Sometimes when you are travelling you stumble across or into a part of history that stuns you, images that stay in your mind long after you come home. Today was to be one of those times…
We saw a small sign on the side of the road announcing “Mogumber farm tours” so we went to investigate. Approx2 kilometres along a dirt road we came to another sign”Mogumber Farm (A Stolen Generation Site) A place in the Heart since 1917″Then on the open gate a notice requested that you report to the care taker.We drove slowly towards the houses looking for the caretaker, but the place was deserted.
There was a very eerie feeling about the place. The childrens swings were moving slightly in the wind. The houses were run down and sad looking but not unlivable. Brooms and mops were leaning against the walls, waiting for some one to come along and clean the place up. Further along a large corrugated barn had plastic chairs laid around, trestle tables and fridges all empty. Outside was parked an old school bus with the windows shattered. At the end of the road was a church. The pews waiting for the congregation and an old organ covered in cobwebs waiting to be played.
Across the paddocks we could see sheds and what looked like a piggery or some sort of animal shelter. We felt we were intruding into a place of sad memories and it certainly stayed in my mind for a long time. The way the aboriginals were treated was a bad part of Australian history and until recently has mainly been covered up. It is slowly being acknowledged. This place brought it home to me.
We carried on to New Norcia. (This is a very interesting town that deserves a post of its own later) To carry on with the story….
At New Norcia I made enquiries about Mugumber and the receptionist at the New Norcia monastry was horrified that we had wandered in to the farm. That is aboriginal land and the owners are very aggresive if they see people on the land. It is a defiled place for the aboriginal people. It holds very bad memories of the stolen generation.
I found the following history from Wikipedia…Early history
The settlement was opened by the Government of Western Australia in 1918. It was originally intended to be a small, self-supporting farming settlement for 200 Aborigines, with schooling and health facilities available for the children and employment opportunities for the adults. The settlement was supposed to accommodate Aborigines mainly drawn from the Murchison, Midlands and south-west regions of Western Australia.
The ambition to turn the settlement into a farming community failed because the land was unsuitable for cultivation. During the 1920s its purpose shifted: Residents were usually brought there against their will as the camp attempted to fulfil the broader functions of orphanage, creche, relief depot and home for old persons, unmarried mothers, and the unwell. It also housed many “half-caste” (mixed-race) children. Many of the Aboriginal and mixed-race children were sent to Moore River, usually against their will, as part of the Stolen Generations.
The Moore River Native Settlement was opened under the auspices of the Chief Protector of Aborigines A. O. Neville. Neville came to this position completely inexperienced in Aboriginal affairs or any dealings with Aboriginal people. He was strongly guided by Rufus H Underwood. Neville adopted Underwood’s anti-mission stance and between them developed the ‘native settlement scheme’, devised to meet the varying demands of non-Aboriginal people, for their segregation from the wider community and the continuing need for Aboriginal labour. It was also meant to fulfill Neville and Underwood’s determination to devise a solution involving an absolute minimum of expenditure.
 Poor conditions
The camp population became increasingly mixed as Aborigines came in from various parts of the state, with some coming from as far away as the Kimberley and Pilbara. By the mid-1920s conditions in the institution had declined significantly as overcrowding and poor sanitation were the norm, with many health problems being reported amongst its inmates. From 1924, the settlement had an average population of 300 and its buildings were becoming dilapidated. By 1933 the Aboriginal population at the institution had risen to over 500, leading to greater deterioration in the conditions experienced by the inmates. Between 1918 and 1952, 346 deaths were recorded at Moore River Native Settlement, 42% of which were children age 1–5.
Socially, Moore River Native Settlement practiced strict segregation of the sexes and separated children from their parents under the dormitory system. Compound inmates were not allowed to leave without written permission. Absconding was a common problem as many tried to re-unite with family members living outside the settlement. To counter this practice, a small number of Aboriginal men were employed as trackers to apprehend absconders.
 Name change
In 1951 the government handed control of the settlement to the Mogumber Methodist Mission, which renamed it Mogumber Native Mission. A greater emphasis was placed by the new owners on Christian guidance and on the vocational training of youths than had existed when it was a government institution. The facility remained running until 1974, when it was taken over by the Aboriginal Land Trust. Currently the land is leased to the Wheatbelt Aboriginal Corporation, and is known as Budjarra.
 Cultural and journalistic coverage
Several plays, films and books have been produced which tell harrowing tales of life in the settlement:
- Aboriginal poet and playwright Jack Davis‘ play Kullark where an Aboriginal man named Thomas Yorlah is forcibly moved to the settlement and makes numerous attempts to escape. Davis lived in the settlement in the 1920s.
- The book Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington and its film adaptation (Rabbit-Proof Fence) tell the story of three mixed race Aboriginal girls who ran away from the settlement in 1931.