Milingimbi Mission was established in 1923 by the Methodist Missionary Society of Australasia, later known as the Methodist Overseas Mission, on Milingimbi Island. The Mission operated a dormitory for boys until the mid 1930s. A school was run at the Mission from 1935. During World War II the Milingimbi Mission was bombed twice by the Japanese and most residents moved to Elcho Island or the mainland. The Methodist Overseas Mission ran Milingimbi until 1974.
Milingimbi Mission was established in 1923 by the Methodist Missionary Society of Australasia, later known as the Methodist Overseas Mission, on Milingimbi Island, part of the Crocodile group of islands approximately 440 km east of Darwin. The site of the mission had been chosen by Reverend James Watson in 1916. According to government correspondence the Mission was initially established at Elcho Island in 1921 but was moved to Milingimbi in 1923 when an oil company began drilling on Elcho Island.
A school for Aboriginal children was started late in 1926 by a Missionary Sister but she left four months later and the school ceased to operate. Regular schooling was not reintroduced at the Mission until 1935. A 1927 review report listed the Mission buildings as including the Mission House, 2 Baduan helpers houses, 2 native helpers houses, a dormitory, a store, a medicine house, an implement house and a workshop. The establishment of a sawmill at the Mission in 1928 enabled the construction of more housing for staff and some residents. By 1934 it was reported that the Mission included a Boys' Dormitory with 10 boys and a 'half-caste house' with 2 residents and an unmarried Boys' House with 8 occupants. No mention of a girls' dormitory is made in this report. Some 20 youths are reported as being taught to read and write in evening classes at the superintendent's house. References to dormitories disappear from the review reports in the late 1930s.
During World War II the Milingimbi Mission was bombed twice by the Japanese. The raids destroyed the church and caused the death of an Aboriginal person. Most of the island's residents moved to Elcho Island and the mainland. The raids also prompted the RAAF to build and aerodrome and airstrip a few kilometres from the mission.
The Methodist Overseas Mission ran Milingimbi until 1974. The government transferred the administration of the Mission to Milingimbi Community Incorporated in the mid 1970s. In 2008 it became part of the East Arnhem Shire Council.
Sources used to compile this entry: 'East Arnhem Shire - Milingimbi', in East Arnhem Shire Council, East Arnhem Shire Council, 2012, http://www.eastarnhem.nt.gov.au/milingimbi/; East Arnhem Shire Council, 'Milingimbi', in East Arnhem Shier Council Website, 2012, http://www.eastarnhem.nt.gov.au/milingimbi/; Noah Riseman, 'Disrupting Assimilation: Soldiers, Missionaries and Aboriginal People in Arnhem Land during World War II', in Evangelists of Empire? Missionaries in Colonial History, vol. 18 of 2008, University of Melbourne, July 2008, http://journal.mhj.net.au/index.php/mhj/article/view/687; NAA: A431, 1951/1397 Milingimbi Mission Review Reports, etc. Northern Territory 1927-1952 (digitised file); NAA: E763, R2 Copies of review inspection reports - Hermannsberg [Hermannsburg], Oenpelli, Yirrkala, Elcho Island, Groote Eylandt, Finke River, Roper River, Milingimbi and Port Keats 1959 (digitised file).
Prepared by: Karen George and Gary George
Created: 7 February 2011, Last modified: 7 November 2018