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Western Australia - Organisation

Department of Native Affairs (1936 - 1954)

State of Western Australia

Care Provider and Government Department
Alternative Names
  • DNA (acronym)

The Department of Native Affairs (DNA) operated from 1936, taking over the Aborigines Department. It was responsible for Aboriginal matters in Western Australia. The head of the Department, the Commisioner for Native Affairs, was the legal guardian of all Aboriginal children, as stipulated by the Aborigines Act 1905. The Department of Native Affairs was replaced by the Department of Native Welfare in 1954.


The Department of Native Affairs (DNA) was formed on 1 January 1936 as the key government organisation responsible for Aboriginal matters, including the welfare of Aboriginal children in Western Australia. The State Records Office website provides an overview of the DNA's establishment:

In 1936, following the recommendation of the Moseley Royal Commission and the subsequent amendment of the Aborigines Act 1905, functions of the Aborigines Department were considerably increased and its name was at the same time changed to that of the Department of Native Affairs. In 1947, the portfolio of the Minister for Native Affairs was created and a year later the Bateman Survey recommended drastic changes in the organisation of the department. These changes were duly carried out in the following year.

In 1954, the name of the department was changed to the Department of Native Welfare and its duties and functions were laid down by the Native Administration Act of that year.

The head of the Department was known as the Commissioner for Native Affairs. Francis Bray held this position from 1940 to 1946 and Stanley Middleton was the Commissioner for Native Affairs from 1948 to 1954.


 1887 - 1890 Aborigines Protection Board
       1890 - 1898 Aborigines Protection Board
             1898 - 1908 Aborigines Department
                   1909 - 1920 Department of Aborigines and Fisheries
                   1909 - 1920 Department of Aborigines and Fisheries
                         1920 - 1926 Department of the North West
                         1920 - 1964 Fisheries Department
                               1926 - 1936 Aborigines Department
                                     1936 - 1954 Department of Native Affairs
                                           1955 - 1972 Department of Native Welfare
                                                 1972 - 1985 Department for Community Welfare
                                                 1972 - 1994 Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority
                                                       1985 - 1992 Department for Community Services
                                                       1994 - 2001 Aboriginal Affairs Department
                                                             1992 - 1995 Department for Community Development
                                                             2001 - 2013 Department of Indigenous Affairs
                                                                   1995 - 2001 Department for Family and Children's Services
                                                                   2013 - 2017 Department of Aboriginal Affairs
                                                                         2001 - 2007 Department for Community Development
                                                                               2007 - 2013 Department for Communities
                                                                               2007 - 2013 Department for Child Protection
                                                                                     2013 - 2017 Department of Local Government and Communities
                                                                                     2013 - 2017 Department for Child Protection and Family Support
                                                                                           2017 - Department of Communities
                                                                                           2017 - Department of Communities
                                                                                           2017 - Child Protection and Family Support
                                                                                           2017 - Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries

Related Glossary Terms

  • Child Endowment (1941 - 1976)

    The Department of Native Affairs received the Child Endowment on behalf of Aboriginal parents in Western Australia, making payments in the form of orders in local stores rather than cash.

    Date: 1941 - 1951

Related Legislation

Related Organisations



  • Western Australia. Department of Native Affairs, Annual Report: Department of Native Affairs, Government Printer, Perth, 1937-1954. Details

Online Resources

Sources used to compile this entry: 'AU WA A47 - Department of Native Affairs', in State Records Office of Western Australia - Organisations & People, State Records Office of Western Australia, 2015,; '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 Affairs 1945, p.8..

Prepared by: Leanne Howard and Debra Rosser