NAIDOC Week: ‘Shameful’ history of Bernier and Dorre islands an important conversation for WA

Headshot of Liam Beatty
Liam BeattyMidwest Times

Locals gathered at the Carnarvon Town Beach last week as part of a NAIDOC Week event recognising the “shameful” history of lock hospitals operating on Bernier and Dorre Islands more than a century ago.

The event was organised by National Indigenous Postvention advocate Gail Bellotti to encourage conversation about WA’s history.

Mid West Gascoyne district Inspector Dave Hooper spoke about the importance of acknowledging the nine-year period as a “shameful chapter” for WA Police, which had a lasting impact on Aboriginal people.

“Only in recent years has the true extent of what happened come to light,” he said. “Part of our role in WA’s modern police force is standing up and acknowledging the wrongs of the past.”

From 1910 to 1919, more than 800 Aboriginal people were transported to the hospital under the pretext of having suspected venereal diseases after being diagnosed by police officers.

Inspector Hooper said records from the era were sparse but historians believed only 40 per cent of people returned from the hospitals.

“This history has caused significant issues for the Carnarvon Aboriginal community,” he said. “This is an important point of our history and needs to be spoken about regularly.”

Attendees shared a barbecue and stories at the event, culminating in the laying of flowers in the ocean in recognition of those who did not return from the islands.

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