Mission and reserve records

Missions, reserves and stations were reserves of land to which Aboriginal people were forcibly relocated.

  • ›Missions were in the control of churches and missionaries with little or no government involvement.
  • ›Reserves and stations were generally run by the government, although churches, especially the United Aborigines Mission and the Aborigines Inland Mission, were sometimes active on government settlements although they didn’t always have an administrative role. Aboriginal reserves were overseen by government ‘protectors’, who controlled many aspects of the lives of Aboriginal people.

The types of records that remain vary. They might include diaries, daily occurrence books, photographs taken by visitors and resident missionaries, letters between church officials and people working on the church settlements, and registers of Aboriginal children and adults living there. Some missionaries recorded local languages and culture, and described daily life. Churches also published magazines and newspapers that included information about missions and church institutions.

Mission and reserve records can best be described as patchy. Of the many Aboriginal missions and reserves that were established, some still exist but many have disappeared. Records that remain are usually held by the church or in state archives. Records relating to one mission may be split between church bodies and government bodies.

See AIATSIS subject guide: How to find mission and reserve records (has a comprehensive list of AIATSIS holdings on missions and reserves).

Find & Connect

The Find & Connect web resource includes a lot of information about missions where Aboriginal children lived. Find & Connect lists records relating to the missions, and who to contact to get access to the records. You can search or browse on their Look for homes page.

Search AIATSIS or National Library

A lot of research has been done into Aboriginal missions and reserves. You can read the histories of the particular mission or reserve where your family lived. Understanding the history of Aboriginal missions more generally, can help you understand what your family members’ lives were like and might provide further clues. Most of mission/reserve histories will also list sources and locations of records.

Search the AIATSIS Mura® catalogue or Trove using the mission name or the word ‘mission’ and the name of the relevant state.

What information do you need to look for mission records?

To start researching you need to know:

  • the name of the person
  • the name or at least the general location of the mission, reserve or station they lived on.

It’s also helpful to know:

  • other personal details such as dates and place of birth, marriage and death
  • the name of the government or church body that managed the mission, reserve or station.

Where do you find the records?

Aboriginal records units in most states and territories can help you with locating mission and reserve records about you and your close family. These units are mostly within state government departments of Aboriginal affairs and specialise in locating personal records.

New South Wales Family Records Unit – Aboriginal Affairs

Level 13, Tower B, Centennial Plaza, 300 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Free call: 1800 019 998
Ph: 02 9219 0700
Fax: 02 9219 0790
Email: familyhistory@aboriginalaffairs.nsw.gov.au
Web: www.aboriginalaffairs.nsw.gov.au/about/family-records-unit/

Northern Territory Archives Service

Northern Territory Archives Centre, Kelsey Crescent, Millner NT 0810
GPO Box 874, Darwin NT 0801
Ph: 08 8924 7677
Fax: 08 8924 7660
Email: ntac@nt.gov.au
Web: www.artsandmuseums.nt.gov.au/ntas (Northern Territory Archives Service)
www.artsandmuseums.nt.gov.au/ntas/research/protocol (Protocol for Aboriginal family history research)
www.artsandmuseums.nt.gov.au/ntas/media/pdf/ATSI-Family-History_Oct2012.pdf PDF 147 kb (Fact sheet on Aboriginal family history research)

Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships – Community and Personal Histories

Level 6A, Neville Bonner Building, 75 William Street, Brisbane QLD 4000
PO Box 15397, City East QLD 4002
Free call: 1800 650 230
Email: enquiries@datsip.qld.gov.au
Online form: www.qld.gov.au/atsi/cultural-awareness-heritage-arts/family-history-request-form/index.html
Web: www.datsip.qld.gov.au/people-communities/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-family-history

State Records of South Australia – Aboriginal Access team

State Records Research Centre (in the State Library of South Australia building), Corner North Terrace and Kintore Avenue, Adelaide SA 5000
GPO Box 464, Adelaide SA 5001
Ph: 08 8204 8767 or 08 8204 8791
Fax: 08 8204 8777
Online form: www.archives.sa.gov.au/content/contact-us-form
Email: srsaAboriginalServices@sa.gov.au
Web: www.archives.sa.gov.au/content/aboriginal-services (Aboriginal services)
www.archives.sa.gov.au/content/family-history (Family history)

