European colonists employed significant numbers of Aboriginal children in a diverse range of occupations in the Moreton Bay District after 1842. The Queensland government, however, did not pass legislation controlling this employment until 1902. During this unregulated period, working Aboriginal children were very susceptible to abuse because they were members of a dispossessed indigenous population and because of their youthfulness. Large numbers of employed Aboriginal children experienced both psychological and physical trauma. Many were kidnapped and removed from their traditional localities, abused and did not receive remuneration for their labour. During this unregulated period, the state government instituted legislation to control the employment of European state children and this article considers whether similar legislation relating to working Aboriginal children would have reduced cases of mistreatment and abuse. It concludes that further legislation in this period would not have helped working Aboriginal children because European officials would probably have been reluctant to invoke these laws.