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Western Australia - Organisation

Derby Hostel (1956 - 1994)

Government-run, Home, Hostel and Protestant
Alternative Names
  • Amy Bethell Hostel (also known as, 1970? - 1976)
  • Derby Mission Centre (also known as)
  • Derby School Hostel (also known as)

Derby Hostel was established by the United Aborigines Mission in 1956 as a residential child care facility for Aboriginal children going to primary and high school in Derby. Until 1963, the Commissioner of Native Welfare was the guardian of all children at the hostel. In 1975, the Department for Community Welfare took over the running of Derby Hostel and it was subsequently run by the government departments responsible for child welfare until it closed in 1994.


On 20 June 1956, the United Aborigines Mission (UAM) was authorised by the Department of Native Welfare (DNW) to establish a mission at Derby. The mission opened on 1 July 1956, subsidised by the DNW. At first, girls were accommodated in the mission house and there was a dormitory for small boys built by the UAM. It provided accommodation and support for children going to primary and high school in the town.This became the Derby Hostel, which was on township Lot No. 528.

Until 1963, the Commissioner of Native Welfare was the guardian of all children at the hostel. From 1963, the Department of Native Welfare could make regulations for the 'control, care and education of the children of natives'. From 1972, the chief executive officer of the Department for Community Welfare was the guardian of any children at Derby Hostel who were deemed to be 'native wards' or 'wards of the State'.

By the 1970s, possibly earlier, the Derby Hostel was called 'Amy Bethel' or 'Amy Bethell' and when the Department for Community Welfare took over the hostel in 1976, it kept the name, Amy Bethell Hostel. It is possible that Amy Bethell was a spelling mistake, as the State Records Office has archives relating to the Amy Bethel Hostel. By 1977, however, the Amy Bethel(l) names seems to have no longer been used, and the hostel appeared in departmental annual reports as the 'Derby Hostel' or 'Derby School Hostel'.

In 1979, the hostel catered for 25 children from towns, stations and communities including Christmas Creek and Looma Stations; from One Arm Point; and Pandannus Park.

By 1982, the hostel was administered by the Kimberley Division of the Department of Community Welfare, and offered accommodation for high school students. The kitchen and dining areas, staff quarters and dormitories were renovated in that year.

In 1983 the Department built a new cottage at the hostel, as part of a trend towards having facilities that were not so 'institutional' in their design. An excerpt from the Annual Report of the Department for Community Welfare in 1984 gives some insight into what departmental field staff learned from parents of children who were potential admissions to the Derby Hostel and group homes in the Kimberley:

Parents are consulted about their children going to hostels away from home and the advantages and disadvantages are discussed. The parents are becoming more reluctant to send their children away and appropriate education in the community is now becoming an important issue in Fitzroy Crossing, Christmas Creek and One Arm Point. The group homes are only used when there are no relatives able or capable of looking after the children of a mother who may have to go to hospital or Perth. Once again, the responsibility is placed on the community and extended family to deal with their problems. Signposts 2004, pp.186-187

By 1984, Derby Hostel was admitting only those high school students who did not have a high school in their own communities.

The Department for Community Services Annual Report in 1987 reported on its new policy of staffing the hostels with Aboriginal caregivers and the challenges faced by students at the hostel, which was 'more successful in attracting and maintaining older Aboriginal children - not always an easy feat, due to adolescents becoming unsettled through having to cope with much larger schools than they are accustomed to' (Signposts 2004, p.187).

Derby Hostel continued to be used by the Department until the 1990s. In 1994, it was described as being located in central Derby, on 9 hectares of land. There were two cottages, the original dormitories and some outbuildings. A child care centre was in the complex and the hostel had a 22-seater bus. There had been 32 admissions for 1994 - 15 children for each school term.

Derby Hostel's operations were suspended by the Department for Community Development on 22 September 1994, due to decreased demand.

It is likely that the Derby Hostel was located on Loch Street, in Derby. According to the State Heritage Office listing for Tom Street Mission House, at 45 Loch Street, Derby, 'the old UAM hostel that existed adjacent to the house has been demolished and replaced by a church'.


1956 - 1994
Location - Derby Hostel was located near 45 Loch Street, Derby.. Location: Derby

Related Concepts

Related Glossary Terms



  • United Aborigines Mission (ed.), The United Aborigines messenger, 1929-1987. Details


  • Wilson, Katrin and Michael V. Robinson., Aboriginal Hostels in Perth : A Comparative Survey, Department of Native Welfare, [Perth, W.A.], 1971. Details

Online Resources

Sources used to compile this entry: Heritage Council of Western Australia, 'Tom Street Mission House', in inHerit, Western Australia State Heritage Office, Government of Western Australia, 2012,; Longworth, Alison, Was it worthwhile?, An historical analysis of five women missionaries and their encounters with the Nyungar people of south-west Australia, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia, 2005, pp.298-299.; 'Western Australia Protectors Reports 1899-1959', in To Remove and Protect: Aboriginal Lives Under Control [website], Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, National Library of Australia, Annual Report of the Commissioner of Native Welfare 1957, p.77; 1959 pp.9, 21.; Western Australia. Department for Community Welfare, Annual Report: Department for Community Welfare, Dept. For Community Welfare, [Perth], 1973-1984, Annual Report, 1976, p.50; Annual Report 1977, p.57.; U.A.M. Amy Bethel Hostel, Derby - Application for Assistance (16 February 1973 - 30 July 1974), State Records Office of Western Australia - Series 2030 Cons 1724 Item 1973/0139; United Aborigines Mission - Derby - Subsidy (Amy Bethel Hostel) (18 July 1956 - 17 September 1970), State Records Office of Western Australia - Series 2030 Cons 1733 Item 1956/0261, accessed via State Records Office of WA website on 21 October 2015.

Prepared by: Debra Rosser