After visiting Wadjemup Lighthouse, our bus tour in the island ended when we returned to Thomson Bay Settlement area where most of the accommodations in the island can be found. When I checked the time, I knew that I still have more than an hour to explore other parts of the island, before boarding the ferry to return to Hillary’s Terminal. While walking around the settlement area, I found a small building and realized that it was the island museum.
Because of limited time to spare for the museum visit, I just quickly scan and browse the displays that can be found inside the museum. And honestly, with a short period of time, I learned a lot of things about Rottnest.
Rottnest Island Museum were able to show historical purpose of the land starting from the colonization period up to present time. It displays historical artifacts from being a prison island, a military defense station, an internment camp, reformatory camp to becoming an island playground. The museum opened my mind, that the beauty of the island is not the only thing it has but a history that deserves to be known by people whom visited the island to be able to appreciate not only its natural beauty but to be able to respect the people that made the island a livable one.
Rottnest … As Island Playground
Here are some artifacts that shows Rottnest Island as Holiday Paradise.
Because of the beauty of the island, the governor at that time were interested to have holiday residence in Rottnest which materialized in 1864. Historically, because Rottnest was used as prison island, holidaying here was exclusive only to governor, his family and guests. And their favorite pastimes were fishing, swimming and shooting.
Even though that a permit to land in the island is required, still the urge to visit the island for people were very strong, there were evidence that yachtmens and visitors camping in the island from 1890’s and earlier. Then, in 1902, the rules were relax and permission was granted to ferries to bring excursionist on Sundays. In 1907, more allowances to visitors were given, that’s why basic facilities were built for day trippers and campers.
Then, the decision to close the island as prison and convert Rottnest to holiday and recreation use was made in 1904 but the development was a slow one. In 1907, the plan for development was drafted and carried out.
Here’s other displays that showcases the island as recreation haven.
Rottnest … As Island Military Defense
Since the island was used as military defense for the Perth and Fremantle port, the significant role that contributed by the island happened when the 9.2 Inch Battery was installed in the middle of it which started in 1936. I had a chance to visit the Gun Room and Platform (Oliver Hill), as well as the Tunnel where the pumps, magazines and engine room can be found that support the defense. The Rottnest Island earned its title as the ‘gatekeeper’ as it was able to defend the port when Darwin and Broome was bombarded in 1942 during World War II.
Rottnest … As Prison Island
If I witnessed the island as haven for recreation and vacation activities nowadays, the island before serves different purpose for almost a century. While traveling across Northern Territory and Western Australia, I had learned a lot of things about the life that Aboriginals started to experience when the country became European colony. And Rottnest Island witnessed more, how cruel the life it was for the natives when colonizer arrived in the land and they were not spared for it.
There were worst times for the native prisoners. There were periods where number of prisoners increased too much which directly affects the social and health conditions in the prison. But even, these issues were raised as concerns in the council, no actions were done to alleviate or resolve the problem. This made the aboriginal prisoners lived in harsh conditions with inadequate of food and shelter that most of the time leads to lots of deaths.
But because of the plan to convert the island from being prison land to holiday location, the prisoners arriving to the island became lesser and lesser until the prison closed in 1931.
One thing that to take note as an important thing to learn while exploring the museum is the understanding of the significant role of aboriginals towards the development of Rottnest Island that we see today. It was considered that the aboriginals played a key role in the history of development of the Swan River Colony and the State of Western Australia. Reminiscing how beautiful the island at this time, why like me were able to appreciate and enjoy the island was mainly because of the natives whom sacrificed a lot for the island.
Wadjemup – Black Prison White Playground
There is a portion of the museum where it displays historical facts about the aboriginals and Wadjemup or Rottnest Island. Here, it shows the darkness history that natives experience while being prisoners in the island. It is a sad story that people should learn and moving forward help to make a better world for them to even at least respect their rights to live properly in their own land with their own culture to embrace.
“Greeting from Rottnest” by Sally Morgan
Rottnest … As Boys Reformatory Camp
Aside from being Aboriginal Prisons, Rottnest Island became a location for reformation of young boys that had conflict with the law. Before they were sent to the island, these juvenile sent to Perth Gaol together with adult prisoners. The created boys reformatory in the island with the objective to separate the young from adult prisoners to avoid bad influences from the old ones.
Rottnest … As Island Internment
There was a time that the island was used for confinement of the foreign nationals during World War I and II because they were alleged as ‘enemy aliens’. These were Germans, Austro-Hungarian, Croatians, Czechs, and Slovaks citizens that were detained in Internment Camp during first World War, while Italian internees detained during second World War.
Rottnest … As An Island of Limestone
The most ancient rocks underlies on the Swan Coastal Plain are 10 km below the surface and believed to be at least 280 million years old.
The oldest rocks that can be seen at Rottnest form a low cliff at Fairbridge Bluff, Salmon Bay. Here is a well-preserved fossil coral reef, known as the Rottnest Limestone, which stands nearly 3 m above modern sea level and overlies older dune limestones.
Most of the limestone present on Rottnest was formed from dunes of limesand, blown inland from beaches during Late Pleistocene time.
Laminar form of Staghorn Coral and Branching form of Staghorn Coral
Colony of Brain Coral and Pocillopora Reef near Parker Point
Tamal Limestone at Salmon Bay
Before I left the museum, I had a chance to see what Dugite look like, the only venominous snake that exist in Rottnest Island which displayed as a preserved one inside the glass.
1. Plan to visit Rottnest Island ? Please check latest information here.
2. Location : Rottnest Island, WA 6161, Australia
3. Directions to Rottnest Island :
a. Join Day Tours from Perth or
b. Go to Barrack Street Jetty Elizabeth Quay terminal and take Rottnest Express
c. Go to Hillarys Ferry Terminal and take Rottnest Fast Ferries boat
d. Go to Northport Rous Head Harbour or B Shed Victoria Quay in Fremantile and
take Rottnest Express ferry or
e. Go to B Shed Victoria Quay in Fremantile and take Sealink Rottnest Island ferry
4. Directions to Rottnest Island Museum
a. From Main Jetty of the island, turn right and walk along Digby Drive road
Official Website : Rottnest Island
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