Robert Bropho

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Robert Bropho
Born (1930-02-09)9 February 1930
Toodyay, Western Australia
Died 24 October 2011(2011-10-24) (aged 81)
Perth, Western Australia
Nationality Australian
Spouse(s) Bella Bropho
Children Bella Bropho and Herb Bropho
Parent(s) Tommy Nyinda Bropho and Isobel Layland
Conviction(s) Five charges of unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under 13 years.
Criminal penalty Six years' imprisonment

Robert Charles Bropho (9 February 1930 – 24 October 2011) was a Ballardong Noongar Australian Aboriginal rights activist and convicted serial child sex offender from Perth, Western Australia. He was convicted of multiple cases of child sexual abuse. A judge described his crimes as the "lowest form of abuse imaginable".[1]

Bropho was leader of the Swan Valley Nyungah Community settlement for over 40 years until its closure in 2003. He organised the protest against redevelopment of the Swan Brewery, and was involved in the repatriation of Yagan's head in 1997. The "Court of Appeal dismissed Bropho's claim that he was wrongly convicted of the charges."[2] He died in October 2011 while serving a six-year jail term.


Bropho was born in a bush camp at the back of the Coorinjie wine saloon at Toodyay, Western Australia, on 9 February 1930. His mother was Isobel Layland (1900–1993), who was the daughter of Clara Layland, a Nyungah woman who lived in the swamps on the fringes of Perth. His father was Tommy Nyinda Bropho (1899–1972), who was born at Argyle Downs Station on the Durack pastoral lease and was taken from his mother under the 1905 Aborigines Act and sent to an orphanage on the Swan River at the age of 7. It is believed he was named after a policeman called Brophy, who escorted him from Argyle Downs to Wyndham. Tommy's sister Jessie Argyle was the subject of the book Shadow Lines by Steve Kinnane.[3]

During the 1930s Bropho, his parents and eleven siblings camped in a swamp at Swanbourne in the western suburbs of Perth.[4] After being forced to vacate their camp, Bropho's family relocated to Eden Hill in the late 1930s. His family spent the next decade living in humpies on the edge of John Forrest National Park and around the rubbish dumps and swamps and waterways of South Guildford, Caversham and Success Hill. They survived by working in the brick kilns, carting rubbish and sewerage and picking grapes.[5] Success Hill, on the edge of Bennett Brook, was a traditional campsite and was where the Irish journalist and amateur anthropologist Daisy Bates had gathered information for her books and articles on Nyungah culture.[6]

Early activism

On 11 September 1977 Bropho, his family and members of the Anderson, Mead and Kickett families drove 3,000 kilometres across the continent of Australia to petition the Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Viner for better housing conditions. On their return the Bropho family set up a public protest camp in the grounds of St Matthews Anglican Church in Guildford, a registered Aboriginal site.[7]

On 11 December 1978 Bropho and members of the Lockridge Camp set up a protest on Heirisson Island as the City of Perth prepared for its 150th anniversary. The protest was supported by the Kimberley Land Council, the Aboriginal Medical Service and Black Action.

In 1980 Bropho published Fringedweller, an account of the third world living conditions of homeless Aboriginal people.[7]

During the 1980s Bropho was involved in protests against mining and urban development, including Noonkanbah and Bennett Brook. In 1986 he won a Supreme Court injunction against plans by the State Energy Commission to excavate a sacred site at Bennett Brook.[8]

Old Swan Brewery protest

In January 1989 Bropho led a protest against the State Government's deal with Multiplex to develop on a sacred Aboriginal site[9] at the Old Swan Brewery on Mounts Bay Road. This protest received widespread media attention and gained support from the Construction, Mining and Energy Union (CMEU).[citation needed] In October 1989, despite winning a Supreme Court injunction, the protesters were arrested and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Carmen Lawrence approved the proposal.[citation needed]

