49a[“Disease Amongst Natives”, The West Australian, Friday 29 May 1908, page 3]




The Colonial Secretary (Mr. J. D. Connolly), referring yesterday to what the Government was doing with respect to the treatment of natives affected by disease in the Nor’-West, stated:—“During the past 12 months the Government has had under consideration the question of treating aboriginals suffering from loathsome disease. Unfortunately a great number are affected in this way in the North-West. After going thoroughly into the question and realising the fact that it was almost impossible to keep natives under close medical observation and treatment on the mainland, it has been decided by the Government to establish two lock hospitals on two islands along the coast for both sexes. Bernier and Barrow islands have been selected as the most suitable for the purpose, and they have accordingly been reserved by the Government for the use of aboriginal natives. As there were suitable improvements made on Bernier Island by the late lessee, Mr. Baston, it was decided to make the first start there with the women, and on May 19 the necessary staff was despatched by the s.s. Bullarra, consisting of a matron, three orderlies (two of whom are carpenters), and one cook. Applications were also invited for a lock hospital doctor, whose duties will be to attend to the natives on both islands. A number of applications were received, many coming from the Eastern States. and Dr. Frederick Lovegrove, recently medical officer at Yarloop, has been appointed. He will proceed to the scene of his duties by the next boat. “In regard to Barrow Island, which will be used for the men, preparations are now being made for the necessary buildings to be erected on that island, and it is hoped it will be ready for use within a few months. A staff slightly larger than that of Bernier Island will be necessary. From reports received from a travelling inspector of the Aborigines Department there is no doubt that Barrow Island is eminently suited for the men, as it abounds with marsupials of all descriptions, from the red kangaroo downward, so that the men will be practically in their native element in this respect. In regard to their native food, this island also abounds with fish and turtle. A short time ago circulars were sent out to all officers of the Aborigines Department. who are giving natives Government relief, asking for returns of the number of natives suffering from the disease, for the treatment of which these hospitals are being established. The Police Department also instructed their officers on patrol duty throughout the State to send in similar returns. “Arrangements have been made for a regular service between the mainland (Carnarvon) and the islands. The natives will be detained on the islands until cured, when they will be returned to the mainland and sent back to their native homes. With regard to both islands, it is hoped that the scheme—which will necessarily mean a heavy increase in the Government’s expenditure on aboriginals, and which has never been tried in any part of the Commonwealth—will in time become partially self-supporting, as it is contemplated to start Angora goat farming on both islands; reports having been received from competent men that the herbage growing there is eminently suited for the establishment of such a farm.”

AB notes:

another euphemism for syphilis: “loathsome disease”

as of 29 may 1908, Bernier and Barrow were the islands selected (Barrow for the men)

There were some buildings on Bernier already (Baston’s summer resort)

The first staff came north by s.s. Bullarra 19 may 1908. Carnarvon, thence Bernier Island:

matron (Lenehan), three orderlies (two with carpentry skills) and a cook.

Dr Lovegrove, recently recruited from Cookernup district, would follow.

The construction of buildings on Barrow to commence “within a few months.”

Barrow thought particularly suitable for the men, because of wonderful game and fish.

Angora goat farming being considered on both islands.

49b[“The Penguin’s Cruise”, The Western Mail (Perth, WA), Saturday 06 March 1909, page 17]




The Government steamer Penguin returned to Fremantle on Tuesday from a short north-west cruise of far more than ordinary interest. The new development in the Aborigines Department, now under the control of Mr. C. Gale, for the amelioration of the major physical evil of the north-western blacks, who have suffered severely from contact with Afghans, Chinese, Malays, and Japanese, constitutes a new departure in governmental effort on behalf of the vanishing Australian native. Doore[sic] and Bernier Islands, which in continuation of Dirk Hartog form the western shore of Sharks Bay, have been set apart for the segregated hospital treatment, under free open-air conditions of life for the afflicted native. The Doore Island, which will be reserved for male aboriginal hospital buildings, are in process of erection by the Public Works Department employees. On Bernier Island, further north, the buildings, wells, etc., of a former pastoral lessee of the island have been acquired on resumption, and in October last 68 badly diseased lubras were brought from Derby, Wyndham, Hedland, Onslow, and Roebourne, and landed there, where they have since been under treatment by Dr. Lovegrove, with Miss Linehan as matron. The Colonial Secretary (Mr. J. D. Connolly) naturally takes a keen interest in this new departure in effective philanthropy in one of the Departments under his control, especially as the responsibility of adopting the island system of hospital treatment rests upon him as political head of the Department. Since the Penguin had much Government work to do on Sharks Bay, the Colonial Secretary took advantage of her business trip to personally ascertain the progress which has been made and the work accomplished among the aboriginal sufferers, as well as to learn what requires to be done to carry out the scheme on an expanding scale.

AB notes:

There is clear unwillingness on the part of whites to accept any responsibility for the spread of syphilis:

“the major physical evil of the north-western blacks, who have suffered severely from contact with Afghans, Chinese, Malays, and Japanese...”