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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains images, voices and names of deceased persons.

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.

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 organisation which was responsible for the mission or sometimes in state archives. Some records have been deposited in state libraries, the National Library of Australia and in the AIATSIS Collection. The AIATSIS subject guide: How to find mission and reserve records has a comprehensive list of AIATSIS holdings on missions and reserves.

Mission records are further complicated by the fact that records relating to one mission may be split between church bodies and government bodies. In addition, some former mission organisations, like the United Aborigines Mission, do not officially exist anymore, so their records are held privately and not by a major church organisation.

Find & Connect

The Find & Connect web resource includes a lot of information about missions where Aboriginal children lived, frequently separated from their families in dormitory accommodation. 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

Various researchers and writers have worked on the history of Aboriginal missions and reserves. This means that you might be able to read about 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  mission/reserve histories will also list sources and locations of records. Be aware that some of the earlier commemorative type histories were written by missionaries themselves or by people connected with the mission and they can be biased towards the missionary point of view rather than the experiences of Aboriginal people on the mission.

Try searching 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.

Missions and reserves by state and territory

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

To find records 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

    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

    More information(The chuch abbreviations are explained in the section ‘Church names, missions and abbreviations’.) Source: Lookin for Your Mob: A Guide to Tracing Aboriginal Family Trees, by Diane Smith and Boronia Halstead, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1990. 

  • Victoria

    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

    (The chuch abbreviations are explained in the section ‘Church names, missions and abbreviations’.) Source: Lookin for Your Mob: A Guide to Tracing Aboriginal Family Trees, by Diane Smith and Boronia Halstead, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1990. 

    More information

    • The mission voices website which has now been archived, contains background information, stories, timelines and maps on Victorian missions and reserves.
  • Queensland

    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)

     

     

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

    (The chuch abbreviations are explained in the section ‘Church names, missions and abbreviations’.) Source: Lookin for Your Mob: A Guide to Tracing Aboriginal Family Trees, by Diane Smith and Boronia Halstead, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1990. 

    More information

  • Western Australia

    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

    (The chuch abbreviations are explained in the section ‘Church names, missions and abbreviations’.) Source: Lookin for Your Mob: A Guide to Tracing Aboriginal Family Trees, by Diane Smith and Boronia Halstead, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1990. 

    More information

  • South Australia

    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

    (The chuch abbreviations are explained in the section ‘Church names, missions and abbreviations’.) Source: Lookin for Your Mob: A Guide to Tracing Aboriginal Family Trees, by Diane Smith and Boronia Halstead, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1990. 

    More information

    • The State Library of South Australia has prepared a research guide on Aboriginal missions in South Australia.
  • Tasmania
    • There were no church–run Aboriginal 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

    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

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

  • 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 Society