In 1990 Bropho won the NAIDOC(National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee), Aboriginal of Year Award.[citation needed]

Swan Valley Nyungah Community

Bropho led the Swan Valley Nyungah Community from 1963 to 2003. The community was the subject of a coronial inquest and the Gordon Inquiry in 2001. The community was closed in 2003 by an Act of Parliament after widespread allegations of rape, sexual abuse, family violence and substance abuse.[citation needed]


In 2003, Bropho was charged with raping Lena Spratt in 1975. His niece, Susan Taylor, committed suicide in 2001. The court was told during the trial that Bropho had offered Taylor and other girls money for sex before her death.[10]

In 2005, four years after the girls came forward at Taylor's inquest, he was found guilty of three counts of indecently dealing with a young girl at the camp, and was jailed for 12 months.

In 2008, he was found guilty of five counts of carnal knowledge of a girl under 13, to whom he began giving money for sex when she was 11 years old at the height of the Swan Brewery legal battle in 1990. Bropho was sentenced to three years' jail. The sentence was later doubled after an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions.[11] Judge Peter Nisbet described his crimes as the "lowest form of abuse imaginable". Bropho told the court "I am the shadow of Martin Luther King and Gandhi."[12]


Bropho had a number of severe health problems when convicted and was listed as a terminally ill prisoner in 2010. He died from a heart attack on 24 October 2011 at Royal Perth Hospital, while still serving his jail term. His death was subject of a coronial inquiry as it occurred in custody.[13][14]

See also


  1. ^ Taylor, Paige (29 February 2008). "Jail for paedophile camp boss". The Australian.
  2. ^ Gibson, Roy (29 May 2009) "Robert Bropho's sentence doubled on child sex charges". The West Australian. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  3. ^ Kinnane, S., (2003) Shadowlines. Fremantle, Western Australia, Fremantle Arts Centre Press. ISBN 978-0-642-27654-4
  4. ^ Bropho, R., (1980) Fringedweller. Sydney, Alternative Publishing Co-operative. ISBN 0-909188-37-8. p 6.
  5. ^ Bropho, R., (1980) Fringedweller. Sydney, Alternative Publishing Co-operative. ISBN 0-909188-37-8. pp 21-28.
  6. ^ Bates, D., (2004) My Natives and I Carlisle, Western Australia, Hesperian Press. ISBN 0-85905-313-X.
  7. ^ a b Bropho, R., (1980) Fringedweller. Sydney, Alternative Publishing Co-operative. ISBN 0-909188-37-8. pp 60-88.
  8. ^ Bropho & Fringedwellers of the Swan Valley v Wilson & State Energy Commission (1986) Supreme Court of Western Australia, SC Lib No 6338 (Rowland J).
  9. ^ Report on an Investigation into Aboriginal Significance of Wetlands and Rivers in the Perth-Bunbury Region Rory O’Connor, Gary Quartermaine and Corrie BodneyLeederville, Western Australian Water Resources Council, 1989.3.3.8.
  10. ^ Taylor, Paige (1 March 2008) "Land campaign hid child sex abuse". The Australian. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  11. ^ Gibson, Roy (29 May 2009) "Robert Bropho's sentence doubled on child sex charges". The West Australian. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  12. ^ Taylor, Paige (27 February 2008) "Robert Bropho, 78, jailed for sex assault on girl". The Australian. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  13. ^ "Aboriginal elder Robert Bropho dies". Update 24 October 2011. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  14. ^ King, Barry Paul (19 July 2013). "Inquest into the death of Robert Charles Bropho" (pdf). Coroner's Court of Western Australia. Retrieved 28 August 2018.

Further reading

  • Clark, Tim (2006) Bropho jailed for indecently assaulting 13-year-old, National Indigenous Times, Issue 95, 21 January 2006.
  • Granath, Natasha (2005) Bropho guilty of sex abuse at Swan camp, The West Australian, 23 December 2005.
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