Mowanjum was established near Derby in 1956 when the Presbyterian church moved residents of Wotjulum mission to a new site in Yampi Sound near Derby. Until 1963, children at Mowanjum were under the guardianship of the Commissioner of Native Welfare. In 1971 it housed 65 school-age children. Mowanjum became a self-governing community in 1972, and in 1979 they moved to the Gibb River Road near Derby.
On 25 September 1956 the Presbyterian Church began transferring people from Wotjulum to a new site called Mowanjum, at the head of the Coppermine Creek in Yampi Sound near Derby. The name, 'Mowanjum' means 'settled at last' and reflects the fact that the Worrorra, Wunambal and Ngarinyin peoples had been shifted around from place to place in response to changing government policies.
Until 1963, children at Mowanjum were under the guardianship of the Commissioner of Native Welfare.
In 1971, it was reported that 65 school-age children lived at Mowanjum, with 45 children going to the Primary School and 20 to the High School in Derby.
The Mowanjum Community Inc was established on 5 October 1972. From 1972 onwards children at Mowanjum were sometimes placed under the 'care' of the departments responsible for child welfare, and the government worked with the community to address issues such as truancy and youth drinking.
The community lived at the Mowanjum mission site until 1979, when they moved to a new site 10 kilometres from Derby along the Gibb River Road.
In government records, Mowanjum is spelled in various ways including Mowajum; Mowjum; Mawanjin; Mowanjup.
Sources used to compile this entry: 'Mowanjum collection : Barunga bequest [manuscript]', in Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies [website], 2013, http://web.archive.org/web/20140212083133/http://www.aiatsis.gov.au/library/findingaids/MS2533.htm; Information Services, Department for Community Development, 'pp.361-363', Signposts: A Guide for Children and Young People in Care in WA from 1920, Government of Western Australia, 2004, https://signposts.communities.wa.gov.au//pdf/pdf.aspx; Jebb, Mary Anne, Mowanjum 50 years : community history, Mowanjum Aboriginal Community and Mowanjum Artists Spirit of the Wandjina Aboriginal Corporation, Derby, Western Australia, 2008. pp.v, vi, 118.; Mowanjum community gate 1970s [Image], Date: 2008; '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, http://aiatsis.gov.au/collections/collections-online/digitised-collections/remove-and-protect/western-australia. Annual Report of the Commissioner of Native Welfare 1959 p.9.; State Records Office of Western Australia, Wards - Director's Approval to Transfer from one Institution to Another and Amend Training, Reference Code AU WA S1099- cons2607 A0191 V4 (p.311, 312, 447, 466) - page numbers refer to PDF page number in digital file held by the Department of Communities (Child Protection and Family Support) in 2017.
Prepared by: Debra Rosser
Created: 15 March 2011, Last modified: 19 December 2018