Back to Calendar of Events

Reconciliation Week

During National Reconciliation Week the Rottnest Island Authority acknowledges Wadjemup’s  significant Aboriginal history, from its ancient and continuing Whadjuk custodianship , to the Island’s  use as an Aboriginal prison from 1838-1904, and subsequent forced labour camp until 1931.

The theme of National Reconciliation Week 2018 is ‘Don’t Keep History a Mystery’.

In line with our commitment to reconciliation and the recognition of the important Aboriginal history on the Island, the Rottnest Island Authority (RIA) will be offering a number of events to commemorate National Reconciliation Week (NRW), running from 27 May to 3 June including:

Aboriginal Heritage Tours

The Island’s use as an Aboriginal prison for the better part of a century is central to the Island’s complex history. There are many sites connected to the prison era, including the former prison building known as the Quod, the Wadjemup Aboriginal Burial Ground, the Prisoner’s Walk and the Prisoner Transit Cell.

Join an Aboriginal Heritage Tour to learn more about this significant history and what the future may hold for Aboriginal heritage on the Island.

Tours run for an hour and depart from outside the Vistors Centre at the end of the main jetty:

  • Tuesday, 29 May – 2:45am
  • Thursday, 31 May – 10am
Deathboat/Lifeboat Exhibition at the Salt Store

Available from 27 May to 15 July (end of NAIDOC week) in the iconic Salt Store on Rottnest Island, [The] Life Boat is a must-see exhibition that connects intricately with this year’s NRW theme.

[The] Life Boat project originated from a set of student classes held at the University of Western Australia’s Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts between 1997 and 2003. The project focused on close engagement with Aboriginal teachers and cultural advisers to understand the prison histories of Wadjemup (Rottnest Island) during the periods of Aboriginal incarceration and imprisonment in Western Australia from 1831 to 1931.

Students researched over sixty Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people associated with the Rottnest Island prison period, and transformed this shared knowledge into the making of individual bronze masks. The inter-cultural dialogue and learning was safe and strong, and encapsulated healing history and attaining truth and reconciliation.

Following their completion, students, staff and cultural advisers agreed that the individual bronze works should remain together, culminating in a one-third scaled bronze reconstruction of the type of boat used to transport prisoners from the mainland to the Island.

This truth-telling journey of [The] Life Boat has now made its return to the Island, and will hopefully one day return to the Aboriginal and European communities from where the characters and their spirits belong.

The exhibition of [The] Life Boat wishes to acknowledge the collaboration of students and staff from the University of Western Australia’s Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts, in association with the School of Indigenous Studies, and its advisers and community partners.

Far from Home, Aboriginal prisoners on Rottnest Island 1838-1931 – a book by Neville Green

In 1997, the most complete account to date of the history of the former Aboriginal prison on Rottnest Island was published by University of WA Press as Volume X of the Dictionary of Western Australians.

The book Far From Home, written by distinguished WA historian Dr Neville Green in collaboration with Susan Aguiar, has been out of print for a number of years. Over the last 12 months the Rottnest Island Authority have been working with the authors of Far From Home in the aim of having the book re-printed and available to the public.

Far From Home not only provides a detailed account of the operation of the prison but of the regime which saw thousands of Aboriginal men and boys transported to Wadjemup from all over what is now the State of Western Australia.

In addition, the book includes an index containing the names and biographical details extracted from police and court records of many of the men and boys imprisoned and those who died during incarceration and were buried on the Island. These records enable many Aboriginal people to identify their ancestral connection with the former prison.

The authors have generously offered the book to the Rottnest Island Authority (RIA) on a royalty-free basis to be republished in order to support ongoing efforts by the WA Aboriginal community to appropriately memorialise Wadjemup’s Aboriginal Burial Ground and one of the former prison sites – commonly known as the Quod.

To support the generous offer by the authors, RIA has undertaken to ensure that that all proceeds from book sales will go towards memorialisation and interpretation projects at the Burial Ground and the Quod. The book will be available to purchase on the Island at the Visitor Centre from the 27th of May 2018.