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WA island indigenous prisoners remembered

The hundreds of indigenous men and boys who died while imprisoned on WA’s Rottnest Island will be commemorated in a bid towards healing and reconciling the past.

Elder Farley Garlett said on Tuesday the Whadjuk people would lead the WA government project, aimed at reconciling the history of indigenous captivity on the island off the coast of Fremantle.

“It is a responsibility we take up in the spirit of healing and moving forward,” he said.

Fellow elder Neville Collard said it was an important issue for indigenous people and believed it was time to work with the West Australian government to recognise the island’s history.

The Wadjemup Project, named after the Noongar name for Rottnest Island, will honour almost 400 indigenous men and boys who were buried there in unmarked graves between 1838 and 1931.

During those years, more than 4000 indigenous men and boys from across WA were sent to the island, imprisoned and used as forced labour.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt said there had been years of research and community consultation about the recognition of those prisoners.

“Ensuring the history of Aboriginal people on the island is recognised is imperative for reconciliation,” he said.

“It will begin the healing process of historic and intergenerational trauma from the colonisation of Aboriginal people.”

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