Mowanjum Mission
Years of Operation1956 - 1981
Sponsoring AgencyThe Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies website shows Mowanjum’s governing agency as the Australian Presbyterian Board of Missions.
Other facilities in
Signposts that are
related to the
Sponsoring Agency
See the entry “Uniting Church” in the earlier section of Signposts, “Non-Government Agencies and their Subsidiary Institutions”
Address(es)10 Kilometres from Derby
Brief HistoryThe Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies website records that “Mowanjum was established when the Presbyterian Board of Missions purchased a small property in 1955. The Mowanjum Community Inc. was incorporated on October 5, 1972, joining the associated tribal groups of Worrorra, Ngarinyin and Wunambal who lived at Mowanjum, six miles from Derby.”

When surveyed in 1971, it was noted that Mowanjum catered for “45 primary and 20 secondary level students attending the school in Derby”. (Wilson and Robinson (1971) Aboriginal Hostels in Perth: A Comparative Survey).

When the Welstat (national welfare statistical collection) definitions were applied in 1979, there were a range of other facilities, operated either by the Department or non-Government agencies, which were defined as “Other Homes for Children”. ‘Mowanjun Mission’ was included in this category. Such a definition referred to “a residential child care establishment that is mainly for children aged under 15 and/or still at school, and that consists of either a single dwelling that is not a family group home, or two or more dwellings that share cooking and eating facilities” and which were not (detention) Institutions or Hostels. The facility was listed as a non-Departmental operation.

The Annual Reports of the Department for Community Welfare record Mission Grants in Aid 1973 for a 20,000 gallon water tank, water supply, bore, casing and pump and in 1974 for water supply and area lighting. It was also noted in that year that “Aboriginal people from the Mowanjum Community have lived at this former mission 10 km from Derby for the past 25 years. Such close proximity to a large town continues to provide mixed benefits. Community Welfare continues to work with the community on such matters as juvenile drinking and school non-attendance.”

Now an Aboriginal Community, Mowanjum is not used by the Department as a placement service, but children may be placed with foster parents who live in that community.

The Presbyterian Church has its own entry in Signposts, and this should be consulted as it gives more information about the approach taken.
RecordsThe Presbyterian Church later amalgamated with the Methodist and Congregational Churches to become the Uniting Church. Contact details for the Uniting Church (via Mofflyn) are given below.
Departmental records for children placed by the Department of Community Welfare or the Department of Native Welfare may exist.
Additionally, the Department for Community Development’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.
The AIATSIS website (above) also refers to the Mowanjum Collection: Barunga Bequest (MS 2533) which it holds: “The papers were presented to the AIATSIS Library, in memory of Albert Barunga, by Professor J.D. Freeman, in April 1986. Photographs and slides received with the collection have been transferred to the Institute's Audiovisual Archives Program. The collection contains papers relating to the Mowanjum Community. Barunga, a Worrorra Elder, was an active member of this Community. There is a wealth of data about Mowanjum residents in Freeman’s foolscap notebook containing data on ‘The Mowanjum Community: an enquiry’. Also included are notes by Freeman on the Mowanjum Community, papers relating to housing at the Community, including a Housing Project, minutes of meetings held at the Community, quarterly plans for the Community and lists of members of the Community and of the Mowanjum Mission School and Pre-School.” The dates covered by this collection are 1947-1975.
As Commonwealth Secondary Grant holders, there may be Commonwealth records for each resident. The National Archives of Australia may be the best source for tracking these records.
AccessWhile access to personal records is restricted to protect the privacy of individuals, people are encouraged to enquire. Many of the records in the Barunga collection, cited above, are on open access.
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

National Archives of Australia
384 Berwick Street
East Victoria Park WA 6101
Telephone: (08) 9470 7500
Facsimile: (08) 9470 2787
PO Box 1144 East Victoria Park WA 6981
Opening hours: 9am-4:30pm weekdays