to adopt a plan such as they have at the Fairbridge Farm School; in other words, there must be more individual control of the inmates. If they were placed under

[End page 117]

the house-mother system, they would be much better off.


So far as my consideration has gone I see the possibility of a proper division of the State, each part under the control of a separate person and supplied with sufficient settlements or missions or stations, but each one under proper control?——You do not suggest that those district officers should be independent of the Chief Protector?


No. They would be your deputies?——That practice has been started in Queensland.


Now this rather regrettable reduction in supply of very necessary things to the natives. Was there no other avenue which could have been exploited to reduce costs?——No, we explored every avenue, even to the voluntary reduction of wages and salaries. If you could realise the state of penury to which we have come you would appreciate that it was impossible to cut off another penny anyway.


How was your Vote last year as compared with that of five years ago?——We have on the estimates what we call the Relief Vote. In 1927–28 that Vote amounted to £18,708, whereas last year it was at £18,635. Take the actual expenditure; in the 1927–28 on that item it was £18,381, whereas to 30 June, 1933, it was £19,289, and the estimate for the current year is £18,635. In other words we have been kept on that figure for years past.


But we were discussing the reduction of food and blankets. Five years ago you spent less by £1,000 than you did last year?——The whole Vote was reduced by over £3,000.


That does not matter unless you can account for having spent less than five years ago then you spent last year?——We spent less, but not on this item; we have kept up this item at the expense of everything else. Food and clothing are included in this.


But you have reduced meat and clothing?——Because of the numbers of natives. They have increased from about 500 to nearly 3,000 but I have had no more money to spend.

[End page 118]

The amount has fluctuated because one Government gave us an additional £3,000 to provide clothes and food, but the next Government cut it off.


Then there is a the accommodation for maternity cases. You say you have none?——We have it at Moore River which in this regard is the only satisfactory place in the South-West. We try to get them all there. Those not in touch with that place remain in the bush, and we send out nurses to them. Sometimes the matrons of hospitals go out themselves.


You referred to camp life bringing the natives to a lower status, and you said the remedy lies in proper organisation, settlements and reserves?——And in discipline. I have watched the natives deteriorate for the last 15 years. There is no discipline in the camp at all nowadays. At one time the senior in the camp exercised control, but that has all disappeared, and the boys and girls do what they like. Gambling is rife and drink is increasing.


Take the condition of the small children. You say there are not sufficient schools?——Unexpectedly the other day I visited a camp of over 200. The whole of the people in that camp were standing in a ring gambling, men, women, and children, simply because they had nothing else to do to occupy their time, and there was no one to care whether they did that or something else.


Where do they get the money to gamble with?——They had got a little during the shearing season. But even without money they will gamble, though it means gambling for their clothes.


What game do they play?——Two-up, always.


Real Australians?——It obtains even in out settlement, where we have difficulty in stopping it. The idle native is a bad native.


Talking about schools, I can appreciate the dislike of some parents of white children to having their children mix up with half-castes in the school. But it is

[End page 119]

going tp be a tremendous thing to establish separate schools. Would schools established at all the settlements provide for all half-castes?——Practically. One of the findings of a Royal Commission in South Australia in 1860 was that every native child in the State should be at once removed from its parents and placed in an institution. They said that was the only thing to do.


It seems to me a very cruel thing to do?——It is, and we try to avoid it, but no doubt for the future of the race it is almost a necessity. Where you can have the mothers and the children, as at our settlement, the children at school but visiting the mothers in the camp, although not allowed to live in the camp but living in the dormitories, everybody is happy. But where the children are forcibly taken away from their mothers, it seems cruel.


Something else must be thought of. I have seen for myself that there is no difference between the love of a half-caste mother for her child, and that of an ordinary white woman?——All the natives are extremely fond of their children. But we must think of the future life of the child. In many instances the mothers are utterly unfit to care for the child. Where there is no question of unfitness the mother should be allowed to accompany the child.

[End page 120]


Then, may we say the children have to go to school but that we cannot provide a school sufficiently close?——Our experience of those children attending State schools is that they begin well. The mother takes a pride in the fact that her child is allowed to attend the school and looks after the child for a week or two, but gradually there is deterioration. Finally, the children attend in a dirty condition and no one will put up with them. There is a natural odour about natives. I sympathise with the white parents. We should have separate schools for such children. In point of fact there are very few native children attending state schools in the South-West. They are not getting any education at all. The native mothers and fathers are clamouring for the education of the children as they realise what it means to the children. In all this discussion we must remember that it is impossible to do much for the elders, but that we have to look to the future of the young people. I was definitely informed by the Education Department some years ago that the education of the natives was not their job and that I must attend to it.


