First Royal Commission into atrocities against Aboriginal prisoners – WA 1905

The history of racism, murder, colonial vigilante groups, rape, abuse, inhumane prison systems and corrupt justice systems dates back to the First Fleet – 120 years after the first landing, a Royal Commission was finally put in place in Western Australia. But although the neck chains were subsequently banned, one year later they started using them again – right up to the 1950’s.

‘… In 1905, children, varying in age between 10 and 16, were charged with killing cattle, and because they were Heathen Aboriginals, they were not allowed to swear on the bible, therefore could not give evidence – and because of language barriers they didn’t even understand what they were charged or sentenced for. Other children between 14 and 16 years of age were given two years hard labour and neck chained for alleged cattle-killing …

We have highlighted some areas for a quick view but to understand the context and to ensure you get a full grasp of the gross abuses towards First Nations people in the colonisation of the Pilbara and Kimberley regions of Western Australia, the transcriber strongly suggests you read the entire article.

Notice the tin mugs placed in strategic places on the tin wall behind the prisoners – if one wanted a drink or go to the toilet the whole gang would have to go with them. In some cases, people were chained next to a member of a tribal group that is culturally inappropriate to even to speak to – never-loan the different customs and language barriers. It’s no wonder they had difficulty fitting into their own family groups ‘if’ they were ‘lucky’ enough to return to their homelands.