LINC Tasmania

2nd Floor, 91 Murray Street, Hobart TAS 7000
Ph: 03 6165 5538
Online form: http://sltas.altarama.com/reft100.aspx?key=Research
Web: www.linc.tas.gov.au/archive-heritage/guides-records/Pages/Aboriginal.aspx (Aboriginal family history)
www.linc.tas.gov.au

Public Record Office Victoria – Koorie Records Unit

Victorian Archives Centre, 99 Shiel Street, North Melbourne VIC 3051
PO Box 2100, North Melbourne VIC 3051
Free call: 1800 657 452
Ph: 03 9348 5735
Fax: 03 9348 5656
Email: koorie.records@prov.vic.gov.au
Online form: prov.altarama.com/reft100.aspx
Web: prov.vic.gov.au/community-programs/koorie-records-unit
prov.vic.gov.au/publications/finding-your-mob

Aboriginal History Research Unit – WA Department of Aboriginal Affairs

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs Aboriginal History Research Unit manages access to Western Australian state archives and some privately owned records. You can apply as a personal or family history applicants for your own records or those of your ancestors. You can apply for any records relating to you held by the department, or those relating to a specific purpose such as evidence of genealogy, dates and place of birth or a specific ancestor.

151 Royal Street, East Perth WA 6004
PO Box 3153, East Perth WA 6892
Free call: 1300 651 077
Fax: 08 6551 8088
Email: ahru@daa.wa.gov.au
Web: www.daa.wa.gov.au/community-development/ahru

Information about missions and reserves by state and territory

The state-by-state listings below give the names of many (but not all) of the church and government missions and reserves around Australia.

To find records by yourself, you will need to know the name of the mission or reserve, and then find out the name of the government or church body that managed it.

New South Wales – selected missions and reserves

(The abbreviations are explained in the section ‘Church names, missions and abbreviations’.)

Name of mission

Church

Period

Bomaderry

UAM

1908–88

Bowraville

RC

1923–?

Goulburn Inland Mission Station

MTH

1916–?

La Perouse

unknown

1895–?

Lake Macquarie (Ebenezer)

LMS

1824–41

Maloga Mission School

unknown

1874–94

Parramatta

CE

1820–28

Sydney Aboriginal Mission

unknown

unknown

Warangesda

CE / ABM

1879–1920

Wellington Valley

CMS

1832–42

Yelta

unknown

unknown

Source: Lookin for Your Mob: A Guide to Tracing Aboriginal Family Trees, by Diane Smith and Boronia Halstead, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1990. Although this list is not complete, it includes the most relevant reserves and missions for family history research.

More information

Victoria – selected missions and reserves

(The abbreviations are explained in the section ‘Church names, missions and abbreviations’.)

Name of mission

Church

Period

Buntingdale

WMS / MTH

1839–48

Coranderrk

GOVT

1863–1924

Framlingham

CE

1865–67

Framlingham

GOVT

1869–70

Goulburn Station

GOVT

1841–54

Lake Boga

MOR

1851–56

Lake Condah

CE

1867–1913

Lake Condah

GOVT

1913–18

Lake Hindmarsh (Ebenezer)

MOR / PRES

1858–1903

Lake Tyers

CE

1861–1908

Lake Tyers

GOVT

1908–70

Lake Wellington (Ramahyuck)

MOR / PRES

1862–1908

Merri Creek School

BAP

1845–51

Mount Franklyn Station

GOVT

1839–64

Mount Rouse Station

GOVT

1841–51

Narre Narre Warren Station

GOVT

1841–43

Yarra Mission

CMS

1837–39

Yelta

CE

1855–68

Source: Lookin for Your Mob: A Guide to Tracing Aboriginal Family Trees, by Diane Smith and Boronia Halstead, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1990. Although this list is not complete, it includes the most relevant reserves and missions for family history research.

More information

  • The Mission voices web site contains background information, stories, timelines and maps on Victorian missions and reserves.

Queensland – selected missions and reserves

Here we have listed missions visited by anthropologist Norman Tindale in the 1930s – see Tindale genealogies for more information.

