AGY-4143 | Wallaga Lake Aboriginal Station

NSW State Archives Collection
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Full description

The occupation of Bega Land District by Aboriginal people long preceded the white settlement of Australia. Possibly as early as 1850 areas of land were fenced for pastoral purposes and Aboriginal people were denied access to their tribal hunting lands. This was later followed by establishment of mines. The death of an Aboriginal elder Merriman (possibly also known as Umbarra) in the 1850’s saw the decline of Aboriginal culture in the area. Many Aboriginal people mixed with the white population, some inter-married, and many worked on local farms and the developing whaling and timber industries but not in mines, as mining on Aboriginal lands was contrary to their beliefs. (1) Prior to the establishment of the Wallaga Lake Reserve, the NSW Government had assisted the community by providing fishing boats including one in 1878 and another in 1881. (2)

Establishment of the reserve
A portion of Land of approximately 330 acres described as No. 13,939 County of Dampier, parish of Narooma was reserved for the use of Aboriginal people on 13 June 1891. (3) By the end of 1891 91 Aboriginal people occupied the settlement – 26 of these were full-blooded [language as used in the record]. The Aborigines Protection Board supported 29 adults and 36 children. These people were supplied with flour, tea, sugar, ships’ biscuits and ‘Christmas extras’ (including raisins, currants, suet, and beef). The Board supplied 27 pairs of trousers, 27 shirts, 5 knicker suits, 25 wincey dresses, 25 petticoats, 1 boat and gear, 1 fishing net and 102 blankets. The plan for the management for the reserve was to clear the natural vegetation for cultivation purposes, but initially this was hampered by a particularly wet season, and many of the adults continued to find work with local industries. (4) By the second year after proclamation a small quantity of vegetables were grown and sold by some of the older men ‘for comforts’ and other Aboriginal families engaged in fishing. (5)

The reserve was known as Wallaga Lake Station. The designation ‘Station’ was used for reserves for which the land was unproductive and/or adequate labour was unavailable and there was limited scope for the reserve becoming self-sustaining. The Superintendent of the Reserve was also the teacher at the Wallaga Lake Aboriginal School that was established in March 1887. (6) It was reported that “… there is fair to average attendance. Reasonable progress is made, and the children are clean and happy.” (7) The roles of Teacher and Manager were combined until 1911. During 1899 a Local Board was established at Wallaga Lake and efforts to improve productivity and living standard were instituted. 40 acres of timber was felled and clearing of this land commenced, a small dam, boatsheds, cow bails and a stockyard were erected in addition to some simple cottages for the Aboriginal people and a residence for the manager. (8) The Manager reported continued success of the school, the institution of adult education classes at the Reserve in the evenings, the formation of a cricket club and commencement of sewing classes. (9) By 1909 the Reserve had diversified into Angora goat farming that also assisted with the control of wild blackberries. (10)

The role of the Manager
Regulations in accordance with the Aborigines Protection Act, 1909 set out the duties of Managers that included:
(a) To have general management and control of all persons on the station in addition to buildings, stock and other property. To promote good order and conduct on the station and to ‘devote their energies’ to the moral and social welfare of the Aboriginal people resident on the Station;
(b) To report monthly on the general condition of the Station to the Local Committee or Guardian. The report was to cover the average daily number of resident Aboriginal people – indicating gender, full blooded and part Aboriginal persons [language as used in the record], the work accomplished and planned in the foreseeable future; number of births and deaths; the general state of health of the population and any other matters of interest;
(c) To discourage the settlement of part Aboriginal people on the reserve unless with approval of the Local Committee or the Guardian;
(d) To maintain a diary of occurrences at the Station to be produced when required by the Local Committee or Guardian or the Board;
(e) Supervise the Aboriginal people of the reserve where possible restraining them from leaving the Station, frequenting public houses or otherwise spending their earnings.
(f) To be responsible for the distribution of rations, clothing;
(g) To keep account of money and supplies received;
(h) To forward to the Board income received from the sale of produce;
(i) To consult with the local committee or guardian regarding supplies, discipline and any other matters;
(j) To submit requisitions for supplies of rations, clothing and other requisites;
(k) To submit to the Board applications from residents who wished to occupy blocks of land on the station to cultivate the land and support themselves and their families. The manager was to report on the suitability of the land and the character of the applicant;
(l) To supervise the erection and repair of buildings, fences and the cultivation of the land, to do their best to keep the population comfortable and take an interest in their work and recreations. (11)

In 1911 the roles of teacher and manager were separated, although this separation appears to have been short-lived and to have been the general practice until the 1950’s. The Manager who commenced duty in September 1911 organised clearing and fencing, replaced several dilapidated houses and improved sanitation. (12)

The Guardian
Mr W.S. Bate commenced duty as Guardian of the Station in June 1912. [The office of Guardian replaced the local Board]. Under his direction the rabbit-proof fencing was installed to contain the angora goats; Snake Island was ploughed and prepared for cultivation; boatsheds were erected; fishing nets supplied; and some of the buildings were repaired or replaced. (13) In 1913 the Angora Goats were removed from the Station making more food available for the cattle. The population increased in the same year with a number of Aboriginal people from nearby Batemans Bay joining the Station. This placed strain on the existing accommodation and water supply. (14) In 1915 or 1916 the office of the Guardian of Aborigines was abolished (as were Local Committees and Guardians of Aborigines in the other Reserves and Stations). The responsibilities of the Guardian were taken over by two Inspectors of Aborigines who were responsible for visiting all of the Board’s stations and reserves. (15)

