State government policies of protection


Victoria was the first colonial government to put in place an extensive system for the control of Aboriginal people with the Aborigines Protection Act 1869. The Board for the Protection of Aborigines was given power over ‘full-bloods’ and ‘half-castes’. It could decide where people lived, control their employment, and take custody of children.


The Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act was passed in 1897. Superintendents were placed in charge of Reserves and Protectors of Aborigines were established for various districts. The Act listed areas of regulation including:

  • the manner in which Aborigines were moved to reserves
  • the power of protectors
  • the care, custody and education of children
  • maintenance of discipline on reserves and the imprisonment for breach of regulations
  • authorisation for a protector to summarily imprison an Aboriginal or ‘half-caste’ people for up to 14 days for committing a crime or for being grossly insubordinate;
  • prohibition on Aboriginal rites or customs.

There were no avenues of appeal against these decisions.

Western Australia

The Aborigines Protection Act 1886 established the Aborigines Protection Board and provided for management of reserves and some medical care and rations. The Aborigines Act 1905 created the Chief Protector and the Aborigines Department. Protectors (who were police officers) were established in various districts. It expanded legislative power over Aboriginal people and had various provisions designed to stop cohabitation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory Aborigines Act 1910 was passed by the South Australian Parliament and established a Northern Territory Aboriginals Department and a Chief Protector of Aboriginals who was to be the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and every ‘half-caste child’.

The Aboriginals Ordinance 1911 further extended the powers of the Protector to include the ‘care, custody, or control of any aboriginal or half-caste if in his opinion it is necessary or desirable in the interests of the aboriginal or half-caste for him to do so’.

New South Wales

A Protector was appointed in New South Wales in 1881 and a Board for the Protection of Aborigines was established in 1883. The Aborigines Protection Act was introduced in 1909 and gave power to exert extensive control over the movement and lives of Aboriginal people. Amendments to the legislation in 1915 increased the powers to remove Aboriginal children without court supervision and to restrict Aborigines to reserves.

South Australia

The Aborigines Act was introduced in 1911. It established an Aborigines Department and a Chief Protector to administer it. The Chief Protector had wide powers over Aboriginal people and those defined as ‘half-caste’. The legislation gave the power to segregate Aboriginal people on Reserves.