(The abbreviations are explained in the section ‘Church names, missions and abbreviations’.)

Name of institution

Church

Period

Aurukun

MOR / PRES

1904–78

Bamaga

CE

1947–86

Bethesda

L

1866–89

Bloomfield River (Wujal Wujal)

L

1886–1902, 1957–87

Bowen

CMS

1878–1901

Cherbourg (Barambah)

CE

1904–86

Cowal Creek

CE

1915–87

Daintree River

AOG

1939–?

Doomadgee

BR

1932–83

Edward River

ABM

1935–67

Elim (see Hopevale)

 

 

Fantome Island (Leper Station)

RC?

unknown

Fraser Island

ABM

1897–1904

Gorge Mission

AOG

unknown

Hopevale (Cape Bedford)

L

1886–1986

Kowanyama (Mitchell River)

ABM

1904–78

Lockhart River

ABM

1924–67

Mackay

MTH

1871–1901

Mapoon

MOR / PRES

1891–1987

Marie Yamba

L

1888–1902

Maryborough

CMS

unknown

Mona Mona

ADV

1913–?

Moreton Bay

L / PRES

1837–45

Moreton Bay

CMS

1837–46

Mornington Island

PRES

1914–78

Noangir (see Moreton Bay)

 

 

Palm Island (St Michael's School)

RC

1931–86

Purga

SAL

1915–48

Somerset

SPG (CE)

1867–68

Stewards Creek

MTH

1885?–1901?

Stradbroke Island (Myora Mission)

RC

1843–47

Thursday Island

ABM

unknown

Thursday Island

LMS

1871–1915

Trubanaman (see Kowanyama)

 

 

Weipa

MOR / PRES

1896–1966

Woorabinda

RC

1911–86

Yarrabah

ABM

1891–1960

Yungaburra

AOG

unknown

Zion Hill (see Moreton Bay)

 

 

More information

The most thorough listing of Queensland missions is at the State Library of Queensland – see Missions and reserves.

Western Australia – selected missions and reserves

(The abbreviations are explained in the section ‘Church names, missions and abbreviations’.)

Name of institution

Church

Period

Albany

RC

1845–48

Albany Boys Home

RC

unknown

Amy Bethel House

UAM

1956–75

Annesfield

unknown(Private)

1852–71?

Badjalang

UAM

1930–50?

Balgo Hills (Billiluna, Lake Gregory)

RC(P)

1931–80

Beagle Bay (West Kimberley)

RC(T/P)

1891–1976

Bennett House (previously East Perth Girl's Home)

 

 

Boulder Working Youths Hostel

AAEMB

unknown

Broome Convent

RC

1908–?

Carrolup Native Settlement (Katanning)

GOVT

1915–22

Cundeelee

AAEMB

1950–?

Derby (Leper Station)

RC

1937–1987

Derby (Leper Station)

UAM

1930–75

Derby (Gibb River, Mowanjum, Pandanus)

RC

1940s–today

Disaster Bay

RC

1895?–1903

Drysdale River (see Kalumburu)

 

 

Dulhi Gunyah Mission Home (Victoria Park)

UAM

1909–17

East Perth Girl's Home (later Bennett House)

GOVT

1931–?

Ellensbrook (Busselton)

GOVT

1899–1917

Esperance Mission Home

AAEMB

unknown

Fairhaven (Esperance)

CC

unknown

Fitzroy Crossing

UAM

1952–87

Forrest River (Kimberley)

CE / ABM

1913–71

Fremantle (see Swan River)

 

 

Gascoyne

CE

1885–?

Gnowangerup

UAM

1926–73

Guildford

RC

1846–48

Halls Creek

UAM

1957–67

Halls Creek (Parochial Mission area)

RC

1961–today

Holy Child Orphanage

(Broome –previously St John of God Home for Native Girls)

RC

1912–70

Jigalong (East Pilbara)

APC

1945–69

Kalgoorlie Girls Home

SAL

1909–30

Kalumburu (East Kimberley – previously Drysdale River)

RC(B)

1907–82

Karalundi

ADV

1954–?

Katanning

BAP

1952–?

Katukutu Home

BAP

unknown

Kellerberrin

BAP

1939–50?

