Saturday, September 16, 2006

"Tie them up like dogs"

An obituary of prominent Aboriginal artist Hector Jandany in The Australian yesterday had this:
‘During his childhood at the Turkey Creek police station, Jandany used to take food and water to the lines of Aborigines brought in chains on the way to Wyndham and then Rottnest Island. “They would bring them to the tree and tie them up like dogs,” he once said.’
We’re not sure how the timing works – Jandany was born in 1927, and Rotto was a place of imprisonment until 1903 – but it’s a timely reminder of the island’s dark past.
According to the RIA website Rotto was an Aboriginal prison from 1838 to 1849, and again from 1855 to 1903.
The RIA says there are 17 sites on the island listed under the Aboriginal Heritage Act.
Wikipedia has this:
‘Upon the establishment of the British colony in nearby Perth, ten Aboriginal prisoners were sent to Rottnest Island in August 1838. The Colonial Secretary announced in June 1839 that the island would become a penal establishment for Aboriginal people, and between 1838 and 1931, Rottnest Island was used as an Aboriginal prison to “pacify” “local natives”.
‘In “pacifying” an Aboriginal population, men were rounded up and chained for offences ranging from spearing livestock, burning the bush or digging vegetables on what had been their own land.
‘It has been estimated that there may be as many as 369 Aboriginal graves on the island. Except for a short period between 1849 and 1855 during which the prison was closed, some 3700 Aboriginal men and boys, from all parts of the state, were imprisoned.’
Another site, Creative Spirits (see link below), lists some of the significant Aboriginal sites.
It also has this:
‘Originally Aboriginal people were imprisoned in the Round House in Fremantle. When this jail became too small during the 1830s a new location was sought. Rottnest Island was thought suitable because it was separated from the mainland which made escapes not easy.
‘Beginning in 1838, Aboriginal prisoners were sent to Rottnest Island and “assisted” (Round House leaflet vocabulary) in the building of a prison complex. In fact, most of the historical buildings on Wadjemup which you see today have been built by Aboriginal labour. The impressive sea wall alone, which you see upon your arrival, took them three to eight years to complete (sources vary).
‘Before a woman set foot on Rottnest Island she had to do a smoking ceremony which is linked to the many men who died on this island. However, details cannot be provided as this is women’s business and you might be a male reader.
‘Men of many different tribes had been brought to Rottnest Island prison which resulted in tensions. But many died simply because they were parted from their land, which has a much, much higher significance to Aboriginal people than to whitefellas. The prison, built by Aboriginal labour, was so overcrowded at times that prisoners who were far from the openings through which guards handed the meals, starved.’

Hector Jandany obituary:,20867,20413429-16947,00.html
Creativespirits site:

1 comment:

  1. I'm surprised that Windshuttle hasn't gagged this post yet, well done David