Lake Condah Mission was established near Lake Condah on Gunditjmara Country. It is close to some of the eel traps and within sight of Budj Bim (Mt Eccles).
To learn more about Aboriginal stations check out our history timeline entry Creation of reserve system.
Lake Condah mission was established by Church of England missionaries in 1867. It sat on 2000 acres, 15 of which were under cultivation and was made up of a missionary cottage and kitchen, a schoolhouse, children's dormitory and store. A church was built in 1883 but was demolished in 1957.
Life on Lake Condah was difficult, the manager was severe and strict, refusing to support residents to work on neighbouring farms (this upset both the residents and the local farmers), refusing requests for family members to move on to the mission and withholding rations – providing them as a reward instead. Residents were to take part in morning and evening prayers as well as attend two church services every Sunday alongside Sunday school in the afternoon. Lake Condah was also used to house children that were removed from their families.
Lake Condah Aboriginal Station. Image source: State Library Victoria.
Lake Condah Mission closed as a result of the 1886 Aborigines Protection Act that stated all those that were considered to be ‘half-caste’ were removed from the missions and reserves. After the implementation of this act, numbers at Lake Condah declined as residents were removed. Many of those who were removed from the mission chose to live nearby so that they could visit their family that still lived on the mission. You can read ore about the protection legislation in our history timeline entry "Protection" legislation introduced in Victoria.
Lake Condah operated for just over 50 years before it was officially shut down in 1919, those who remained were relocated to other missions and reserves.
Many Aboriginal people remained in the area after the mission’s closure and they petitioned to have the mission be handed over to them as a farming co-operative. This request was denied by the government, instead, the land was given to the Soldier Settlement Scheme in the 1940s.
In the 1950’s the government destroyed the mission in a further attempt to assimilate the Gunditjmara people but they continued to live in the area until finally in 1987 the lands of the mission were handed back to the Gunditjmara people.