Kunmunya (Kimberley – previously Port George IV)

PRES

1913–53

Kununurra

RC

1964–today

Kurrawang

BR

1952–?

Kyewong Home

BAP

unknown

La Grange (West Kimberley)

RC (PSM /P)

1924–85?

Lombadina (One Arm Point, Cygnet Point)

RC (PSM)

1911–85?

MacDonald House (Perth)

CE

unknown

Maria Goretti Home

RC

1960s

Marribank (see Katanning)

 

 

Methodist Children's Home

MTH

unknown

Mogumber

MTH

1951–?

Moola Bulla (East Kimberley)

GOVT

1911–54

Moore River Native Settlement (Mogumber)

GOVT

1918–51

Mount Magnet

UAM

unknown

Mount Margaret (Goldfields)

UAM

1921–75

Mowanjum

PRES

1956–81

New Norcia (Victoria Plains)

RC (B)

1846–70

Norseman

CC

1942–?

Ocean View Home

RC

unknown

Pallotine Boys Hostel (Albany)

RC (P)

1968–78

Perth Native Institution

MTH

1840s

Port George IV (later called Kunmunyah)

PRES

1910–16

Range View Students Home

PRES

unknown

Rockhole (Balgo)

RC

1934–?

Roelands Native Mission Farm

INTER / CC

1938–today

Rossmoyne Training Centre

RC

1955–today

St John of God Home for Native Girls

(Broome – later called Holy Child Orphanage)

 

 

St Joseph's Home (near Derby)

RC

1961–today

Sister Kate's Home (Queens Park, Perth)

ANG

1933–50?

Smithies Mission (Perth)

WMS

1842–55

Sunday Island (Kimberley)

UAM / ABM

1898–1964

Swan Native and Half–Caste Home/Mission

ANG

1870–1921

Swan River

CE

1852–?

Tardun (Pallotine Mission School)

RC (P)

1948–today

Vasse Mission School

CE

unknown

Wandering (St Xavier Native Mission)

RC

1944–76

Waneroo (Perth)

MTH

1831–54

Warburton Ranges

UAM

1933–77

Warminda Girls Home

MTH

unknown

Wiluna

ADV

unknown

Wonguntha Mission Training Farm (Esperance)

INTER

1954–?

Wotjalum

PRES

1953–56

Wyndham

unknown

1959–today

More information

South Australia – selected missions and reserves

(The abbreviations are explained in the section ‘Church names, missions and abbreviations’.)

Name of institution

Church

Period

Adelaide Children's Home

ABM

unknown

Adelaide School

L

1839–48

Colebrook Home

UAM

1927–78

Davenport

BR

1937–65

Encounter Bay

L

1840–48

Ernabella

PRES / UC

1937–today

Finniss Springs

UAM

1939–65

Gerard

UAM

1925–61

Kadina

MOR

1865–?

Killalpaninna (see Kopperamanna)

 

 

Koonibba

L

1901–63

Kopperamanna

L

1866–1917

Limbuana (see Encounter Bay)

 

 

Manunka Aborigines Mission Home

unknown

1902?–06?

Mount Gambier

AFA

unknown

Nepabunna

UAM

1930–today

Oodnadatta

UAM

1924–?

Ooldea

UAM

1933–54

Point McLeay

AFA

1858–1916

Point Pearce

unknown

1868–1915

Poonindie

ABM

1850–75

PortLincoln

L

1840–45

St Francis House (Adelaide)

ABM

1949–57

Swan Reach (see Gerard)

 

 

Umeewarra

BR

1937–65

Yalata

L

1954–75

More information

Tasmania

  • There were no church–run missions in Tasmania – see Aboriginal missions in the Companion to Tasmanian History) for more information.
  • Anthropologist Norman Tindale visited the Aboriginal communities on the reserve on Cape Barren Island in the 1930s – see Tindale genealogies.

Northern Territory – selected missions and reserves

(The abbreviations are explained in the section ‘Church names, missions and abbreviations’.)

Name of institution / mission

Church

Period

Alice Springs (Children's Home)

ABM

unknown

Alice Springs/Arltunga

RC

1937–42, 1942–54

Angurugu (Groote Eylandt)

CMS

1921–78

Areyonga

L

1942–55

Bagot Compound

AIM

unknown

Bamyill (Katherine)

AIM

1969–?