It must be established as to whose job it is?——Provision is made in the Aborigines Act that we must educate the native and half-caste children.


But must you provide the schools?——If we had the means, we would be very glad to provide the schools. We did have one or two native schools before there were any native settlements. There was one such school at Beverley. Those schools, however, were closed when the settlement at Carollup was established, and they have not been opened since.


Take a place where a school might be established, such as the Moore River settlement?——There is a school at the settlement.


Apart from elementary education, are facilities provided for vocational training?——No such facilities are provided except the sewing room.

[End page 121]


What vocational training is provided for the boys?——They do a little farm work, but the country is such that there is little scope for them. There is no workshop.


Are there any means to teach them carpentering and blacksmithing for instance?——There is a small blacksmith’s shop designed to do the work required on the place, but there is no carpenter’s shop and no vocational training is provided beyond clearing scrub, making roads, quarrying and a few odd jobs of that kind, apart of course from doing the work about the place.


Without means for training them, it seems that more than half the object of such a settlement is lost?——That reveals the stupidity in closing Carollup. If any settlement was to be closed, it should have been the one at Moore River. At Carollup we had a large area of good agricultural land and carried sheep, and the property was just reaching a paying basis. To close Carollup was an extraordinary act. Moore River cannot pay and it was never intended to. Carollup has been put up into four or five large farms. We did arrange to re-purchase 4,000 acres from two brothers who were willing to sell. That was the only part we proposed to retain.


Carrolup is not now as large as it was?——Not without purchasing further land, which we could do. It is all Agricultural Bank property.


As compared with Carrolup, Moore River is very poor?——Yes.


I notice that it costs £4,000 a year to keep that settlement going?——Yes.


There is no possibility of getting any return from the place?——No, except from the work of the girls employed in making clothing. This represents a considerable saving to the department. The work was previously done by contract and now the cost represents the expense of the material only.


Carrolup could have shown a better return?——Infinitely.

[End page 122]


And it could have produced better results for the natives?——Yes.


Who could supply the reasons for abolishing Carollup settlement?——The settlement was abolished allegedly on the score of economy. I am satisfied that those who recommended its abolition knew nothing of the native question at large. It was considered from a purely parochial point of view. Had those responsible possessed the knowledge that I have gleaned, I am sure that such a silly thing would never have been attempted. There is a stupid idea in the minds of some people that good country is not needed for a native settlement, but that any old place, where no one else will settle, is good enough.


It depends on what is proposed to be done with the settlement. If the natives are merely to sit down and gaze at the sun, perhaps anything will do?——We must teach natives to work. At Moola Bulla we have to feed the natives and we have to grow beef for them, but not one of them is allowed a pound of beef until he has done his share of work for the day.


I am rather concerned about Moola Bulla from one aspect – that it does not pay?——It was never intended to pay.


Would not you like to see it made to pay?——Yes, but I should like to know of any cattle station in the Kimberleys that is paying.


They are not all being run at a loss. I have figures to show that one at any rate is not being run at a loss.The loss on Moola Bulla is so small that it seems to me that, with a little ingenuity, the lost might be turned into a profit?——I hope so. We are obliged to send our cattle to the Wyndham Meat Works, where we obtain a very small return for them. We cannot send our cattle south.


You had a tannery at Moola Bulla?——And had to do away with it on the score of economy. The leather was deteriorating, not improving. We sent it to London to have experiments made and found we could not continue operating at a loss.

[End page 123]

The latest experiment of running sheep beds fair to give the best profit in the long run. It must not be supposed that that station has not done well as a pastoral concern. It has, but it has to carry burdens that no other station is called upon to bear. We have to look after the indigent people.


Are you sure of your figures when you say that £800 a year represents the loss on Moola Bulla?——That is the average loss. It is difficult to get a concrete figure.


You say that the average annual loss on Moola Bulla is about £800?——Yes. The station has been debited with all sorts of overhead charges in the way of salaries, etc, which have been not cash payments but simply bookkeeping entries. The whole concern has been run on a bookkeeping basis.


What about Munja and Violet Valley?——Violet Valley is a depot with only 1,000 head of cattle and is not expected to pay.


