- 1898-04-01 - 1908-12-31 (Creation)
- 1898-04-01 - 1908-12-31 (Accumulation)
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Name of creator
The 1897 Aborigines Act established the first Aborigines department in Western Australia. The department started to function in April 1898, as a sub-department of the Treasury, with a small staff, a permanent head called the Chief Protector of Aborigines, and a statutory grant of 5 000 pounds. In 1901, the department was assigned to the Premier's Department, a year later to the office of the Colonial Secretary, and in 1905 its control was transferred to the Minister for Commerce and Labour. About the same time, as a result of a Royal Commission appointed in 1904, it was raised to the status of a department and allocated a minmum statutory grant of 10 000 pounds.
In 1909, the Aborigines and the Fisheries Departments were amalgamated into one agency; the Aborigines and Fisheries Department. This step was due partly to a policy of financial stringency on the part of the government and partly to the expediency of running as one the two departments whose interests in that period lay mainly in the northern part of the State.
The first Chief Protector of Aborigines was Henry Charles Prinsep (who was formerly Under-Secretary for Mines). Prinsep's appointment commenced on 1 April 1898 but was without any legal authority (see the 1904 Roth Royal Commission, question 207). The Aborigines Act 1905 legalised the situation and his appointment was re-gazetted on 4 May 1906.
Charles Frederick Gale was appointed Acting Chief Protector of Aborigines during Prinsep's absence commencing 11 December 1912. Gale was appointed Chief Protector of Aborigines and Chief Inspector of Fisheries on 1 October 1908.
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Scope and content
The files in this series are jacketed by subject and numbered consecutively as created; numbering starts at the beginning of each year. For the first two years files contain inward letters only, but the jackets often bear notes on action taken or at least some sort of comment. The cover sometimes bears a draft reply. From 1901 onward press copies of outward letters are included.
Subjects dealt with include admission of children to native missions, the appointment of witnesses for native contracts, relief and general matters similiar to those dealt with by the Aborigines Protection Board. Early files contain correspondence between the ex-Secretary of the abolished Aborigines Protection Board and the new department with regard to the transfer of responsibility for native welfare, as well as circulars to Protectors of Aborigines drawing attention to their widespread duties and responsibilities.
(Files in this Record Series were previously listed at the State Records Office at reference: AN 1/2; Accession 255).