Aurukun, Queensland

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Aurukun is located in Queensland
Location in Queensland
Coordinates 13°21′23″S 141°43′37″E / 13.35639°S 141.72694°E / -13.35639; 141.72694Coordinates: 13°21′23″S 141°43′37″E / 13.35639°S 141.72694°E / -13.35639; 141.72694
Population 1,269 (2016 census)[1]
Postcode(s) 4892
  • 2,461 km (1,529 mi) NW of Brisbane
  • 802 km (498 mi) NW of Cairns
  • 174 km (108 mi) S of Weipa
LGA(s) Shire of Aurukun
State electorate(s) Cook
Federal Division(s) Leichhardt

Aurukun /ærəˈkn/[2] is a town and locality in the Shire of Aurukun in Far North Queensland, Australia.[3][4] It is an Indigenous community.


Aurukun situated approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) south of Weipa. The town faces west to the Gulf of Carpentaria, and during the wet season, roads are impassable.

The area is rich in bauxite.


At the 2016 census, Aurukun had a population of 1,269, including 1,147 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,[1] up from a total population of 1,043 in 2006.[5] 95.8% of people were born in Australia. 10.6% of people only spoke English at home. Other languages spoken at home included Cape York Peninsula Languages 61.6% and Wik Mungkan 14.7%. The most common responses for religion were Uniting Church 44.3%, No Religion 29.3% and Presbyterian and Reformed 11.0%.[1]

Aurukun has a plethora of clan and tribal names. There are some 50 to 60 families from five major clan groups,[6] which are split into two factions — the "top end" and "bottom end".[7] Violent conflict between the two groups creates problems in the community on a regular basis.


The first recorded contact between Europeans and Aboriginals was near Aurukun on the Janszoon voyage of 1605–06.[8]

Aurukun sawmill, ~1950

The Aurukun Mission (known then as the Archer River Mission Station) was established on 4 August 1904 for the Presbyterian Church of Australia by the Reverend Arthur and Mrs Mary Richter, two Moravian missionaries and managed under the provisions of the Queensland Aborigines Act. (Several of the current residents were taught by these missionaries and remember them well.) Aboriginal people were relocated from a large surrounding area, many against their will, to the mission settlement. Aurukun was "ruled" for 40 years by Reverend William Mackenzie - as the missions Chief Protector for the Aboriginal Protection Board. The town also had a sawmill, butcher and bakery.[9] Today[when?] there is only a general store.

Aurukun Post Office opened on 1 July 1972.[10] In 1978, the Queensland government decided to take over control of both the Aurukun and Mornington Island Reserves. Both communities were against this and protested seeking the help of the Federal government.

After lengthy negotiations, legislation for self-management of the two reserves was introduced into federal parliament and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self Management) Act was passed on 7 April 1978.

Further negotiations took place between State and Federal Ministers and on 22 May 1978, the Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Act came into force giving a 50-year lease to the Shire of Aurukun to be trustee for the land within the boundaries. Aurukun and Mornington Shire remain the only Aboriginal communities in Queensland constituted as local authorities.

With the coming of the missionaries, children were confined to dormitories to isolate them from the influence of their people. However, many people remained outside the mission up until the 1950s, ensuring the culture remained strong.

In 1975, the community was placed under direct State government control. In 1978, the Aurukun people were given a 50-year lease on their land under the administration of the shire clerk and an elected Aboriginal Council.

Following the Wik case the land has reverted to Native Title held by the Wik people. The focal area of the Wik lies between the Archer and Edward Rivers of Western Cape York Peninsula and inland to Coen. Most Wik people still live in this triangle.

In 2007, nine Aurukun males received probation and other light sentences after being found guilty of raping a ten-year-old girl.[11][12] The mild sentences received international condemnation[13] and were the catalyst for a review of sexual abuse sentencing in Queensland Indigenous communities.[14]

In March 2008, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that standards of justice, education and child safety had collapsed in Aurukun,[15] and that the local community justice group had called for children to be removed from the town for their own safety and wellbeing.[16]


Aurukun has a primary school which is operated by Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy (CYAAA) in a unique partnership with Education Queensland. The school opened on 29 January 1974 and caters for students from pre-prep to year 7. The school remains the only school in Aurukun. [17] [18]Classroom instruction is dedicated to teaching mainstream curriculum in English literacy and numeracy using Direct Instruction.[19] The Direct Instruction method focuses on individual student outcomes, repetition and weekly tests with the aim to ensure students are mastering literacy and numeracy basics.[20] Students are also taught a comprehensive Indigenous culture and language program which aims to give children fluency in their own cultures and enjoy the best of both worlds. The school provides an extended school day which involves artistic, musical and sports programs (in partnership with national bodies) which aims to give children increased confidence and socially prepare them for moving between homelands, work and study in the wider world.

