Aboriginal Mission Stations and Reserves in Victoria

When developing units of work on this particular topic, the following learnings need to be considered:

  • Following rapid colonial expansion, and in response to public pressure and the massive decline of the Indigenous population in the colony of Victoria, the Government set up the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines in 1860. The Board oversaw the establishment of four major church mission stations: Ebenezer at Lake Hindmarsh in the Wimmera (1861), Ramahyuck at Lake Wellington in West Gippsland (1861), Lake Tyers in East Gippsland (1861) and Lake Condah in the Western District (1867). As well, government stations were established at Framlingham reserve, near Warrnambool (1861) and Coranderrk reserve near Healesville (1863). Cummeragunja (originally Malaga) reserve, established on the NSW side of the Murray River in 1889, also became 'home' to many Koorie people.
  • With the creation of the missions and reserves, it was hoped by Victorian Government officials and church officials that through provision of food rations and a place to live, Indigenous people would become:

          - 'civilised'
          - Christians
          - educated in western values and lifetstyles (particularly the children)

  • In 1869 the passage of the Aborigines Protection Act gave the Victorian Government the power to remove Indigenous children from their families so they could be raised as Europeans. These children were fostered, adopted or institutionalised. In the latter case they were usually trained as domestic workers or farm labourers, and they were poorly paid, if paid at all. The practice of removing children from their families continued to varying degrees until the late 1960s.
  • During the latter part of the 1800s and early into the 1900s, there were instances when Indigenous people were moved several times from one mission station or reserve to another as various factors, including the European pressure for land, forced the closure of some stations.
  • In 1886 the Aborigines Protection Law Amendment Act, otherwise known as the Half Caste Act, removed Koorie people under 34 years-of-age and not fully of Indigenous ancestry from the mission stations and reserves, in an attempt to force them into mainstream Australian life. This was also a political strategy by the government to disperse the resistance to mission life.
  • The Koorie people who lived on mission stations and reserves during the 20th century, and/or who were taken away form their families, comprise the bulk of the Koorie population living today in Victoria.
  • The reserves and mission stations may have assisted the physical survival of Indigenous people but at the same time they facilitated the destruction of Indigenous languages and severely undermined the culture and independence of the people.
  • Many Koorie people today still associate with the mission station or reserve where they or their family members lived.