57 Murray Street was built for the Public Health and Medical Department following the 1911 Health Act. Campaigns run from here to improve public health ranged from better drainage and housing to containing epidemics including the 1919 Spanish Influenza, tuberculosis and polio.
It was a place of innovation when ideas were changing. Medical discoveries and dissections are reflected in its architecture. It’s also a place of unprecedented government interference in the lives of Aboriginal people.
Departments which directly governed Aboriginal people were located at 57 Murray Street from 1922 – 1945. The Department of Aborigines and Fisheries, later to become Department of Aborigines and then the Department of Native Affairs were located here including the offices of Auber Octavius (AO) Neville the Chief Protector of Aborigines. A powerful administrator, AO Neville introduced profound systematic influence through policies and practices including a centralised card system which recorded the minutiae of Aboriginal lives in personal and extensive files.
57 Murray Street was central to a network of control and surveillance which has impacted Aboriginal people across generations, dislocating communities from country and removing children from families.
Aboriginal missions and reserves are connected to 57 Murray Street including Carrolup, Moore River and New Norcia. At the same time, the Public Health and Medical Department also provided services to Aboriginal people and the broader community from 57 Murray Street until 1974 and more recently Lifeline ran it support centre from offices on the ground floor.
The National Trust of Australia (WA) took management of the site in 2010 and has an ongoing commitment to public education about the building’s far reaching cultural heritage values.