The West

Agreement on Rottnest burial site
Agreement on Rottnest burial site

Agreement has been reached with Aboriginal groups around WA over the future of Rottnest Island grounds where at least 370 Aboriginal men are buried.

A concept plan for the burial grounds, which are within the main Thomson Bay settlement, has been finalised.

It includes 400 sculptures commissioned from Aboriginal artists around WA, a viewing terrace, reflection spaces and an interpretive entry structure.

Rottnest Island Authority chairman John Driscoll said a full-time member of staff had been assigned to begin implementing the plan and finding the necessary funding.

"I think it is important for Rottnest that we progress this plan," he said. "We have had lengthy discussions with Aboriginal groups from all over the State and the end result should create something special."

The burial grounds are adjacent to the Rottnest Quod, the former Aboriginal jail that is now used for holiday accommodation.

Aboriginal men and boys from tribes all over WA were sent to Rottnest because authorities were worried about them "fretting and dying" on the mainland.

About 370 prisoners died in the jail between 1838 and 1931, mostly from disease but at least five were hanged.

In 2012, an agreement was reached with the new operator of the Rottnest Lodge, John Spence's Karma Royal Group, to stop using the Quod for accommodation. In exchange, Karma would be given land behind the Quod to build new units.

Negotiations over the exchange have been protracted but Mr Driscoll said he expected details to be finalised shortly.

At the time of the agreement, former chairman Laurie O'Meara and Mr Spence said they were "uncomfortable" having prison cells as tourist accommodation.

Mr Driscoll said that once the Quod ceased to be used as accommodation, it could be incorporated in the plans for the burial grounds. But this would only be done after consultations with a wide range of Aboriginal people.

The West Australian

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