43a[“West Australian Prisons”, The West Australian, Tuesday 24 December 1907, page 8]




The report by the Comptroller-General of Prisons (Mr. Oct. Burt) for the year 1906 was presented to Parliament on Friday. In this document Mr. Burt says:—

A police gaol was declared at Onslow in July, 1906. In addition to Fremantle Prison, Hamel and Rottnest, there were in the State on the 31st December last 25 penal institutions, viz., 10 common gaols and 15 police gaols. The number of prisoners confined on the last day of the year was 690, or eight more than on the night of December 31, 1905. 654 were males and 36 females. Compared with 1905 there was an increase of 13 males and a decrease of five females; 257 or over 37 per cent. were aborigines, 50 or almost 7 per cent, were coloured aliens, 140 or just on 20 per cent. were whites of other countries, and 243 or 35 per cent. claimed to have been born in Australasia.


“Altogether 3,023 males and 492 females were committed last year;..


The largest increase in commitments occurred at Wyndham, and the largest decrease at Perth.


Useful work has been performed by the prisoners at outlying gaols, more particularly at Wyndham, Broome, Roebourne, and Carnarvon. The chief employment being reclaiming of foreshore, working on roads and quarrying stone. The amount of money paid last year to prisoners on their discharge as earnings amounted to £318 13s. 8d., and the amount paid for railway fares for those prisoners who were returned to the districts whence they were received was £81 13s. 10d. The conduct of the prisoners during the year has been good.


I desire to call attention to the large number of native prisoners who are convicted on their own admission of guilt. The number is assuming serious proportions to the total number convicted, and the matter is one which seems to call for inquiry. At the moment of writing there are out of 230 in gaol no less than 80 who have been so convicted.


AB notes:

This report applies to the 1906 calendar year. “The largest increase in commitments occurred at Wyndham...”

Of particular significance is the summation that begins:

“I desire to call attention to the large number of native prisoners who are convicted on their own admission of guilt...”

43b[“The State Prisons”, The West Australian, Saturday 04 September 1909, page 5]



The annual report of Mr. Oct. Burt, the Comptroller-General of Prisons, dated June 30 last, was presented to Parliament yesterday. It deals with the year 1908, and in it Mr. Burt states, inter alia:—


The number of distinct persons committed during the year was 2,416 . The largest increase of commitments during the year was at Derby as in 1907, and the largest decrease at Fremantle. The daily average number of prisoners of all kinds maintained in the State gaols during the year was 721.14, of whom 340.83 were aborigines, an increase of 49.50 on 1907, in which year the total was 671.64; the average number of males being 667.54. females 53.64.


The gaol statistics still continue to be swollen by offences non-criminal in character. There has been an increase during the year in the following offences:—Manslaughter, idle and disorderly, stowaways, cattle-killing, vagrancy, deserting ship, common assault, against fishery laws, stealing (grave offence), and a decrease in burglary, offences against property, stealing (petty), disorderly conduct, unlawful possession, drunkenness, gaming, falsely representing to be travellers, refusing duty.


I would again call attention to the number of native prisoners convicted on their own admission of guilt, principally for killing cattle. I do not think a plea of guilty should be accepted from an untutored savage.

AB notes:

1908: 664 aborigines committed, or 18.81% of total 3,530.

1908: largest number of commitments at Derby (same as 1907)

1908: on average day in the year, 340 out of 721 aboriginal

1908: that 340 up 50 from previous year

1908: 2 years on, Burt comments again on the number of aboriginals convicted on plea of guilty.

43c[“Prisons of the State”, The West Australian, Thursday 20 October 1910, page 4]



The annual report, by the Comptroller General of Prisons (Mr. Oct. Burt), dated July 1 last, was presented to Parliament on Tuesday. It deals with the year 1909, and, inter alia, Mr. Burt states:—


The number of distinct individuals committed to prison during the year was 2,056 (344 being aboriginal natives) as against 2,416 (664 aborigines) in 1908. One thousand two hundred and twenty-five first offenders, of whom 280 were aboriginal natives. The largest increase (88) in commitments occurred in Perth, and the largest decrease (226) in Derby.


AB notes:

The huge decrease in the Derby gaol occurs in the year of this report: 1909.