An important part of Aboriginal history in the Kimberley will be recognised this weekend as part of NAIDOC Week celebrations, with a memorial service on July 14 at the Bungarun cemetery.
Corrective Services Minister Margaret Quirk said the cemetery is the burial place of many people, mainly aboriginal, who were sent to Bungarun Leprosarium for treatment.
“The memorial service is an opportunity for the community to recognise that the area holds great significance for families from all over the Kimberley whose relatives didn’t return to their communities,” Ms Quirk said.
The Bungarun Leprosarium, 25km from Derby, was opened from 1936 to 1986. It had a hospital, huts for patients, houses for staff, kitchen, dining room and stores. By 1940, the leprosarium held 178 residents.
It is now an Aboriginal heritage site where prisoners from the Bungarun work camp have worked to restore, preserve and maintain it for future generations.
“This work is important on two levels,” the Minister said.
“It is a way for the work camp prisoners to repay their debt to society through community work, while at the same time connecting to their own heritage.
“Many of the prisoners have ancestors buried at the cemetery, so for them the work is about honouring and respecting their elders.
“Before this restoration work started, the cemetery was completely overgrown - you couldn’t even see the tombstones.
“I congratulate the staff and prisoners for their hard work and commitment to the project - it has made an amazing visual difference.”
Father Paul Boyers from the Holy Rosary Catholic Church will conduct the memorial service from 11am to 12.30pm. All are welcome.
Kimberley MLA Carol Martin will give the memorial address, after which flowers and a wreath will be laid.
A memorial attendant’s book, donated to the Bungarun Museum, will be placed at the entrance of the cemetery and visitors will be encouraged to sign it..
Light refreshments for visitors will be provided at the museum after the memorial service.
Minister's office - 9213 7000