In 1947, the Bamaga township was moved to its present site as a result of a need by the founding people for a larger supply of fresh water. The people of Bamaga were assisted to settle at Ichirru after initially moving from Saibai Island. After Saibai Island was devastated by a tidal wave, Saibai Islanders, led by a man named Bamaga, moved to Muttee Heads on Cape York.
They lived at Muttee Head until the present location at Bamaga by the Department of Native Affairs was properly established. With local industries and an airport (on Injinoo traditional land) Bamaga became the administrative centre for the Northern Peninsula Area which was made up of the three Aboriginal communities of Injinoo, Umagico and New Mapoon, and the Islander communities of Seisia and Bamaga. All five are DOGIT - communities with their own community councils
As a result of this relocation, some 20 years later, another community "New Mapoon" was also established. This community being one of the existing five communities. This community was populated by persons from "Old Mapoon" Community located some two hours north by road from the township of Weipa. There has been regular movement between these "Mapoon" communities due to ancestral ties.
The entire area surrounding the Bamaga township however has vast history from frontier exploration by Edmund Kennedy and his tracker Jackey Jackey to more recent times of World War II. The countryside has numerous aircraft wrecks and other wartime memorabilia in-situ.
All communities except Bamaga and New Mapoon are located on the coastline and the current residents still hold a close affiliation with the sea. There has been an incessant influence of islanders into each community with current proportions being approximately 75% Islander and 20% Aboriginal.
The Bamaga township and surrounding communities are located north of the Jardine River which supplies the town water. The Jardine River, during the wet season, creates the effect of forming an island of all land north of the river.
Bamaga has an Islander population of approximately 700 people with a further 300 temporary non-islander residents. The Community boasts reticulated town water, which is pumped from the Jardine River. A new water treatment plant has been constructed recently and Bamaga is fully sewered.
All of Bamaga's internal and main roads are sealed. The major industry is tourism mainly during the drier months of the year. This runs from May - October (The Developmental Road is impassable during the wet season and the ferry across the Jardine River does not operate).
The Community owns Resort Bamaga, an accommodation house for the corporate visitor. There is some cattle production, small business retailing and a concrete batching plant. Bamaga Island Council is the biggest employer with 200 staff. Modern supermarkets can be found at Seisia and Umagico. There is a general merchandise/clothing store, a video store, Post Office, Service Station/workshop, snack bar, pub and bakery in Bamaga as well as an Anglican Church store and thrift shop.
Bamaga is the location of the Northern Peninusula Area State College. It is made up out of the Bamaga P-6 Campus and Bamaga 7-12 Campus within the Bamaga township and the P-5 Campus which is located in the Injinoo Community.
The standard of schooling is reflective to any found amongst most Aboriginal/Islander communities however in recent years standards have improved. There are now 50+ teachers and teacher aides through all schools.
The Bamaga and New Mapoon Communities have established Child Care Centres for early childhood schooling.
In recent times, the Cape York Campus of T.A.F.E was established at Bamaga. The campus provides a wide range of tutorial courses from seamanship to practically any other course. The campus is a branch of the Far North College of T.A.F.E. situated at Cairns.
Powercards are an innovative idea for electricity supply to all residences in the Bamaga area. These are similar to phonecards and are inserted into the powerboards at each residence. The cards are available only in AU$20.00 amounts. There are therefore no issue of power bills as responsibility remains with each household to maintain power by the use of the cards.
The quality of the town drinking water has improved of late with the introduction of new community reservoirs and the newly completed water treatment plant by Sunwater. The town water is sourced from the Jardine River supply.
Sewerage for all communities except Seisia is by underground sewer. Seisia is proposing to remove all septics in favour of sewer in the coming budgets. Garbage collection is twice weekly (Mon-Thur) and should this not suffice, the local waste depot is only 2 kilometres away from the police establishment.
