Port Hedland’s Lock Hospital and Burial Ground, which contains the only standing remains of a lock hospital in Western Australia, today joins the State Register of Heritage Places.
The Lock Hospital has already been recognised as an important site under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972.
Lock hospitals were established to manage the spread and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases among Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people said to have the non-specific diagnosis of venereal disease, were forcibly removed from country and transported to the hospital, where they were held against their will and in poor conditions.
Aboriginal people were incarcerated at the Port Hedland Lock Hospital from 1919 to the 1930s.
The introduction by European settlers of infectious diseases such as leprosy and venereal diseases had a catastrophic effect on Aboriginal people.
Inclusion of this site on the Register of Heritage Places recognises the pain and suffering caused by the social and medical policies of previous generations, the consequences of which continue to be felt deeply by Aboriginal communities today.
On January 9, 2019 a Path of Pain commemorative event was held at Carnarvon’s One Mile Jetty to acknowledge the original Lock Hospitals located on Bernier and Dorre islands. Please view the media statement here.
As stated by Heritage Minister David Templeman:
“The Port Hedland Lock Hospital represents a terrible chapter in Western Australia’s past.
“The hospital and on-site burial ground offer an important insight into the medical and social treatment of Aboriginal people in the Pilbara.
“The place, which highlights the travesties involved with improper medical incarceration, will now be protected to educate future generations.”
As stated by Pilbara MLA Kevin Michel:
“Acknowledging the past is an important step in the healing process, which is why I am so glad to see the Port Hedland Lock Hospital included in the State Register of Heritage Places.
“I know that many local Aboriginal people will have links to this place and remember the stories that have passed down about its history.”