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St Clair Mission

St Clair Mission operated in Singleton, Hunter Valley, NSW till 1918 when it was taken over by the Aborigines Protection Board.

In New South Wales, the idea of developing reserves to ‘protect’ and ‘civilise’ Aboriginal people, i.e. encourage Aboriginal people adopt a European way of life and belief system, developed as early as 1815. At this time Governor Macquarie designated an area of land on Georges Head near Parramatta specifically for Aboriginal people to live on and farm. By the 1860s government reserves were becoming increasingly common and were seen as a way to control the movement of Indigenous people throughout NSW. Police were designated as ‘protectors’ of Aborigines and encouraged Indigenous people to settle on reserves.

Two areas of land in the Hunter Valley region were designated as reserves for Aboriginal people. One of these was Caroona Mission near Quirindi. The other was St Clair Mission, located in Carrowbrook between Muswellbrook and Singleton. St Clair was declared a mission in 1893. People whose traditional land encompassed the Hunter Valley region formed a significant proportion of the St Clair population. These people included the Wonnarua, the Awabakal, the Worimi and the Darinjang.

St Clair Mission was established by Reverend J S White and covered 60 acres. People living at St Clair farmed the land and also used traditional Indigenous means of subsistence. In 1905 St Clair came under the control of the Aborigines Inland Mission, an organisation founded by Baptist missionary Retta Dixon. Missionaries from various religious backgrounds used the St Clair Mission as a recruiting ground and a mechanism to influence into Indigenous communities in New South Wales. St Clair operated until 1918 when it was taken over by the Aborigines Protection Board and renamed Mount Olive Reserve. At his time, strict rules were introduced by Manager of the Mission and many people were removed from Mount Olive for not following the strictly imposed rules. By 1923, Mount Olive Reserve was closed to Aboriginal people.

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