AGY-559 | Board for the Protection of Aborigines

NSW State Archives Collection
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A Board for the Protection of Aborigines (BPA) was established by a minute of the Executive Council dated 2 June 1883. The Board comprised of six members appointed by the Governor, with the Inspector General of Police as chairman. Weekly meetings were held at which recommendations concerning the general protection of the State's Aboriginal population were considered. Regulations for the Management of Aboriginal Stations at Cumeroogunga, Warangesda and Brewarrina were drafted by the BPA, approved by the Colonial Secretary and issued on 1 February 1895. These provided for the establishment of a Local Board for each Home. The Local Boards that were appointed by the BPA, consisted of up to five members including the district Superintendent of Police. The duties of the Boards were:
to inspect the station at least monthly and report to the BPA making any necessary suggestions;
inquire into any complaint about the management of the station;
advise the manager regarding discipline, work to be carried out and other matters related to the management of the station;
forward to the BPA reports or suggestions regarding the management with recommendations; and
countersign requisitions for stores and other expenditure other that items identified for free distribution to Aboriginal people. (1) Gradually Local Boards with a similar role were established at the various Aboriginal Stations. This BPA functioned, without any statutory power, until the passage of the Aborigines Protection Act, 1909 (Act No. 25, 1909). For most of this period the Chairman of the Board was the Inspector General of Police - other members were Members of the Legislative Council and private citizens. The Board's principal expenditure was for rations, clothing and huts for the accommodation of Aborigines. The BPA was reconstituted by the Aborigines Protection Act, 1909, which took effect on 1 June 1910,(2). The Inspector General of Police was ex officio Chairman and up to ten other members were appointed by the Governor. The purpose of the BPA was , "to exercise a general supervision and care over all matters affecting the interest and welfare of Aborigines, and to protect them against injustice, imposition and fraud". The Board could appoint Local Committees or guardians of Aborigines for the individual stations or reserves. The Committees consisted of between three and seven members. Guardians were usually appointed where a Local Committee could not be formed. The Guardian had the same responsibilities as a Committee. The functions of local committees were:
to meet monthly at the station, reserve or other appropriate place to transact business;
inspect the station or reserve at least quarterly and report to the Board;
inquire into complaints;
deal with correspondence and reports;
make recommendations relating to the operations of the station or reserve;
through the manager maintain discipline and good order on the station or reserve;
approve new residents of the reserve and allot houses and land on the reserve;
appoint the manager or one of their number to institute proceedings under the Aborigines Protection Act, 1909 (3) In 1912 Miss A Lowe was appointed as the first ‘Home-Finder’. Her duties were to visit the various stations, homes and reserves and explain to parents the advantages of apprenticing their children and allowing them to be trained at the Cootamundra Home. She also visited the girls in domestic service to ensure that they were paid for their services and received food and clothing. The Home Finder made arrangements for the accommodation of those who were unsuitable for domestic service by returning them to their stations or homes or placing them in government-conducted or charitable institutions. (4) The Aborigines Protection Amending Act, 1915 (Act No.2, 1915) , gave the BPA the power to assume control and custody of Aboriginal children if it believed this action to be in the moral or physical interest of the child, and to remove the child to "such care and control as it thinks best". The parents of the removed children had the right of appeal under the under the Neglected Child and Juvenile Offenders Act, (Act No 16, 1905) (5) In October 1915 the BPA with the approval of the Minister appointed two Inspectors of Aborigines. (6) The Chairman reported: "These appointments have supplied a long felt want, as the Board will now be able to deal with the Aborigines in a uniform manner throughout the State, seeing that they will have practically first hand knowledge of numbers of places which have never before been visited by a representative of the Board." The appointment of the Inspectors dispensed with the need for the Local Committees and Guardians although the Board did not abolish the Committees immediately. (7) At the end of 1915 there were 23 local committees and a Guardian for Aborigines at Lake Wallaga Station. (8) The Aborigines Protection (Amendment) Act, 1918 (Act No 7, 1918) authorised the Board to deal with any full-blooded or part Aboriginal person not limited to those who were in receipt of government assistance. The Act also made it an offence to supply alcohol to any full blooded or part Aboriginal person. The designation of the Chairman was altered from the Insoector-General of Police to the Commissioner of Police by the Police Regulation (Amendment) Act, 1935 (Act No 13, 1935) The Aborigines Protection (Amendment) Act, 1936 (Act No. 32, 1936) increased the powers of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines including:
