Roelands Mission

The "Seven Hills" properly in Roelands was once owned by Mr. Benjamin Piggott of "Springhill" on the Coast Road. In his diary of the 1890's, he often remarked about going to his "Seven Hills Farm". Then Mr W. B. Castieau owned "Seven Hills" for the first few decades of the century and ran thousands of sheep there and on leased land in the Worsley - Ferguson area. Later "Seven Hills" belonged to Mr Albany Bell of Perth, who, with Mr Thomas Charles Chandler, promoted it as a haven for unemployed boys in the Depression years of the 1930's. They wanted to help these boys to maintain themselves, and to learn farming skills, which would be useful, and help them obtain work. Mr Bell was a well known Perth businessman, and approached many of his business friends in Perth to develop this idea. The scheme received excellent press support, and enough money was raised to see it proceed.

He made 1750 acres of his "Seven Hills" property available on the most generous terms to Mr Chandler, to be free of rent for the first year, and at actual bank interest of 120-0-0 pounds ($240.00) per annum thereafter. On 15th November, 1932, an advance party of seven boys, under the manager Mr R. M. Ladyman, set up camp on the property. Over the next six years, from 16 to 20 boys were in residence, developing the orchard and farm, and achieving Messrs Bell and Chandler's aim of learning new skills, growing food to support themselves, and enough to sell as well.

The Roelands property was considerably improved when it reverted to Mr Albany Bell in 1938. In October of that year, the United Aborigines Mission approached the Harvey Road Board for a reduction in their car license plates "as a charity". They said Mr Bell had given them permission to use his property to establish a mission where the Aborigines could work on the properly. The Commissioner of Native Affairs, Mr A. 0. Neville, was approached by the Road Board to inform them about this mission status. He replied, "They had no authority to establish a mission station at Roelands, or anywhere else in the State. Before doing so, they would be required to obtain permission in accordance with the regulations, and permission may not necessarily be granted".

Mr Bell must have soon obtained the permits required, as he established "The Native Mission Farm, Roelands Incorporated" in that year, and it was partly self-supporting from the orchard, with a garden producing more than sufficient for their domestic needs by the end of the year.

Mr Thomas Price, who had been on the Committee of Management of the Chandler Boys' Settlement, continued his interest in the Native Farm, and gave valuable advice on the establishment of "the fruit grove" This became a real "back stop" to the farms' finances, and their grapefruit were well known throughout the State. The Mission finally could accommodate up to 100 Aboriginal children.

Gradually, the Mission expanded, and at times had as many as 100 children, and 25 missionaries and their children living there. Irrigation and domestic water was drawn from the Collie River, and with the fertile river flats, the orchard (5 acres) of grapefruit, and another of stonefruits, was very productive. The farm is 5 miles east of Roelands, and many people would drive up the winding road to buy the beautiful fruit.

The Mission was established to improve the conditions of the Aborigines, so the care and training of the children, and attention to the welfare of the people, always took precedence over the farm operations. As the ways of managing this changed, so the use of the Mission declined, and finally it closed.

Shire of Harvey, Proud to be 100, Centennial Book by Centennial Book Committee.


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