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Aboriginal Family History – Wongutha

January 7, 2011
Young men from Wongatha Mission at the Esperance Methodist Easter Camp

Click on thumbnail to see the large picture. Contains images of deceased persons.


My mum grew up in Esperance, Western Australia, and was involved in her local Methodist Church.  Their youth group had an Easter Camp every year, and the young people from the Wongutha Mission would come – girls one year, boys the next.  The thumbnail to the left is a group shot of a bunch of young men, all dressed up for church or something (my Mum assures me this wasn’t standard Easter Camp dress).  She could name a couple of them, but I’d love to know who the rest of them are and  pass the copy on to family if they would like it.  This photo was taken in the late 1950s -early 1960s.

The Minister on the right, and the woman in the middle at the front are Lloyd Semple and his wife Rae.

For those who are not aware, some Aboriginal cultures/people are offended or distressed by images of people who have passed away.  Hence the warning.


Edit:  With the considerable help of others I have most of the names of the people in the photo.  Because many of them are living I will not publish their names here – but if you are interested contact me through the comments.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Celia Whittle permalink
    April 10, 2012 8:50 am

    My father, Maurice Weston, was an enthusiastic and committed board member of the Wongutha Mission, set up as a non-denominational Christian ministry to assist aboriginal young people to cope with the demands of the totally different culture that was taking over their land. Originally for men only, they were taught farming through a live-in program. It gave them the opportunity to develop skills and self-respect in a spiritual framework and some fine men emerged. I believe that a graduate of their program was the first aboriginal to be granted land by the government. It grew out of the vision of the Schenk family, Rod Schenk, in particular, in the 50’s and 60’s, and possibly from his father before him. Later young women were included, I think learning domestic skills that might enable them to get paid work. It always seemed to be a liberating and empowering program rather than a religiously patronising one. The mission later became Wongutha CAPS, an Aboriginal Christian school.

    • Michelle permalink*
      April 10, 2012 9:02 am

      Hi Celia Thank you for commenting and providing all that information. Do you know any of the young men in the photo? It would be great if we could identify a few of them.

  2. Celia Whittle permalink
    April 20, 2012 9:28 pm

    Hi Michelle. Unfortunately I don’t know their names although years ago I did know who some of the students were. One student became a minister, possibly Methodist. My Dad and Mum, Dorothy, both actively supported the mission but we lived in Melbourne so our contact was limited by distance. Dad was able to visit when in WA on business. Wongutha CAPS continues today so I think they may be able to help you with some historical info. It would be interesting to know when it was started (I think by Mr. Schenk senior) PS Are you able to moderate the errors in my post?

  3. Michelle permalink*
    April 20, 2012 9:35 pm

    Hi again Celia – Thank you for that additional information. A few minor errors in the previous comment have been edited 🙂

  4. Tyrone Brownley permalink
    October 24, 2012 4:31 pm

    Hello Ladies, those Aboriginal men in this picture are from the Goldfields. I know a few of those mens faces and they have emerged from the Mount Margaret Mission, then onto Esperance farm; they went for further education and training. I am a young Wangkatha (Wongutha) man myself, my family are from the North-eastern Goldfields. I am positive that my family members will be able to recognise these men, in this picture. Most of them are Wangkatha, and some are Ngadju (a tribe from Esperance). Talk more soon… 🙂

    • Michelle permalink*
      October 24, 2012 9:14 pm

      Hi Tyrone Thanks for commenting! I would love it if your family members could identify some of these men. Also, If they would like a high-ish res version to print, I’d be happy to provide one – the original is a tiny snapshot, but it enlarges quite well at high resolution. Look forward to hearing from you.

  5. Kevin & Bronwyn Goss permalink
    November 4, 2012 10:26 am

    Hi Michelle
    This morning we have been listening closely to Alan Bonney’s stories from his time at Esperance, visiting the Easter Camp while at the Wongatha Training Farm. So I Googled what I could find for Alan and surprise, surprise, up came your web-site!

    Alan is the young man far left, front in your photo.

    From your photo he has named all of the young men, including the first Aboriginal man to get a farm, the one who became a Minister and many who have died. Alan went on to work in the area, on Rancho X farm, and now lives at Kurrawang Community near Coolgardie.

    If you could provide a mailing address, we can send the names on Alan’s behalf. Alan would love to receive a higher resolution photo than we could print for him.

    Alan’s agreed that you contact us and we will assist you to get the photo to him.

    We’re so pleased to be of help.

    Kevin Goss

  6. Pam Nash Mann permalink
    July 5, 2015 12:18 pm

    Hi Michelle, Did you ever find out who these men are? I was raised from age 5 to 12 at Mt. Margaret and so I will ask my brother who is a couple of years older than me if he knows any names of these young men. pam

    • Michelle permalink*
      July 7, 2015 7:08 am

      Hi Pam
      Most of the men in the photo have been identified – i havent published their names because many are still living and have not given their consent – I’d be happy to share the information by email if you are interested. Michelle

  7. August 26, 2016 12:06 am

    Hello my name is Vattessa Colbung reside in Kalgoorlie. Could I please have names of Aboriginal men in photo please.

    Thank you.

    • Michelle permalink*
      February 13, 2017 6:47 am

      Hi Vattessa
      Thank you for commenting. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. I don’t have all the names and it has been a long while since I last looked at the photo – I will try to find the names I have and I’ll send them to you at the email address you’ve supplied.

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