None of them is expected to pay?——No. They have been established to provide facilities for natives.


I am trying to find some proposition that will not only enable facilities to be provided for the natives, but that will give some return?——That can only be done by the investment of more capital and by extending the water supplies. Moola Bulla has not sufficient waters for its size. Instead of carrying 15,000 head of cattle, it should be carrying 25,000 or 30,000.


What is the area of Moola Bulla?——About one and a quarter million acres. Lack of water is the whole difficulty and that is due to lack of funds to obtain the water.


In normal times a company take up an area under leasehold conditions and it becomes a paying proposition. You have no rent to pay at Moola Bulla?——We are not debited with rent.


Whatever labour you need is supplied free?——No.


Why not?——In normal times we employ eight white hands.


Why eight?——Because there is certain work that white men must supervise.

[End page 124]


But surely you do not need eight? That figure differs very much from figures I have concerning another station?——I believe the number has been reduced to 7, which includes the manager, storekeeper, head stockman, station cook, station camp cook—there are 10 or more mills with wells, troughs, etc, and a boundary rider. All those men unnecessary. Then we have been debited by the Treasury with interest. The interest bill runs into huge figures.


I think the amount is £1,052.11s.4d?——at present the interest due to the Treasury totals £20,000.


You have not been paying it?——But we have been debited with it.


That does not matter much?——No one pays it. The Auditor General has pointed out that the loans in respect of which we are debited with interest have been wiped off long ago, and yet we are still debited with interest.


But other people have to pay interest?—We have to include it in the cost of running the station. Then we were debited with overhead charges amounting to £10,000 odd. A part of my salary was debited because I have the oversight of the place, and part of the accountant’s salary was debited because he has something to do with it. That practice, however, has been stopped. Now it is on a receipts and expenditure basis as shown in my report. The station has paid this year.

[End page 125]

The figures show a surplus of £561 for the year just closed, due to the matter being put on a cash basis. It took me years to bring about the change, because the authorities would not agree to it. We have had to carry the baby all the time.


If you could control Moola Bulla and other places on the same basis, the operations of the department would be much easier?——We could try to do that, but no native station in Australia pays its way.


All the native institutions are conducted by the Government, and for some indefinable reason, Government institutions scarcely ever pay?——On the native stations many duds have been carried. There are hundreds on our places. The position of the Munja Station is worse than that of Moola Bulla. It is intended as a forerunner to settlement and for the civilisation of the blacks. The station cannot pay except under certain conditions. All we can do there is to civilise the natives.


Is it running cattle?——About 2,000 head. We can grow tropical produce there to almost any extent. It has a rainfall up to 60 inches, where as at Moola Bulla the rainfall is only 20 inches. The other day a firm in Perth asked me if we could grow considerable quantities of a certain commodity at Munja, because it was very satisfied with what we had been able to supply in the past. Had I been able to produce the quantity, the return would have been about £1,500. To get this would have meant the employment of an additional hand, but I am not allowed to make that arrangement. The Government do not realise the potentiality is of the place. I have told the authorities again and again what can be done there. The peanuts we get in Perth nearly all come from Munja Station, as does the Broome millet. We have no machinery, not even a cultivator, and

[End page 126]

The tropical advisor of the Government has never been there. They have missed the best part of the North from the point of view of tropical agriculture. They look upon it as terra incognita. Transport is the great difficulty. We have to ship our stuff by lugger.


What about Violet Valley?——It can never be more than a feeding depot. The area is comparatively small and very little of it is any good. Nevertheless, it grows the best stock we have, and they are put with the Moola Bulla cattle for sale to increase the weight of the mob. Before these stations were established, it was costing us more than the stations are now costing to feed indigent natives in the East Kimberley. The station proposition is cheaper than the giving out of rations. We do get some return and the natives get the beef.


That part of the country is well supplied with places for the natives, with its three Government stations and four Missions?——We will need to more stations in the extreme north in advance of white settlement. We want a small subsidiary station on Munja on the reserve at the north-west corner, and we want another in the centre (No 143). These places are designed to coincide with the tribal districts, which must be reckoned with. The tribes are in their old state, and one tribe will fight with another. The tribes must therefore be served in different geographical districts. All the natives from vicinity of the Durack Ranges will go into Violet Valley.


But the Government say they are not prepared to advance the necessary capital?——If a chartered company were to take over that country, it would be necessary to establish additional stations in order to avoid bloodshed and murder.


