Bethel Inc.
Years of OperationMid-1960s to at least 1972
Role Of FacilityResidential child care for Indigenous school children in a hostel setting.
Sponsoring AgencyBethel Inc.
Other facilities in
Signposts that are
related to the
Sponsoring Agency
See the entry “Bethel Inc.” in the earlier section of Signposts, “Non-Government Agencies and their Subsidiary Institutions”
Address(es)2 Millington Street, Applecross (the Shedley residence)
8 Ventnor Avenue, Applecross
834 Canning Highway, Applecross
When surveyed in 1971, it was noted that Bethel Inc. had “recently established a hostel for 10 primary school children in Kununurra”. (Wilson and Robinson (1971) Aboriginal Hostels in Perth: A Comparative Survey).
Brief HistoryUnless otherwise stated, information for this section is drawn from Wilson and Robinson (1971) Aboriginal Hostels in Perth: A Comparative Survey

“Sometime during the 1960’s, mission workers loosely affiliated with the United Aborigines Mission (UAM) decided to consolidate their previous individual foster-homes and founded Bethel Inc., an independent organisation whose aim was to provide accommodation in Perth for Aboriginal students. The constitution of Bethel Inc. does not link it with any specific denomination but its members originally comprised various missionaries and ex-missionaries at one time associated with the U.A.M., and under the direction of Mr. and Mrs. Shedley. The Shedleys provided accommodation for several students at their own home, in Applecross, and two other homes were purchased by the group in the same area at a later stage.”

“Mrs. D.G. Shedley and her husband have three houses in Applecross which they run as hostels for students – largely from the Northern Division. They operate independently of the D.N.W. [Department of Native Welfare] and made most of their own placements. They have formed, together with other interested people, an organisation, Bethel (Inc) which manages the three hostels in Perth and one in Kununurra.”

“The group has been operating as an autonomous organisation providing accommodation for Aboriginal bursars [students in receipt of a bursary] coming to the metropolitan area for secondary level education since the mid 1960’s. The primary aim has been to provide a ‘Protestant’ environment for Aboriginal scholars, and although it has been offered financial assistance by the Department [of Native Welfare] the group has declined it because it
‘wanted complete control of the establishment. The Government could never run a hostel like we do.’”

“The centres cater for between 24 and 30 secondary level students, most of whom attend Applecross High School. Mr Shedley is an entomologist and he and his wife stress that, in a venture of this sort, it is important that the male figure-head should not be over-involved in hostel administration. He should be a ‘normal “Dad”’ so that the home can have the appearance of a normal family. Mrs. Shedley is responsible for the overall control and recruitment of residents, and engages voluntary workers to act as resident houseparents in the other two homes.

Although originally affiliated with the United Aborigines Mission (or, at least, some of their workers) the Shedleys now deny any association with them. They stress that they are ‘non-denominational Protestants’. Mrs. Shedley stresses the Protestant aspect and claims that her original entry into the field of hostel management was influenced by a desire to match work being done by the Catholic Pallotttines at Riverton.”

“Mrs. Shedley claims that her project receives considerable support from local residents, but most people in these suburbs do not want the Department [of Native Welfare] to extend its activities there.”
“Although she was approached by the Department [of Native Welfare], she claims, and offered $50,000 to run one of its hostels, she declined because she wanted complete control, which the Department could not offer her.”
“Bethel operates a separate venture at Kununurra, and Perth recruitment often takes place from there. The children in Perth are taken back for holidays each year, for which their own parents pay. The Shedleys feed strongly about ‘handouts’ to Aborigines. ‘This will not help them ultimately.’”

Administration Files from the Child Welfare Department in 1972 show that the homes run by Mr and Mrs Sedley are mentioned in relation to taking children who couldn’t be accommodated (through lack of beds) at the Pallottine Centre in Rossmoyne [see entry].
RecordsIt is unknown whether any records are still in existence.
While the Department of Native Welfare placed some children in Bethel Inc. homes, the placements were mostly arranged privately.
Departmental records for children placed by the Department of Community Welfare or the Department of Native Welfare may exist. Of particular interest, if able to be located, are the Department of Native Welfare “Resident Details Information Sheet (1) Hostel and Private Board Placement ” and “Resident Details Information Sheet (2) Hostel and Private Board Placement”.
Additionally, the Department for Child Protection’s Aboriginal Index and the guide, “Looking West”, should be consulted for information.
According to the The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies website , the State Records Office in Western Australia “holds extensive records relating to missions.” Contact details are below.
AccessAccess to records is restricted to protect the privacy of individuals, but people are encouraged to enquire.
Contact DetailsFreedom of Information
Department of Communities
Locked Bag 5000, Fremantle WA 6959
Telephone: (08) 6217 6888
Country free call: 1800 176 888

For general information relating to missions:
State Records Office, Alexander Library Building
James St West Entrance
Perth WA 6000.
Search Centre: GroundFloor Mon-Fri:9.30am-4.30pm
Telephone: (08) 9427 3360
Facsimile: (08) 9427 3368