Moorgunyah Hostel, Port Hedland
Years of Operation1967 to 1995 and for an unknown period beyond that.
Role Of FacilityResidential child care for school children in a hostel setting.
Sponsoring AgencyDepartmental - predessors to the current Department for Child Protection.
Address(es)34 Sutherland Street, Port Hedland
(Port Hedland is situated approximately 1,640 kilometres north of Perth.)
Brief HistoryEducation and employment hostels were operated by or in association with the Native Welfare Department mostly from the mid to late 1960s and early 1970s but came under the administration of the Community Welfare Department from 1972. For notes on a general history of these facilities, see the section on Hostels at the beginning of Signposts.

When surveyed in 1971, it was noted that the Port Hedland Hostel was owned and managed by the Department of Native Welfare and was for ‘educational purposes’. It catered for “52 Secondary level students”. (Wilson and Robinson (1971) Aboriginal Hostels in Perth: A Comparative Survey).

The facility at Moorgunyah was upgraded in the 1975/76 year.

In 1979 Moorgunyah catered for 46 school aged children who came from Koordarrie, Minderoo, Wyloo, Mt Stewart, Yarraloola and Boodarie Stations; from the Pilbara Tin Mine; and from the Onslow, Wickham, Roebourne, or Marble Bar areas. (Annual Report of the Department for Community Welfare, 1979).

By 1980, the role of these facilities was becoming more open to community and family involvement: “The function of the Department hostel in caring for aboriginal children so that they may have regular schooling, is expanding to provide a back-up service for families who may wish to use the facility to provide an occasional meal, a laundry service and provide homework supervision. This is the need that some families have in making the transition into homes of their own in the local township. Greater efforts are also being made to provide children and parents with opportunities to spend more time together by providing camping facilities when the parents come to town.” (Annual Report of the Department for Community Welfare, June 30th 1980).

In 1982, responsibility for the country hostels transferred to the Field Services section of the Department. Moorgunya was administered by the Pilbara Division. (Annual Report of the Department for Community Welfare, June 30th 1982).

During 1987, the “practices of accepting only senior students, and staffing hostels with Aboriginal staff were introduced” and “eight of the twelve country hostels [were] now managed by Aboriginal personnel.” (Annual Report of the Department for Community Services, June 30th 1987).

“Aboriginal students from remote country areas may have the opportunity to obtain primary or secondary education at metropolitan or regional schools. This enables them to obtain a level of education not otherwise available. Some of these students board out at aboriginal educational hostels. They live as close to their own communities as practical, and return to their community at the end of term. Care in aboriginal educational hostels is provided by couples who live-in fulltime. Country facilities have live-in wages staff.” (Submission of the Department for Community Services to the Residential Planning Review Taskforce, March 31st 1987).

By June 1995, Moorgunyah was the only country hostel which continued to operate as an education hostel. It was described at that time as a “campus style facility providing dormitory style accommodation for High School students” with a bed capacity of 30. The grounds were “extensive on ocean front land, with a rear vacant lot.” The buildings, which were constructed in the 1960s, offered “little private space for students” and was “not conducive to study.” There were no ancillary education resources, but a recreation program was operated by staff. Places at Moorgunyah were in high demand among Indigenous families, but “the overall standard of building and furnishing” was considered to be “institutional and substandard”. 30 students were admitted in each term in 1994, and the facility had two buses – a 22 seater and a 15 seater. (OHAC Cost Project, Department for Community Services, June 1995).
RecordsDepartmental 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 Community Development’s Aboriginal Index and the guide, “Looking West”, should be consulted for information.
AccessWhile access to records is restricted to protect the privacy of individuals, 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