Dec 18, 2017

‘Apartheid is a very close parallel’: life under the Protection Act in Qld

Recently, Crikey updated our members on the status of the Queensland reparations scheme for stolen wages under the Protection Act. This second piece looks at the reality of living life as a legally determined second-class citizen.

Charlie Lewis — Journalist

Charlie Lewis


Roy Savo was born in Mapoon, in far north Queensland, a few hours south of Punsand Bay where the arrow head pointing at Papua New Guinea chips off into the Torres Strait islands. Both of his parents worked on the Mapoon mission, a perpetually underfunded Presbyterian mission whose industrial school became the destination for scores of children stolen from the surrounding peoples — including the Mpakwithi, Taepithiggi, Thaynhakwith, Warrangku, Wimarangga and Yupungathi peoples. They were converted to Christianity and put to work. By the time Savo was born, in June 1939, Mapoon’s various attempts at self-sufficiency were floundering, and the place could only survive thanks to “compulsory financial contributions” deducted from the wages of domestic staff and stockmen. 

From the age of 14, Savo was taken to Bramwell Station to work. Speaking to Crikey, he describes his employer there, Ron Heinman, as “the best boss” as well as “the end of the good bosses”. He worked happily for two years — “cattle work, mustering, rounding and all that” — before droving down from Mitchell River to Charters Towers, and eventually being sent to work at Wurung Station.

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4 thoughts on “‘Apartheid is a very close parallel’: life under the Protection Act in Qld

  1. dennis

    Roy Savo, is being very nice about this, it was a lot worse than this, I seen it, was on cattle stations working also.

  2. dennis

    Also, on a Northern Territory property not far of Gulf border, for a joke, the (Wags) lined up the older black women, made them lift their clothes, and with other hand to hold back one side of their vagina, so they could be sprayed with DDT, hard to believe isn’t it. a lot of stories that were funny once have all gone under ground now

  3. Hunt Ian

    As the comments show, it was much worse than Apartheid, although motives- dispossession of aboriginal people- were similar. The missions corresponded to the “ homelands” where people were uprooted from the own lives and put to work for whites, waiting for them to die of as a “ backward “ people.
    But the controls were always greater than under Apartheid. They were slaves, though not chattel slaves, who could be bought and sold in the market.
    This disgrace still hangs over people made outcasts in their own land, and the crimes of the past carried forward and magnified by cheap attempts to deny compensation- would any white not get full compensation for stolen wages? What about land stolen through missions and settlements?
    These crimes have always made me angry and ashamed for the many amongst us who have contrived their blindness to what was done

  4. gerald butler

    Ask a ‘ good bloke’ like Tim Fisher about bucket loads of extinguishment in the 1990’s, shortly before he went to the fucking Vatican. Shortly after arriving in Oz in the early 1970’s I saw Elliott in the NT and was gobsmacked by Apartheid on steroids. Still they received an apology from Kevin Rudd!

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