The orange Two Pence octagonal KGV head envelope with no ‘Postage’ under the head was introduced in 1920 was postmarked with the squared circle EUNDUNDA/ MY 4/ 21/ S.A (a relatively late use of this type of postmark), and it was addressed to The Superintendent, Koonibba Mission Station, West Coast, S.A. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).
The Koonibba mission, located in the vicinity of an Aboriginal ceremonial ground and traditional meeting place, was established in 1898 at a time when land use on the west coast of South Australia was shifting from pastoralism to agriculture. The ensuing division of land into smaller units resulted in a much greater level of intrusion into the ritual and economic practices of Aboriginal people in the area. The mission was initially established with the assistance of a lay farm manager there being no missionary to take up the position. Aboriginal people used the area as they would any other camp, maintaining their own cultural and social organisations. By the end of 1898 the mission had assumed the job of distributing government rations. Aboriginal people stayed for short periods undertaking farm work in exchange for rations.
The first Missionary, C A Wiebusch, arrived in 1901 and instituted strict principles whereby willingness to conform to missionary expectations was strongly rewarded. By the time of his arrival a number of buildings had already been constructed and a large area of land cleared and fired for agriculture. The first mission church at Koonibah was built by Thomas Richards, who was baptised on 18 October 1903, the day when the church was dedicated. A second church was built in 1907 and the original church was converted into the school for children removed from their mothers. A picture of such a group of Aboriginal school children is seen in Figure 2.
The differing social objectives of the missionaries and the Aboriginal elders were reflected in the organisation of the settlement. The area was divided into a settlement for the mission families and an Aboriginal camp, an arrangement that appears to been maintained until into the 1940s.
The Mission continued until Government took over its running in 1963. The Government stopped issuing rations and people remember this as a period of hardship for Mission residents. The 1967 referendum resulted in many of the controls over the lives of Aboriginal people being removed. There were increased problems with alcohol and people started to move from the Mission to the larger surrounding towns.
The place now consists of a small township, surrounding land and the area around the Koonibba Rockhole. The township comprises administration buildings, the old Mission church of the Redeemer, community housing, school, childcare centre, hall, health clinic, workshop and various other buildings. During the Mission times many Aboriginal families became long-term residents at the site, a fact evidenced by the streets now being named after prominent families.
Most of the existing structures are associated with the early phases of the mission and the evolution of the Koonibba Mission. The area is ca.850ha, off the Eyre Highway and 8km NNW of the township of Koonibba (25km north-west of Ceduna) as seen in Figure 3.