You say the missionaries should be under the control of the department?——Certainly more so than they are at present.


It is a controversial matter as to how far their operations

[End page 127]

should extend?——I hope you will not enquire into the cost of some of the missions.


If they are prepared to foot their own bills, it is no concern of mine. Are you satisfied after your inspections of the missions with the vocational training carried on there?——Not generally.


You think more could be done?——A great deal more.


With their religious training, they do combine training in some forms of trade?——Where they have the facilities for it. Some of the trainees have turned out very well.


Primary object is to make these people of some use?——That is my idea.


You say the control of the missions should be in the hands of married people?——That is essential.


That would effectively abolish Roman Catholic missions?——Not necessarily. There are sisters of Saint John of God’s at three of the missions, and there are men and women present at those places. I meant to imply that the natives are always looking for faults in the whites controlling them. They assume certain things. They then begin to believe those things. They will say that if the boss or his assistant can do a thing, they can do it, and the force of example is lost.


The greatest care should be exercised in the selection of people to control these places?——You have to remember the tribal culture of the natives. There are no unattached women amongst the bush people. When you have an unattached woman at a mission, they do not understand it.


I am very far from suggesting that unattached women should go there?——But they do. The natives think that an unattached man should have a wife.


How far will your ideas dovetail in with the Roman Catholic administration of missions?——I was not thinking of existing institutions but of future appointments under the proposed regulations. I have other reasons for saying that missionaries should be married. I do not want to go any further than that.

[End page 128]


The doctor at the Port Hedland hospital treats aborigines and half-castes? Yes.


Are any other people authorised to administer any form of medical treatment in the district?——Further east at Warawagine Station Mr Miller is authorised to do that. He has no medical qualifications, but is acting under instructions given by the Commissioner of Public Health.


Is the medical officer at Port Hedland satisfied with him?——Yes, he recommended him.


Is he the only one?——The only one at that place. We have 12 officers doing this work under instructions from the Commissioner for Public Health. I cannot remember the names of all these officers and where they are stationed, but I will make a note of the matter and send you the information.


Has each one of these persons been approved by the Commissioner for Public Health?——Yes, and they are all stationed in remote places where there is no medical man within several days’ journey; otherwise we should not have appointed them there.


At the bulk supply stations are there any natives suffering from venereal disease?——Any bad cases, where medical attendance is considered to be necessary, are reported to me. The fact that these officers are allowed to administer treatment does not take away from them the necessity of reporting cases and sending them in for medical treatment if they are very bad. The officers will have to do that, and they continue to do it. All these cases are reported to me.


Are any of those cases kept at the ration depots? I was thinking of healthy natives being also there and being in touch with these other natives?——One or two diseased cases are to be found at all stations.


The bad cases, I take it, are sent to the lock hospital?——Yes, or some other hospital in the North. We take them there. We pay for the transport. The matter is generally arranged

[End page 129]

with the police there or by our local officers.


And the officers return them as well?——Yes.


They say that they get back to their own country?——Yes. It is entirely the work of the Aborigines Department.


Who acts for the department up there?——The local protector.


Who is in many cases a policeman?——Yes.


Have you any return of the number of cases treated at places where there is no lock hospital?——No.


Have you any record of them?——No. I could not obtain the information without going through the individual files and taking out the cases, which would be rather a job.


Yet, I suppose, every case is reported to you?——Every serious case. The officers treat minor cases, and they do not report those minor cases.


I have been talking mainly about the men. What about the women?——Unfortunately the officers have to treat the women too.


Have they difficulty in getting them away from these places to hospitals?——Very often considerable difficulty. The natives do not want to go away. I have been seeking power to take them. If they are particularly bad, they very often avoid the officers. That is why in the extreme North we find cases which are beyond all chance of recovery. It is because they have avoided the whites. In my population return you will notice a column headed “Venereal Disease”. That indicates the position in every locality as at the 30th June.


You have put in a return of the total amount of property held in trust. That does not appear in your report, does it?——Yes, every year.


A full statement of the trust funds?——Only the total amount and the amount invested.


Does that report show the number of separate native accounts?——Yes. There are 173 separate accounts.

[End page 130]


How are the moneys invested?——On the sole authority of the Chief Protector under the Act.


What form of investment?——Either in Commonwealth bonds or building society shares; mostly bonds.


