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Archives In Brief 42 - Aborigines Welfare Board, 1883-1969

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A brief history of the Aborigines Welfare Board 1883-1969 and lists some of the records it created that are now held as State archives.

History of the Aborigines Welfare Board

The Board for the Protection of Aborigines was established on 2 June 1883. Comprising six members appointed by the Governor it held weekly meetings at which recommendations concerning the State's Aboriginal population were considered.

The Board functioned without any statutory power until the Aborigines Protection Act 1909. Under this Act the board was enlarged and given the duty 'to exercise a general supervision and care over all matters affecting the interests and welfare of Aborigines and to protect them against injustice, imposition and fraud.' The Board wrote regulations that established local boards for the management of Aboriginal Stations. The Boards principal expenditure was for the distribution of rations, clothing and huts for accommodation.

The Aborigines Protection Amending Act 1915 gave the Board the power to assume control and custody of Aboriginal children if it believed this action to be in the moral or physical interest of the child, and to remove the child to "such care and control as it thinks best".

The Board was reconstituted again under the Aborigines Protection (Amendment) Act of 1940, and its name changed to the Aborigines Welfare Board. The duties of the new Board were to: apportion, distribute and apply moneys for the relief or benefit of Aboriginal people; or to assist them in obtaining employment; maintain them whilst employed or otherwise to assist them to become assimilated into the general life of the community; distribute blankets, clothing, and relief to Aboriginal people; provide for the custody and maintenance of Aboriginal children; manage and regulate the use of reserves; exercise a general supervision and care over all Aboriginal people and over all matters affecting their interests and welfare, and to protect them against injustice, imposition and fraud; arrange for the inspection at regular intervals of each station and training school under the control of the Board.

The Board could establish and name homes for the reception, maintenance, education and training of wards (children admitted to the control of the Board) and indenture wards to apprenticeship or employment.

The Board held its final meeting on 29 April 1969 and was replaced by the Aborigines Welfare Directorate, Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare (later the Aborigines Services Branch, Youth and Community Services).

Examples of records of the Board

Not all records of the Aborigines Welfare Board have survived and many are incomplete due to destruction and loss. The main surviving series of records of the Board are listed below.

Administrative records

NRS 2, Minute Books, 1890-1901, 1905-06, 1911-69

NRS 9, Correspondence files, 1949-69

NRS 30, Photographs, c.1924-61

Welfare records

NRS 26, Ward registers, 1916-28

NRS 27, Indexes to ward registers, 1916-c.1938

Reserve records

NRS 23, Registers of Aboriginal reserves, 1875-1904

NRS 25, Particulars of Aboriginal stations and reserves, 1962-63

Financial records

NRS 15, Ledgers (Trust Account), c.1897-1922

NRS 16, Registers of expenditure of the Board, 1898-1905, 1922-24

NRS 20, Salary Register (Trust Accounts), 1922-34

Note on the content of some records

Researchers should be aware that the records may contain language, descriptions and opinions which reflect the author's attitude or that of the period in which the records were written. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may consider some of the records to be inappropriate and offensive.

For more information

More records created by the Board can be found in A Guide to NSW State Archives relating to Aboriginal People. More information on records relating to Aboriginal people can also be found in Archives In Brief:

For more information on State Records relating to Aboriginal people please contact the Manager, Public Access on (02) 9673 1788 or email

For information on all records held as State archives check Archives Investigator and our other guides and finding aids.


Many of the records of the Board are closed to public access to protect sensitive personal information. You can view what is open or closed to public access on our Register of access directions.

For access to closed records contact Aboriginal Affaris NSW Family Records Unit, 1800 019 998, email

© State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority, 2003.
This work may be freely reproduced and distributed for most purposes, however some restrictions apply. See our copyright notice or contact us.