Lockhart River is a coastal Aboriginal community situated on the eastern coast of Cape York Peninsula, approximately level with Weipa. It is 800 km north by road from Cairns and approximately 2550 km by road north of Brisbane. Lockhart River is the northern most town on the east coast of Australia. The community is also located approximately 2 km inland from Quintell Beach and is within the Iron Range National Park. During WW2, Lockhart River Airport was constructed as an bomber base.
Lockhart River is also the name of a river located 14 km south of the community. The river was named by explorer Robert Logan Jack in January 1880 after a close friend, Hugh Lockhart.
In 1934, people were collected from throughout Cape York and placed on the mission at Lockhart River, which became a centre for the sandalwood trade. When the Second World War broke out, the Europeans left and the Aboriginal people were told to go back to the bush and fend for themselves. In 1947, the mission was re-established with drastic changes inflicted on how the people should live and behave. In particular, tribal groups were forced to combine into a single community.
In 1964, the church handed over the mission to the Queensland Government who tried to relocate the people to Bamaga. The people refused to go but, in 1971, were forced to move away from the traditional area of the coast. No consideration was given to traditional owners of the land; the move resulted in much discontent and friction.
The community has DOGIT status and is governed by its own community council.
A mix of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders both live in the community. Population is between 650 - 700 'locals' and approximately 30 'whites' performing various tasks: teachers, nurses, police, shop employees, council administration, council workshop, carpenter & plumber.
The Lockhart River 'local' population is made up from five different clan groups: the Wuthathi from the north of the Olive River; the Kuuku Ya'u from Lloyd and Weymouth Bays; the Uutaalnganu from the Lockhart River south to Friendly Point; the Umpila from Friendly Point to the Massey River; and the Kaanju from the inland mountain areas behind the coast. (Targeting 2000, 1995) Local language is slowing fading out.
Most of the population lives in the community town area itself. There are two 'Outstations'. The first is at 'Old Site' and is only normally used during the dry season when vehicles can drive to that location on a rough inland road. It is sometimes used as a "weekender" by some local families during the calm weather over the Christmas to January period.
The second 'Outstation' is at Chillie Beach and is normally occupied all year round by the HOBSON family group. It remains accessible by road and water most of the time.
A number of smaller communities also exist: these are Wattle Hills Station, Pascoe River 'Farm', Chillie Beach, Packer's Bay and Portland Roads.
Wattle Hills Station is located just inside the mouth of the Pascoe River, north of Lockhart River. It is a share arrangement for persons opting out of mainstream society. Very little problems arise from these people. Approximately 30 persons live in open plan-style houses. This station has its own airstrip and mail service once a week. Some of the houses have telephones connected and all are linked by their own private UHF radio network under the Rural Fires scheme.
Pascoe River 'farm' is located on the banks of the Pascoe River quite some distance inland. Access to the 'Farm' is from the main Lockhart River to Archer River road, 52 km from the Lockhart River community. A track leads a further 15 km to the 'Farm'. It is occupied by the FYFE extended family group. Approximately 10 to 15 people live on the farm.
Chillie Beach had a number of feral dwellings squatting along the secluded beaches and headlands. Approximately 10 - 20 persons live there.
Packer's Bay also has a number of open plan and full residential style houses occupied by persons opting out of mainstream society. Approximately 10 persons live there.
Portland Roads community is a reasonably standard housing area with some open plan style houses and no power, water or sewerage facilities. It was predominantly a fishing community until the recent changes to Fisheries Regulations. Many prawn trawlers, cray boats and yachts use this sheltered anchorage. Approximately 10 persons live here.
1848 The explorer Edmund Kennedy set up a base camp near the mouth of the Pascoe River. Edmund Kennedy left nine men there. By the time they were located by the supply ship, only two remained alive, the other seven having died from disease and starvation.