The Board could authorise the removal of an Aboriginal person to a reserve or property under its control on the recommendation of a magistrate if the person was found to be living in ‘insanitary or undesirable conditions’; or if the person was not a permanent resident of New South Wales he or she could be returned to his own state.(9) It was an offence under the Act to remove an Aboriginal person from a reserve without lawful authority or to remove an Aboriginal person from New South Wales without the Board’s consent. (10)
The Board could also investigate when it believed that an Aboriginal person was not receiving fair and proper treatment; being paid an adequate wage; or that his moral and physical wellbeing was jeopardised by an employer or other co-habitant. If substantiated the Aboriginal person could be taken to a home, reserve or other place. (11)
The Board could also direct that the wages due to an Aboriginal person be paid to the Secerary of the Board or other officer. (12)
The Board could also authorise medical examinations and treatment of Aboriginal people by an approved medical practitioner. (13)
The statement in the averment (or allegation) that a person who was the subject of any dispute under this Act was Aboriginal was sufficient proof of Aboriginality unless queried by the Court or tribunal. When there was doubt, the Court or tribunal could determine whether the person was Aboriginal based upon his or her appearance. (14) A Parliamentary Select Committee was established late in 1937 to investigate the administation of Aboriginal people. The Committee criticised the administration by the Board and the inadequacy of its budget to achieve its task. The Select Committee terminated without reporting, but requested the Public Service Board to make a full investigation of the work of the Aborigines Protection Board and to make recommendations for future administration. The Board made an exhaustive survey that included visiting most Aboriginal homes and Stations throughout New South Wales. Its recommendations included the following:
Developing a policy of assimilation of Aboriginal people into the social and economic life, particularly through education and training; with a view to eventually removing them from the reserves, stations and homes;
Amendment of the Aborigines Protection Act, 1909- to enable the reconstitution of the Aborigines Protection Board to include representatives from the Departments of The Chief Secretary, Health, Public Instruction and Police in addition to experts in Agriculture, sociology and anthropology, and a Superintendent who would be the chief executive officer and an executive member of the Board;
The new agency should maximise its use of the expertise of other Government agencies in order to achieve its goals;
Local Committees of ‘public spirited citizens’ should be formed to assist in areas such as education, recreation and social work
No new stations should be established prior to a survey of the suitability of existing ones;
Aboriginal children should be encouraged to attend ordinary schools;
Reorganisation of the station staff to include separation of the roles of managers and teachers ideally with fully qualified teachers on the larger stations;
Developing agricultural production on the Aboriginal stations to enhance the diet of the population and to enable them to acquire rural skills;
Development of a planned building program of the stations to improve the standard of housing;
Oversight of Aboriginal people outside stations and reserves should be maintained, and where necessary the powers of the Board as prescribed in the various legislation should be exercised. (15) Mr A.W.G. Lipscombe was appointed Superintendent of Aborigines’ Welfare in February 1939. Mr Lipscombe possessed qualifications in agriculture and teaching and had experience in both agriculture and social work. Soon after his appointment he visited each Aboriginal Home and station making recommendations for future management. (16) The recommendations of the Public Service Board report were profound and affected the structure, role and functions of the Board and, when the necessary legislation was passed, resulted in the creation of a new agency. The Board for the Protection of Aborigines was dissolved and the Aborigines Welfare Board was constituted under the Aborigines Protection (Amendment ) Act, 1940 (Act No. 12, 1940) The Act was assented to 22 May 1940 (17) and commenced on 14 June 1940 (18) Endnotes:
(1) Report of the Board for Protection of Aborigines, 1895 Appendix J p. 11
(2) New South Wales Government Gazette No.72, 11 May 1910, Vol.2, p.2486
(3) Regulations in accordance with the provisions of the Aborigines Protection Act, 1909. Local Committees. s. 7 - 11 in NSW Government Gazette 8 June 1910 p. 3061
(4) Report of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines 1912 p.4
(5) Aborigines Protection Amending Act No.2, 1915, s.4
(6) NSW Government Gazette 6 October 1915 p. 5840
(7) Report of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines 1915 p. 1
(8) Ibid p. 9- 10
(9) Aborigines Protection (Amentment Act, 1936) s. 8A
(10) Ibid. s. 8B, 8C
(11) Ibid. s.13B
(12) Ibid. s. 13C
(13) Ibid. s. 14A
(14) Ibid. s. 18
(15) Aborigines Protection : Report of the Public Service Board, 16 August, 1938 p. 30- 35 in NSW Parliamentary Papers 1938-39-40 Vol 7 p. 768 -773
(16) Aborigines Protection Board, Report for the year ended 30 June 1939 p. 1
(17) New South Wales Government Gazette No.79, 24 May, 1940, Vol.2 p.2525
(18) New South Wales Government Gazette No.88, 14 June 1940, Vol.2, p.2335
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