The sporting facilities at Bamaga have undergone a recent facelift and there is now an established Olympic Basketball courts, Volleyball courts & Tennis courts. Football has again emerged as a strong sport in the region and councils have constructed night lighting of the fields for cooler night games. There are five organised football teams in the communities.
To assist sporting ventures in the region, a newly constructed Gymnasium at the Basketball courts will assist with health and training.
There are also established Darts; Pool; Fishing and of course, Hash House Harriers running clubs.
The adventure of a 4WD trip to Bamaga through very rugged terrain is the main catalyst for tourist activity by road. There are many sights, towns and other points of interest during the journey. Tourist activities whilst at Bamaga include Sight-seeing tours to Thursday Island, Guided fishing and pig hunting tours; birdwatching in the nearby Lockerbie Scrub rainforest; visiting World War II aircraft wrecks in the Bamaga area and also at Horn Island (near Thursday Island) and, of course, the obligatory photo shoot at the “Tip of Australia”. The area is shrouded in history with culture and war memorabilia. An extended stay is usually had once adapting to the “time does not matter” days.
Muttee Heads is a fishing/camping spot with access to Jardine River mouth and is 30 km west on Cairns road.
Pajinka Wilderness Lodge is 35 km north on Pajinka Road is the most Northerly part of Australia.
Twin Falls/Fruit Bat Falls is 65 km south on the Peninsula Developmental Road to Cairns and a great swimming spot.
Punsand Bay Resort is a great camping spot some 25 km north.
Somerset is 35 km north of Bamaga and the historic ruins of the Somerset Homestead. It is a good camping area and day trip for barbecue.
The Bamaga Hospital has an establishment of three medical officers and nine nursing officers who can capably handle most cases presented. Due to shortages in the workforce however, not all positions are able to be filled. If you are a Doctor or a Nurse interested in working at the Hospital, please contact work for us (www.health.qld.gov.au/workforus/) Emergency cases are assessed and patients are either helivaced to Thursday Island Hospital by Reef Helicopters or by RFDS to Cairns.
There is a visiting dentist on a weekly visit from the Thursday Island Hospital with appointments at the local hospital.
The Bamaga and surrounding communities are also serviced by the Queensland Ambulance Service. The Q.A.S. at Bamaga has two permanent officers which are of paramedic standard and have one of the most modern ambulance in use in Queensland today.
Veterinary services are limited but accessible. At present, a visiting veterinary specialist attends the premises of the Torres Shire Council, Thursday Island on a regular basis. Notification is usually in the local newspaper the Torres News. To attend for appointment will necessitate a ferry ride with your pet to Thursday Island. Usually this trip can be completed in the one day unless overnight care for the pet is required. This specialist can also be contacted at her surgery in times of emergency.
The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service has a base in Bamaga.
The Bamaga township has one major supermarket/variety store which is operated by the Islander Board of Industry and Service. The I.B.I.S. service most islands through the Torres Strait. The store at Bamaga is air-conditioned and has a comparable food line with major retailers in Cairns. The store does have frozen meat from Cairns butchers. It is however advisable to purchase in bulk, both grocery and meat when in Cairns and restock from the local store when required. The Bamaga and surrounding communities are well serviced by Sea Swift and Jardine Shipping companies twice weekly. Freight charges are minimal and delivery by Jardine Shipping is to the door.
Air-conditioned supermarkets are also at Seisia and Umagico Communities. Shopping around at all supermarkets will usually find an item.
The Seisia Meatworks has recently commenced operation which provides a range of meat products. Meat is sourced locally as well as grain fed regions such as Atherton Tablelands and Gympie. The quality is of a good standard and is found locally at the Seisia Supermarket. It is recommended however to purchase through the meatworks cellar door as prices are much cheaper.
Fresh produce is delivered by shipping companies and available twice weekly (Monday and Thursday).
There is one local clothing store with limited lines of clothing and some lines of haberdashery. There is no local hairdresser however there are some on Thursday Island.
There are four service stations located at Bamaga, Seisia, Injinoo and Umagico. These enterprises are run by the respective community councils. Fuel is by pump.