Kowanyama is a town on the Gulf of Carpentaria side of Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland, Australia. At the 2006 census, Kowanyama had a population of 1,017, the aboriginal people who live in this community include Kokominjena, Kokoberra and Kunjen groups, amongst others. In their overarching Yir-Yoront language, Kowanyama means The place of many waters, the community is situated on the banks of the Magnificent Creek, a tributary of the Mitchell River,20 kilometres inland from the coastline of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Kowanyama is accessed by an airstrip, as well as unsealed roads in the dry season from Pormpuraaw to the north, Normanton to the south. In 1905, Trubanamen Mission was established inland on Topsy Creek, 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, some peoples continued to occupy their traditional lands, moving into Kowanyama as late as the 1940s. More than 1000 people now live in Kowanyama, making it one of the largest communities on the Cape York Peninsula, kowanyamas Aboriginal people continue to identify strongly with their ancestral countries and with the languages, stories, songs, dances, and histories associated with those countries. Language groups associated with countries in the Kowanyama region are Yir Yoront, Yirrk Thangalkl, Koko Bera, Uw Oykangand, in 1964, a cyclone destroyed the mission. The Queensland government funded the rebuilding, Kowanyama Post Office opened by 1967. 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 July 1987, the State Government of Queensland implemented legislation for a DOGIT over the lands in the Mitchell River delta, the deed covered the traditional lands of the people of Kowanyama. Like other DOGIT communities of the time, Kowanyama had a town Council elected by Aboriginal people living in the community, the newly formed Kowanyama Council assumed responsibility for implementing certain conditions of the DOGIT. Seven elected aboriginal residents hold three-year terms in office, since the 1990s, many Kowanyama people have been returning to their ancestral lands through the Homelands Movement. Other homelands, including the Oriners Pastoral Lease and the Sefton Pastoral Lease, were purchased by the Kowanyama Council and are located outside the DOGIT boundary. A Community Justice Group operates within Kowanyama and this group is made up of respected members in the community. They meet to discuss issues within the town and make recommendations to Council, the community also has a Council of Elders, who are consulted by the Kowanyama Council when making community decisions. The elders operate in conjunction with the Lands Office and this action, funded through the enterprise income of the Kowanyama Aboriginal Council, has provided Aboriginal people access to the River’s fish stocks for their cultural and economic needs. In this way, Aboriginal people can fish and hunt as they have done for thousands of years
View down Ogimburngk St (from Gilbert St)
Photo of Kowanyama near its beginnings, taken June 1919
Front view of Kowanyama Community Justice Group's 'Courthouse'
Front view of Kowanyama Land and Natural Resource Management office, Gilbert St.