In 2008, one in three children were not enrolled for primary school.[21] Following welfare reform trials introduced in July 2008, school attendance had risen from an average of 37 per cent to 63 per cent in September 2009.[22]

Following incidents where teachers and the principal were threatened, rocks were thrown at their housing, and children as young as six tried to steal a car, all teachers were evacuated from the school in May 2016.[23] As a result, the school was closed for six weeks with only distance education programs being continued.[24] The incidents have drawn the effectiveness of the Direct Instruction method into question, and as of July 2016 the Queensland Government is implementing an Australian curriculum into the school alongside Direct Instruction.[25]



The Aurukun Primary Health Care Centre is run by Apunipima Cape York Health Council, a community controlled Aboriginal Medical Service. Apunipima doctors conduct clinics 5 days each week, with other visiting specialists regularly conducting outreach clinics. Emergencies are flown to Cairns by the RFDS. The clinic is open 8-5 365 days a year, with nurses covering after hours for emergencies.[citation needed]

There is now no longer a veterinary presence at Aurukun, with Dr Michael Hindmarsh leaving the "Aurukun Dog Program" late 2007.


Electricity is supplied by Ergon (formerly FNQEB) through diesel generators supplying power 24 hours a day. Station stability is excellent, typically better than grid supplied sites.

The Water supply for Aurukun is drawn from five bores located across the town.[26] From October 2014, fluoride was introduced to the Aurukun water supply, following public consultation.[27]

A sewer system is in place in the community. In 2011 and 2012, the Aurukun water and sewerage services were upgraded extensively, including to replace water mains, upgrade bore facilities and install new sewerage lines.[28]

In 2007, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that few people in Aurukun had phones.[29] The community also has no ADSL broadband service and receives all communications services via radio transmission towers.[30]


Aurukun is one of the most closely monitored communities in Australia. In mid-2008 34 security cameras were installed throughout the community after consultation with the Aurukun Shire Council. The cameras cover almost all areas of the township and are constantly monitored from Cairns. The cameras cost $12,000 a month to operate, which is a significant reduction from the $60,000 a month that was previously paid to a private security company to patrol the community.[31]

Arts and recreation

The Wik and Kugu Art Centre in Aukurun opened in 1987,[32] making it the oldest established art centre on Cape York Peninsula.[33] The Centre has about 30 members, and artists from the Centre participate in competitions and exhibitions worldwide.[34] Aurukun artists are famous for their sculptures, which traditionally were carved from soft woods for use in ceremony.[33]

The Aurukun Shire Council operate the Wik Mungkan Indigenous Knowledge Centre at 39 Kang Kang Road.[35]

Aurukun is home to a community swimming pool,[36] and a new large basketball hall / recreational centre. There are outdoor basketball courts and a rugby field. Aurukun participates in football carnivals and softball with other communities in the Cape region every couple of months.

Bushwalking, fishing and some camping are the dominant pursuits for tourists visiting. Visitors are required to apply for a permit from the Aurukun Shire Council prior to entering the community.

Possum Creek is a swimming hole 30 kilometres (19 mi) West of the town. Sandy Creek is a swimming hole 40 kilometres (25 mi) from Possum Creek. Emu Creek is a 4wd track 37 kilometres (23 mi) to the old road turn off and then 80 kilometres (50 mi) of Bush track. Aurukun landing is 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) from town and provides access to Archer River (crocodiles present). Umban is a 4wd camping ground just under 2 hrs drive.

Alcohol ban

In 1978 the community was without a canteen and most of the locals wanted it to stay that way but the Queensland government pushed for one. It coincided with the imposition of a local council to open up the land to mining hitherto opposed by the community. When social problems ensued the government used it as justification for intervention.[37]