Also in savings bank accounts?——The ordinary amounts are all kept in savings bank accounts. I have one boy with something like £1,000, and I have a girl with sufficient capital to return her 10s a week. It is quite a common thing for white men to leave money to these people. I knew one to leave £4,000 to two girls. Occasionally the will is left with myself as administrator. In fact, sometimes we go so far as to arrange the matter with a white man, knowing the position.


I take it that the interest earned is credited to the individual accounts separately?——Yes, to each account.


A native dying without dependents may have property belonging to him. Have you had a case of that yet?——Many; almost daily. Those cases are at present referred to the Curator of Intestate Estates. I am seeking authority to administer those estates.


What would become of the property then?——The party would be invested or sold and the bank in the name of the dependants. If the native died without dependants, the amount would be paid into the unclaimed account after three years. The department recognise the dependants of the native, whereas the Curator of Intestate Estates cannot. That is to say, we recognise a native marriage. A rather curious case occurred the other day. It is of interest. An old couple had been living together for 30 odd years. They had a farm. There was no will. The old man was very ill. I went up and arranged for him to make a will in favour of his wife. He did so. He died, and the estate was fixed up in her favour. The next process was to get a will made by the old woman. She did. The whole point was that I had to get the old couple married, after they had been living together for 30 years, before that could be done. As regards the numerous girls and boys who have gone out to work and reached mature years, over 21, we have sometimes handed over the whole of their affairs to them, when we know they are quite

[End page 131]

capable of looking after them. If they get stuck, they come back and tell us. There is a great deal of confidence between the charges of the department and the department, and that confidence, I am glad to say, is growing all the time.


You say the East Perth home is a place where girls on holiday from their occupation can go and stay, obtaining a certain amount of freedom but under constant supervision. What form does that supervision take? Take the case of a young half-caste girl down there for a fortnight. What freedom does she get, to start with?——Just to go back a little, I may say that the Home originated because of the necessity for such a place. At first we had only a few of these girls in training. In fact, when I started, there were none even being brought in. They were wild, living as they liked in the bush. At first we used to board the girls with a good lady, but we found the system not at all satisfactory and it was costly. So we decided that it would be best to establish our own home. It is only a very small place. The main object was to have our own matron, a sympathetic woman who would know how to handle these girls. Such a matron was secured. The girls are free agents went over the guardianship age, but still the matron exercises are maternal control over them, and there are certain restrictions referring to the hour of coming in at night and to the company the girls keep and whether they are allowed to go to the pictures alone. We have at that home young girls from Kimberley, for instance. Three girls from Moola Bulla are there at the present time. The matron gives them additional training before they are allowed to go out to work. When they are considered sufficiently able to work, the matron reports to me and I place them. Other girls go to the Home for holidays, after having been out in the world for years. They are quite capable of looking after themselves. At all events, we have done as far as we can; if they fall after that, we simply cannot help it. But it is essential that the girls should have a result of this nature; otherwise there is nowhere for them to go at all. It is

[End page 132]

illegal for anybody to put up one of those girls even in a boarding house. Therefore they must have a home. I am highly pleased with the success of this little place, but the trouble is that it is not half big enough. We can only accommodate about a dozen girls. We ought to have accommodation for 30 or 40 girls.


Is that why you charge so much, 25s a week?——The charge has been reduced to £1, which we think is a fair thing. The girls can afford that. They only come down for a fortnight a year. If they cannot pay, they are not denied admission.


You have not any cases of glaring trouble with men, I suppose?——No trouble at the Home. There is a little trouble occasioned by the loafer who comes round.


That is why I think the little extra supervision should be exercised over these girls, because it is that type of girl that makes an easy victim?——That is the trouble. The girls do not resent the supervision at all. They are glad to have somebody to lean on. The home at Cottesloe Beach is a very new development indeed. It is an institution which will also have to be extended. Sister Kate is now looking out for a home outside Perth, somewhere in the suburbs, where she can have a freer run and extend the work. We only subsidise that little home as we subsidise missions. A great deal of the work there is voluntary. Those in charge subscribe their own funds. I do not know that that is altogether right. In my opinion, it should be a departmental home entirely.


In the present state of the finances the more outside help we can have time to run these institutions, the better?——It seems hardly fair that these people should be called upon to put in their own money, which they are doing. I submit two returns. One shows the officers of the department and the localities in which they are working and the other shows the bulk ration stations and gives the name of the officers and their locations. (Exhibits 35 and 36).

[End page 133]

[This is the end of the evidence given by A O Neville]