ABORIGINAL CULTURE 

Carnarvon's traditional owners are the Aboriginal Yinggarda people, who named this area long ago, Gwoonwardu, meaning 'neck of water'. The region's Aboriginal history is captured in the national award-winning Gwoonwardu Mia, Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre.  

The Lock Hospitals off the coast of Carnarvon on Bernier and Dorre Islands were the site of brutal colonial trauma inflicted on the Aboriginal population from across the state. 

The Lock Hospitals operated on Bernier and Dorre Islands via Carnarvon between 1908 and 1919. Several hundred Aboriginal people from across Western Australia were forcibly removed from their families and country to the lock hospitals. Many family members who were separated during the lock hospital scheme never saw each other again. It is conservatively estimated that more than 200 people died on the islands. The prisoner patients were said to have the non-specific diagnosis of “venereal disease”, although there are many questions about the reliability of this diagnosis.

Non-Indigenous people with venereal diseases were not subject to such measures. These lock hospitals were part of a wider history of racially-based medical incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia that took place in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland for almost a century from the late 1800s.

Reconciliation Plan 

The Shire of Carnarvon is committed to honouring the traditional custodians' unique cultural and spiritual relationships to the land, waters and seas and their rich contribution to society. The Reconciliation Plan is currently under review by Reconciliation Australia before being available to our community. 

Being the first RAP for the Shire of Carnarvon, our organisation is taking an initial step on the journey to reconciliation by focusing on learning, promoting and celebrating more about the world’s oldest continuing cultures and building our cultural competency. We will continue to develop the understanding, connections and significance of the Region’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their connection with the Council and the greater community. Through the actions and deliverables of this Reconciliation Action Plan, Council, through its people, will endeavour to create positive and meaningful advancements in our reconciliation journey towards an even more prosperous community.

The community is a key priority area through our Corporate Business Plan 2018-2022 and Strategic Community Plan 2018-2028. We aim to be an inclusive, engaged, resilient community with access to services and facilities enabling a safe and healthy lifestyle. Key initiatives under this initial RAP will focus on communicating our commitment to reconciliation within our organisation and the community, increasing understanding of the reconciliation journey, and identifying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders and organisations within our local area for collaborative opportunities. It also includes taking steps towards researching and understanding the profile of our reconciliation journey in relation to the needs of our local community.