The Kowanyama spirit
With a population just over 1000 people, Kowanyama is one of the largest communities on the Cape York peninsula. Most residents are Traditional Owners. The community includes the Kokoberra, Yir Yoront (or Kokomenjen) and Kunjen clans, who each have language and other cultural differences. Language groups associated with the Kowanyama region include Yir Yoront, Yirrk Thangalkl, Koko Bera, Uw Oykangand, and Olkola. English is also widely spoken.
According to ABs Census 2016 data, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people made up 90.9% of Kowanyama’s population. With a population density of 0.37388/km2, most Kowanyama residents live in the community. The median age of people in Kowanyama was 29 years. Children aged 0 – 14 years made up 26.9% of the population, compared to less than 20% of the Queensland population. People aged 65 years and over made up only 4.1% of the population, compared to over 15% of the Queensland population.
Nature and Environment
Kowanyama has a rich abundance of nature and wildlife. Kowanyama consists mainly of wetlands and delta mangroves in the north, extending to forest country of the central peninsula. These unique natural environments are home to a vast array of bird and animal species.
In 1905, Trubanamen Mission was established inland on Topsy Creek, now known as the old mission. Aboriginal peoples of the region were gradually drawn from their ancestral lands into the mission settlement.
Later, in 1916, Mitchell River Mission was founded on the present site of Kowanyama and the Trubanamen site abandoned. Some peoples continued to occupy their traditional lands, moving into Kowanyama as late as the 1940s.
In 1964, a cyclone destroyed the Mission. The Queensland government funded the rebuilding.In 1964, a cyclone destroyed the Mission. The Queensland government funded the rebuilding.
In 1967 the Anglican church were no longer able to sustain their activities in the area as a Church Mission. The Department of Aboriginal and Islander Affairs, a government department, under the Act continued running the affairs of the community.
In 1987 the State transferred control to the Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council via a Deed of Grant in Trust (DOGIT).
Kowanyama’s Aboriginal people continue to identify strongly with their ancestral countries and with the languages, stories, songs, dances, and histories associated with those countries.