By the 1870s Fisherman with luggers looking for trepang, pearl shell and trochus were in the coastal areas. Miners in search of tin and gold along with timber cutters were in the hills around Gordon Creek and the country inland around the Wenlock River.
During World War II, a large American bomber base was set up at Gordon's Airstrip with three airstrips operating. The US bombers would fly to the Papua New Guinea and be met by their fighter escorts based at Bamaga and Horn Island further north. Many thousands of troops, both US and Australian, passed through as part of their jungle training, before being shipped to southeast Asia. Portland Roads community, 40 km north of Lockhart River, was the supply port for the war effort with a large jetty. This jetty has since been removed. Many old bunkers and rusting 44 gallon drums can still be found in bush areas.
After the war, the community moved back to 'Old Site'.
1967 - 1987 The Queensland Government took control of the mission and tried to move the population to Umagico, near Bamaga. Some people moved to Umagico; however, many resisted the move. The current site of Lockhart River Community was established.
1987 The Lockhart River Community was given 'Deed of Grant in Trust' (DOGIT) title of the lands. Locally elected councillors now provide administration for the Lockhart River DOGIT.
Council workshop is now run as a private enterprise and is where vehicle repairs, services and puncture repairs can be obtained (no panel repairs available). A welding section is also available for very basic welding repairs and fabrications.
Post Office is not an official post office. It is merely a room used to sort received mail and collect mail to be flown out. No normal Post Office facilities are available.
Domestic Violence Woman's Shelter: A well set up woman's shelter exists at Lockhart River community directly opposite the police station. It is poorly run by 'locals' and often unstaffed. The shelter uses UHF CB radio channel 10.
The local airport is run by the council under its own incorporated body called the Lockhart River Airport Corporation.
A local 'Health Clinic' is available for Primary Health Care only. It is staffed by four registered nurses with 'Remote Nursing' qualifications. The community does not have a doctor. The Royal Flying Doctor Service visits each week on Tuesday and remains overnight, flying out Wednesday afternoon. About every two months, a dentist and other medical specialists attend as needed. No fully fitted ambulance is available.
The retail store is operated by the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy and Development. This store has EFTPOS facility and cash out to a maximum of $100. It stocks sufficient foods for day-to-day living but at higher than larger city prices. Fresh fruit, vegetables, milk and bread can be fairly ordinary in quality. Diesel and unleaded fuels are available at the bowser. Opening times on week days are from 0810 to 1230 and 1335 to 1600; on Friday, the store closes at 1500. On Saturday the store opens at 0905 to 1030. The store does not open on Sunday.
The Anglican Church shop, locally known 'Jamie's Shop', is now closed.
An alternative to shopping at Lockhart River is purchasing your groceries, chiller or meat supplies from various outlets in Cairns (no alcohol supplies are allowed to be brought into the DOGIT area). Normal payment method is by credit card at the same time you fax your orders to the suppliers. Delivery to Lockhart River community is by barge, operated by Seaswift Pty Ltd at 41-43 Tingira Street, Portsmith, Cairns, 4870. Seaswift normally requires credit card direct debit access for transport costs.
Road conditions: Bitumen streets around community itself. Many severe potholes in the bitumen roads will cause damage to vehicles if they are not driven slow enough. All other access roads are dirt. The roads are rough and hard mechanically on vehicles, as they are poorly maintained.
The wet season starts at about the second week of November each year with local storm activity. Later in the wet season, the monsoonal rains keep the rivers flooded. Usually the first vehicles to travel out to the Archer River Roadhouse start about the first week of June.
During the wet season, one can expect to drive through some long, deep mud sections and numerous deep creeks, where a snorkel is definitely required. During the dry season, you can expect to destroy your vehicle on hard corrugations and ruts.
Contract Notice: Lockhart River Aboriginal Council Wins $58,172 Contract for Business Administration Services
Jul 30, 2010; BRADDON, ACT, July 28 -- Lockhart River Aboriginal Council, Lockhart River, Qld., won a $58,172.52 contract award from Centrelink...