The Habits of New Norcia


The Habits of New Norcia tells the story of the Benedictine Aboriginal Mission at New Norcia, in Western Australia. Now a popular tourist destination north of Perth, the Mission holds harsh memories for the former Aboriginal "inmates" who were placed there during the 1920s through to the 1960s in this "orphanage without orphans".

Aboriginal testimony in the film challenges the clean and sanitised history the Mission advertises in its brochures. The documentary provides damming evidence of the continuing violence of the Mission against its victims by deliberate omission of their experience in the New Norcia museum, guided tours, art gallery and promotions — an omission that represents a cruel and wounding cover-up. Noongar people who gave their testimonies for The Habits of New Norcia wanted to put the record about the New Norcia Benedictine mission straight.

Noongar testimony in this film challenges the story polished for tourism, with a vivid and intimate understanding of daily life in the 'orphanages'; what is was like to be taken from family by welfare officers and police, often with violence or deceit, and isolated in a place where "no one really wanted you"; to suffer the rigid controls, physical and emotional violence and threats of damnation; to be taken from so-called neglect and to be neglected.

Former child inmate, Alf Taylor, said, "I can tell now about New Norcia and not feel a pang of whether I, you know, I shouldn't do this because God might come down and send me to hell."



PG - Parental guidance

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Harvard citation

Korff, J 2020, The Habits of New Norcia, <>, retrieved 17 May 2021

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