However, by 2009 Aurukun Council introduced an alcohol management plan to the community which completely banned alcohol.[38][39] A previous alcohol management plan had restricted drinking at the Tavern to three hours each day.[40] Aurukun is one of 19 communities across Queensland with alcohol restrictions in place.[41] The Aurukun alcohol ban has been unable to rid the community of alcohol completely, and has spurred some black-market "sly-grogging".[42]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Aurukun (State Suburb)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  2. ^ Macquarie Dictionary, Fourth Edition (2005). Melbourne, The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd. ISBN 1-876429-14-3
  3. ^ "Aurukun - town (entry 1026)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  4. ^ "Aurukun - locality (entry 41768)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  5. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics (25 October 2007). "Aurukun (Urban Centre/Locality)". 2006 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 3 January 2008.
  6. ^ Aurukun Shire Council (20 November 2013), Aurukun Community Safety Plan November 2013 – December 2014 (PDF), Aurukun Shire Council, archived from the original (PDF) on 4 February 2014
  7. ^ Carter, Allan John (1992), Juvenile Offending in Aurukun: A Response and Overview (PDF), Australian Government Australian Institute of Criminology, archived from the original (PDF) on 12 February 2014
  8. ^ "Return to Aurukun: Chronology" (PDF). Australian Broadcasting Commission. 2011.
  9. ^ Raphael Minder (24 March 2008). "Can Chalco show the way in deal with Aborigines?". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  10. ^ Premier Postal History. "Post Office List". Premier Postal Auctions. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
  11. ^ "Aurukun gang rape case prosecutor quits". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 4 January 2008.
  12. ^ Storr, Caithleen (2009), "The Aurukun rape case, Indigenous sentencing and the normalisation of disadvantage", Australian Indigenous Law Review, 13 (1)
  13. ^ Lauder, Simon (13 December 2007). "Aurukun rape shows up 200yrs of dreadful policies: Beattie". ABC News. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  14. ^ "Rape case ruling shocks Australia". BBC News. 10 December 2007. Archived from the original on 12 December 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2008.
  15. ^ van Tiggelen, John (14 March 2008). "'We need to get The children out of here'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media.
  16. ^ Van Tiggelen, John (14 March 2008). "'Remove children' plea at Aurukun". The Age. Archived from the original on 14 January 2018. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  17. ^ "Aurukun State School". Education Queensland. 1 August 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  18. ^ "Aukurun State School Annural Report 2016" (PDF). Education Queensland. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  19. ^ Carney, Matthew (27 April 2011). "Return to Aurukun". Four Corners. Australian Broadcasting Commission.
  20. ^ "Great results from Cape York primary school". Australian Broadcasting Commission. 11 August 2012. Archived from the original on 5 July 2015.
  21. ^ Van Tiggelen, John (14 March 2008). "'Remove children' plea at Aurukun". The Age. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 15 July 2014.
  22. ^ Guest, Annie (30 September 2009). "Dispute over improved school attendance". Australian Broadcasting Commission. Archived from the original on 5 July 2015.
  23. ^ "Aurukun teachers evacuated again over safety concerns". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 26 May 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  24. ^ "Aurukun troublemakers controlling Queensland Government 'like puppeteers'". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 26 May 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  25. ^ Gregory, Katherine (6 July 2016). "Controversial 'direct instruction' education at Aurukun school to change". Australian Broadcasting Commission.
  26. ^ Aurukun Shire Council (2013), Aurukun Shire Council Annual Report 2012/2013 (PDF), Aurukun Shire Council, p. 18, archived from the original (PDF) on 4 February 2014
  27. ^ Bateman, Daniel (5 October 2014). "Aurukun to introduce fluoride to its water supply". The Cairns Post. News Corp.
  28. ^ Aurukun infrastructure works: Project profile, CivilTeam Engineering, archived from the original on 12 March 2015
  29. ^ Martin, Philip (7 December 2007). "Reform perhaps, but basics first". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 30 June 2015.
  30. ^ "Aurukun lobbies Government to fix poor telecommunications" (Press release). Aurukun Shire Council. Archived from the original on 30 June 2015. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
  31. ^ Murphy, Padraic (21 August 2008). "Aurukun under constant surveillance". The Australian. News Limited.
  32. ^ Wik and Kugu Art Centre – Aurukun, archived from the original on 5 July 2015
  33. ^ a b Cape York Peninsula, Aboriginal Art Online, 2012, archived from the original on 5 February 2015
  34. ^ Wik and Kugu Arts and Crafts Centre (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 4 February 2014
  35. ^ "Aurukun (Wik Mungkan Indigenous Knowledge Centre)". Public Libraries Connect. State Library of Queensland. 8 June 2017. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  36. ^ Nancarrow, Kirsty; Ryan, Brad (21 July 2011). "Vandalism closes Aurukun pool". Australian Broadcasting Commission. Archived from the original on 5 July 2015.
  37. ^ Carney, Matthew (2 May 2011). "Return to Aurukun". Four Corners. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  38. ^ Koch, Tony (13 April 2011). "Benefits of alcohol management plan seen in Wik community". The Australian. News Limited.
  39. ^ Hall, Miriam (10 September 2012). "Indigenous mayor wants to keep alcohol ban". Australian Broadcasting Commission.
  40. ^ Skelton, Russell (22 December 2007). "Tortured history of violence". The Age. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 30 June 2015.
  41. ^ Marek, Heidi (9 April 2015). "Drugs and alcohol seized – Aurukun" (Press release). Queensland Police. Archived from the original on 30 June 2015.
  42. ^ McKenna, Michael (1 July 2014). "Alcohol-fuelled violence led support staff to flee Aurukun". The Australian. News Limited.

External links

  • Aurukun Shire Council
  • Map of the Aurukun Shire
  • "aurukun-aboriginal-shire-council". Queensland Places. Centre for the Government of Queensland, University of Queensland.
  • Aurukun Community History
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