Some brief notes relating to the history of the Station
In 1919-20 £53 worth of wattle bark was stripped and sent to Sydney for sale and four acres was planted with wattle seed. (16) In 1937/38 the station staff were a Manager-Teacher, matron, handyman, sanitary man and a mail boy. The population of the station was 86. (17) In 1939 the following observations were made concerning the Station “ Population 159 … The majority of the buildings and old and many need renewing or alterations. A considerable influx of Aborigines has occurred during the last twelve months, making the accommodation position rather acute. Three new houses have been erected this year. The able-bodied men obtain seasonal employment in the district. Being situated in a tourist district, this Station receives many visitors from time to time.” (18)

In the year ended 30 June 1944 the Aborigines Welfare Board reported a population of 78 on the Wallaga Lake Reserve of whom 20 were in receipt of rations (19) and also indicted that there was 100% employment of able bodied people in general farm work, pea picking and road maintenance. (20)

In May 1950 work commenced on the construction 15 houses for Aboriginal People, a store, recreation hall, school and roads. (21) The residents of the reserve participated in local Coronation Day celebrations on 2 June 1953, entering a float in the procession at Cobargo, a team in the tug-of-war and some of them played gum leaves. (22) In 1953 the Manager’s Residence, and administrative buildings were destroyed by bushfire. (23) The following year the residence and an administrative block containing treatment room, office and spacious workshop were rebuilt. The remaining administrative buildings which included the ration store, recreation hall and double garage were painted to match the new buildings. (24)

The Station was connected to the Mt. Dromedary Gravitation Main and in addition to the erection of a 1000-gallon tank for each cottage the water supply was much improved. (25) The Bega Valley County Council connected electricity to the Station in 1955 and there was a new road linking the station to the Bermagui Highway. (26) A baby health clinic was added to the station by 1957. (27)

An area of about 21 acres was revoked from the reserve on 22 November 1963. This was part of portion of 683. (28)

The Wallaga Lake Aboriginal School closed in December 1964 and the children transferred to local schools (29) By 1964 Wallaga Lake Station was one within the ambit of the Nowra Welfare District. (30)

A new role for the station
By 1966 the role of Aboriginal Stations had changed. The Managerial responsibility had become supervision of the buildings, recording population numbers and maintaining health standards. The Manager at Wallaga Lake was reclassified as a Welfare officer in 1967. The Welfare Officers were responsible for all of the Aboriginal people in their district, not restricted to those resident on the stations or reserves. (31) Generally welfare officers were advocates for the Aboriginal people within their area working in conjunction with other community works to assist with health, legal, housing and other social issues. Free movement onto the Stations by both Aboriginal and other populations was permitted. (32)

In 1967/68 Wallaga Lake Station had a population of 103 none of whom were receiving rations. (33) By 1970 there were 16 houses at the Station managed by the Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare. (34)

1. The Aboriginal People - The Yuin Tribes from web site Accessed 18 January 2005.
2. Report of the Aborigines Protection Board, 1888, p.5 (Appendix D).
3. NSW Government Gazette, 13 June 1891, p.4425.
4. Report of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines, 1891, pp.10-11.
5. Report of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines, 1892, p.15.
6. Government Schools of New South Wales. Sydney, Department of Education and Training, 2003 p.134.
7. Report of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines, 1891 p.11.
8. Report of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines, 1899, p.3.
9. Ibid., p.17.
10. Report of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines, 1909, p.12.
11. NSW Government Gazette, 8 June 1910, p.3061.
12. Report of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines, 1911, p.12.
13. Report of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines, 1912 p.11.
14. Loc. Cit.
15. Report of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines, 1915, p.1.
16. Board for the Protection of Aborigines Report for the period 1 January 1919 – 30 June 1920, p.3.
17. Aborigines Protection: report to the Public Service Board, 16 August 1938 Appendix D, p.44.
18. Board for the Protection of Aborigines, Annual report for the year ended 30 June 1939, p.3.
19. Aborigines Welfare Board, Report for the year ended 30 June 1944, p.14
20. Ibid., p.12.
21. Aborigines Welfare Board, Report for the year ended 30 June 1950, p.10.
22. Aborigines Welfare Board, Report for the year ended 30 June 1953, p.13.
23. Loc. Cit.
24. Aborigines Welfare Board, Report for the year ended 30 June 1954, p.11.
25. Loc. Cit.
26. Aborigines Welfare Board, Report for the year ended 30 June 1955, p.9.
27. Aborigines Welfare Board, Report for the year ended 30 June 1957, p.7.
28. NSW Government Gazette, 22 November 1963, p.3509.
29. Government Schools of New South Wales, op. cit.
30. Aborigines Welfare Board, Report for the year ended 30 June 1964, p.7.
31. Aborigines Welfare Board, Report for the year ended 30 June 1966, p.4.
32. Aborigines Welfare Board, Report for the year ended 30 June 1967, p.4.
33. Aborigines Welfare Board, Report for the year ended 30 June 1968, p.21.
34. Report of the Minister for Social Welfare on the working of the Aborigines Act, 1969 for the year ended 30 June 1971, p.25.

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