Title:
_Aboriginal Women on Catholic Missions in the Kimberley, Western Australia, 1900 - 1950_, PhD Thesis, University of Western Australia.

Inquiries:
Scholars' Centre, Reid Library, University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Western Australia 6009, Australia http://www.library.uwa.edu.au/catalogue/telnet-catalogue.html

Abstract

Australian Aboriginal women have played a vital role in the maintenance of indigenous culture. Not only have they quietly and consistently passed on the essential elements of language, social values, customs and traditional beliefs to their children wherever they have had the opportunity to do this, but Aboriginal women have borne Aboriginal children to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal men. It is these children and their descendants who now identify themselves as being Aboriginal and who comprise a large proportion of the Aboriginal population in Australia. This thesis examines the situation of Aboriginal women who lived on the Catholic missions in the Kimberley in the north-west of Western Australia between 1900 and 1950, drawing on oral and archival sources in order to focus attention on and theorise about the situation of Australian Aboriginal women. The thesis also explores the effects of European colonisation on Western Australia and the Kimberley in particular, within the environments of the Pallottine mission at Beagle Bay and Broome in the West Kimberley and the Benedictine mission at Kalumburu (formerly Drysdale River Mission) in North Kimberley. I explore the politics of race, gender and class in the colonising process, especially as it affected Aboriginal women of the Kimberley through the government's and missions' attempts to control the sexuality and reproduction of Aboriginal women. The policy of Assimilation, which was used by the Western Australian authorities to justify the removal of Aboriginal children of mixed race background from their Aboriginal mothers, had its roots in the 'rescue' and evangelising practices instituted by missionaries, including those in the Kimberley. World War II marked a watershed in the relations between Aboriginal people and their European colonisers as Aborigines gained greater autonomy and confidence in dealing with non-Aborigines and in the post-war years, gained some recognition as citizens of this country. An underlying theme in this thesis is that of resistance, particularly the covert ways through which the Aboriginal women of the Kimberley subverted the European colonisers' attempts to control their lives.