Sunday Island Mission (1899-1962)

Prepared by: 
Regina Ganter
Also known as: 
Hadley, Lock, AIM

At the tip of the peninsula on Sunday Island (Iwanyi) Sydney Hadley and Harry Hunter conducted a trepang and pearling station relying on Aboriginal labour and indigenous knowledge of the reefs. They erected this into a private mission in 1899 and Hadley reported running a school with over 20 children. The Chief Protector began to look on this mission more favourably than on the German Catholic mission at Beagle Bay.

Hadley had come to Sunday Island from Forrest River Mission ‘having been injured in one of the attacks on the mission’. 1 St. Michael of All Angels mission at Forrest River north of Wyndham was a short-lived Anglican mission attempt in 1896-97. At Sunday Island Hadley was given tenure of the whole island ‘at will’ by the Chief Protector. He experimented with plantation style crops including coffee, cotton, rubber and bananas, but all failed. 2

From 1903 the Sunday Island mission received a government subsidy. In 1904, when Daisy Bates circulated a questionnaire to postmasters, station owners, settlers and police officers, about indigenous languages and customs, both Syd Hadley and the schoolteacher W. H. Bird filled out these workbooks with regard to the Bard language and people on Sunday Island.3 There is no record of the Beagle Bay missionaries being asked to do so, and Fr. Bischofs who was continuing the Trappist language work there, only arrived in 1905.


The Roth royal commission in 1905 reported that there were 90 permanent residents at Sunday Island and 23 children at school. The Chief Protector subsidised the mission with £100 per annum, averaging ‘a little over 17s. 8d. per head per annum.’

Your Commissioner strongly recommends the application of Mr. Hadley, another fine example of a man who is sacrificing self on behalf of others, for an increase of subsidy to £200 in order to pay the services of a school teacher and assistant generally. This would enable the mission to probably obtain a married couple, the help and presence of a European woman being very desirable.

Roth also recommended to declare a marine reserve closed to pearl-shellers and trepangers (other than Hadley himself and his divers, presumably) around the ‘whole of Sunday Island and portion of the western mainland coast line at Swan Point and Cygnet-Bay.’ This recommendation clearly served Hadley’s economic interest, as the competition for pearling grounds among the pearlers was keen. Roth also noted that the financial deficiencies of the mission were ‘made up out of Mr. Hadley's private purse’, though he omitted to mention that this purse was supplied by the work of Aboriginal men.

John Byrne, sergeant at Broome gave evidence that Hadley was 'a missionary at Sunday Island' and was 'a very honourable man.'4 A year later the Anglican church was asked to take over Sunday Island mission. Hadley had encouraged the continuation of traditional practices and


was said to have been initiated into the tribe and to have been given three wives. Upon discovery of this Prinsep cancelled Hadley's tenure over the island and sent Ormerod to take charge of the mission.


White men like Hadley and Hunter were presumed more reliable overseers of Aboriginal people than any non-white person, such as Thomas Puertollano at Lombadina. Durack writes that Hadley was convicted of cohabiting with Aboriginal women, but according to Chief Protector Neville in 1917 it was Harry Hunter who was convicted and imprisoned in 1910.5 In fact both were illegally cohabiting with Aboriginal women.


Hunter was taken to court and lost his right to supply rations in September 1910, and as a result the Pallottines were asked instead to take on Lombadina.6 Hadley for his part contended the charge and was reinstated at Sunday Island which he shared with 120 Aboriginal people when Father Droste was visiting in 1911.7


In 1912 the Pender Bay constable was again investigating Hunter:


1.2.1912 made inquiries re Hunters half-caste children, arrived Sunday Island, interviewed native named IkyMo and his woman Diane alias Annie, trying to get witnesses, Mr Peebles the school master from Sunday Island

16. 2. 12 [at Beagle Bay] Took statements from Gipsy and Chong re Hunters half-caste children.8


14.3.1912 obtained statements from the following native women re Henry Hunter of Boolgin having connections with a native girl at Lombadina mission natives camps on the 11th February 1912, Nimeroe alias Jack Jack, Long alias Alice, Addermer alias Minnie, Carergood alias Jottie, Googubul alias Kulchi9


During the war the pearl-shell market collapsed and Hadley fared badly and sent many of his Aboriginal workers back to their own country on the eastern side of the peninsula. He sold the mission to the Australian Aborigines Mission and left in December 1923, after about 25 on the island. 10


The AIM conducted the mission until 1962 with a brief interlude at Wotjulum on the peninsula between Yampi Passage and Cone Bay, from 1934-35, a site suggested by Neville and disliked by the residents because of its proximity to Cockatoo Island.11 This mainland lease of 122,400 acres was cancelled in February 1937. The AIM instituted a strict discipline and many residents left Sunday Island mission. In the face of dwindling numbers the mission remained operational until 1962.12


In 1964, after a destructive cyclone crossed the peninsula, Bishop Jobst claimed that the Pallottines had ‘taken over’ Sunday Island.13 He reported that the UAM was transferring all Aboriginal people who were not bedridden or close to death to Derby, but many wanted to return to Sunday Island and ten old age pensioners had already arrived at Lombadina on the mission boat wanting to go home. Sandy Paddy at Beagle Bay remembered:


I helped build six houses for the old people from Sunday Island. Bishop Jobst sent Fr Kriener to get them. Bishop Jobst asked the Government for the money for the houses. The people were glad to come. They were happy here. They died here.14


The Sunday Island mission was formally closed in 1965, and in 1972 the Iwai people formed a community at One Arm Point.15


3 Katie Glaskin ‘Claim, Culture and Effect: property relations and the native title process ’ in Benjamin Smith and Frances Morphy (eds.) The Social Effects of Native Title: Recognition, Translation, Coexistence, ANU E-Press 2007:79-90. [ Daisy Bates MS 365 NLA ]

4 Sunday Island Mission School (1899 - 1965) Find and Connect Guide to Institutions (pages 130-131)

5 CPA Neville to Colonial Secretary, 11 October 1917, in Zucker:76.

6 Nailon:41.

7 Nailon:41.

8 Pender Bay - journal of Constable Johnston (902) 1.2.1912 to 28.2.1912 ITEM-1912/2302

9 Pender Bay - Journal of Constable Johnston (902) 1.3.1912 to 31.3.1912 ITEM-1912/2621 SROWA

11 Glaskin

12 Katie Glaskin ‘Claim, Culture and Effect: property relations and the native title process ’ in Benjamin Smith and Frances Morphy (eds.) The Social Effects of Native Title: Recognition, Translation, Coexistence, ANU E-Press 2007:79-90.

13 Letter from Bishop in Broome to Raible, 30 July 1964 Raible, Otto, ep (Nachlass)

14 Sandy Paddy p.155 this is your place

15 Glaskin