I could write a great deal on this subject, there is always a great talk of our duty to the aboriginal. But I don’t think they are treated quite fairly or wisely.
Edith Bussell, 1907
In 1898 Edith Bussell, the second eldest daughter of Alfred and Ellen Bussell, established the Ellensbrook Farm Home for Aboriginal children. She appeared to have been influenced in this decision by Henry Prinsep, then Chief Protector of Aborigines, who was married to her cousin Josephine. The Aborigines Department contributed a daily subsidy for each child and assistance with educational equipment and clothing.
The primary purpose of the Ellensbrook Farm Home appears to have been to care for, educate and train the children for future work as domestics or labourers. The children provided Edith with much needed help with farm chores. She was also able to supplement her income from the dairy by offering accommodation at Ellensbrook to some of the first tourists to the south west.
From 1898 until its closure in 1917 eighteen Aboriginal people, mostly children from the north west of Western Australia, lived at Ellensbrook. Edith developed strong emotional attachments to some of them, and named Stanley Grey and Alma Barbara Taylor as beneficiaries in her will.
‘Miss Edie’ was fair in the care and treatment of those placed at Ellensbrook. Her letters show her concern for their welfare and the efforts she took to clothe, feed and educate the children. She expressed her concerns to the Chief Protector in 1907 that Aboriginal people were not always ‘treated fairly or wisely.’ But she was also part of a system that saw as justified the removal of Aboriginal children from their parents and homes and their training as domestics and labourers.