Baptist Home (Darwin)

BAP

1969–76?

Bathurst Island

RC(MSC)

1911–today

Belyuen (see Delissaville)

 

 

Berrimah Leper Station (see Channel Island)

 

 

Borroloola

AIM

1951–today

Buckingham Bay (see Elcho Island)

 

 

Channel Island (Leper Station)

RC

1930–43, 1955–82

Croker Island

MTH

1940–today

Daly River

RC(J/MSC)

1886–99,1956–today

Dellssaville(Belyuen)

AIM

1946?–? 

East Arm Settlement (Leper Station)

RC

1923–24

Elcho Island

MTH

1922–23, 1942–today

Elliot

UAM

unknown

Emerald River (Groote Eylandt)

CMS

1921–42

Finke River Mission House (Alice Springs)

L

?–today

Galiwinku (see Elcho Island)

 

 

Garden Point

RC

1940–?

Goulburn Island

MTH

1915–today

Haast Bluff

L

1940–54

Hermannsburg

L

1877–1982

Kahlin Compound

AIM

1940–?

Kalkaringi

B???

1971–today

Katherine (Donkey Camp)

AIM

1941–today

Lajamanu (Hooker Creek)

B???

1962–today

Melville Island

RC(MSC)

1940–68

Milingimbi

MTH

1925–today

Newcastle Waters

AIM

1940s–72?

Numbulwar

CMS

1952–78

Oenpelli

CMS

1924–74

Palmerston

CMS

unknown

Papunya

L

1946–54

Phillip Creek

AIM

1936–51

Port Essington

RC

1846–49

Port Keats

RC

1935–today

Rapid Creek

RC(J)

1882–91

Retta Dixon Home (Darwin)

AIM

1946–80

Roper River

CMS

1908–68

Rose River (see Numbulwar)

 

 

St Mary's Hostel (Alice Springs)

CE / AIM

1946–today

St Teresa

RC(MSC)

1954–today

Serpentine Lagoon

RC(J)

1889–91

Tennant Creek

RC

1936–today

Umbakumba (Groote Eylandt)

CMS

1958–66

Uniya

RC(J)

1886–99

Warrabri (Ali Curung)

BAP

1957–today

Yirrkala

MTH

1935–today

Yuendumu

BAP

1947–today

Source: Lookin for Your Mob: A Guide to Tracing Aboriginal Family Trees, by Diane Smith and Boronia Halstead, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1990. Although this list is not complete, it includes the most relevant reserves and missions for family history research.

More information

  • ›Records of some churches with missions in the Northern Territory are held in the NT Archives Service and are listed in Guide to archives relating to Aboriginal people (PDF 85 kb). These include the personal records of missionaries and government workers.
  • ›The National Archives of Australia also holds records relating to Aboriginal missions and reserves in the Northern Territory. See the chapter on Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory in their guide, Commonwealth government records about the Northern Territory.

Australian Capital Territory

There were no missions or reserves in the ACT.

Church names, missions and abbreviations

AAEMB – Australian Aborigines Evangelical Mission Board

ABM – Australian Board of Mission

ADV – Seventh Day Adventists

AFA – Aborigines' Friends' Association

AIM – Aborigines Inland Mission

ANG – Anglican

AOG – Assembly of God

APC – Apostolic Church

BAP – Australian Baptist Missionary Society

BR – Brethren

CMS – Church Missionary Society

CC – Church of Christ

CE – Church of England

GOVT – Government–run

INTER – Interdenominational

L – Lutheran Church of Australia

LMS – London Missionary Society

MTH – Methodist Overseas Mission

MOR – Moravians

PRES – Australian Presbyterian Board of Missions

RC – Roman Catholic

RC(B) – Benedictine

RC(J) – Jesuit

RC(MSC) – Missionaries of the Sacred Heart

RC(P) – Pallotine

RC(PSM) – Pious Society of Missions

RC(T) – Trappists

SAL – Salvation Army

SPG – Society for the Propagation of the Gospel

UAM – United Aborigines Mission

UC – Uniting Church

WMS – Wesleyan Missionary Societ

Last reviewed: 28 Jan 2016