In the past, many people were separated from their families due to policies and practices which reflected the social attitudes of those times. As a result many people do not know their relatives, their own background, childhood or family history. The Department of Communities' records include historical family and personal information about Aboriginal people, former state wards, and British and Maltese child migrants.
Collaboration between the Department of Communities and the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries Aboriginal History Research Service (AHRS) to collect and preserve information assists Aboriginal people access their personal records and family history. This information has been gathered from records created by the former Department of Native Welfare and other government files, with some records going back to the early 1900s.
AHRS assists Aboriginal people with links to Western Australia to locate records relating to themselves and their ancestors.
The available information for former state wards and child migrants can be limited to entries in volumes of birth records or registers of prior state wards. However, in the majority of cases, the records have been preserved on micro-film, electronic imaged files or, more recently, physical files and virtual files.
Files are limited in the amount and type of information they hold. This is because the information which was recorded depended on the extent of contact with the person or the family. Sometimes records are incomplete, have pages missing or the writing has deteriorated and is unreadable, and some files have been destroyed. The Department has made every effort to preserve the remaining records.
Access to confidential historical information is restricted and provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 1992 apply. Applications for information can be made to the Department of Communities' Freedom of Information Unit.