‘They are the 1%’: Ann Curthoys, ‘The impossibility of section 70 aboriginal protection, amelioration, and the contradictions of humanitarian governance’, Studies in Western Australian History, 30, 2016, pp. 13-28


Abstract: In 1887, as Western Australian demands for self-government were intensifying, and it seemed that Western Australia’s poor record on Aboriginal protection and welfare might prove an obstacle to Britain’s approving a new constitution, the governor of the colony, Frederick Broome, came up with a suggestion. One way to grant responsible government without handing Aboriginal protection and welfare to the very settlers who so opposed it, he wrote to his superiors in the Colonial Office in London, would be to keep the colony’s recently established Aborigines Protection Board under the control of the governor and not hand it over to the proposed elected colonial government. The board, whose task was to oversee Aboriginal protection, education and welfare, could be funded by requiring the colonial government to set aside a reserved annual sum of 5,000 from colonial revenue, thus making the board independent of colonial treasury decisions and indeed colonial politics. To this end, the Constitution Bill Broome drafted in May 1888 included a clause eventually known as section 70, which took his initial idea a step further. It ensured that the payment of 5,000 pounds annually to the board would convert to 1 per cent of the colony’s annual revenue when it exceeded 500,000 pounds. When, after some prolonged debate over a range of issues, the British Parliament passed the colony’s new constitution in 1889 and brought it into operation in 1890, the proposed clause was included.

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