“We don’t want the enemy coming to destroy our land.”
[T]hey saw a whole industry of invisible hands at work on those places…the cold and heartless ambitions of politicians and bureaucrats who came from faraway cities and capitals to destroy the lives of Aboriginal people.
In November 2014, Western Australian Liberal premier Colin Barnett announced his intention to close down over 150 remote Aboriginal communities. Then prime minister Tony Abbott told the ABC that governments could not afford to “endlessly subsidise the lifestyle choices” of Aboriginal people to live on their traditional lands. And Barnett claimed that the communities were “economically unviable”. The WA government’s recent record of massive subsidies for the mining industry – an estimated $6 billion between 2008 and 2014 – exposed these economic excuses as the lies they were. After a wave of protests, Barnett changed his tune, arguing that his government was motivated by concerns for the “health and safety of Aboriginal children”. His allegation that they were subjected to abuse was also exposed as a lie.
The subtext writ large of Barnett’s assault on Indigenous communities, still under threat today, is that of a cynical government crusade to clear Aboriginal land located in the heartlands of the mineral fields of the Pilbara and the Kimberley. There is nothing new about governments employing phony concern about appalling conditions in Aboriginal communities – the product of decades of deliberate and systemic underfunding – to legitimise further encroachments on Aboriginal land and assert more state control over Indigenous lives. This most recent Western Australian land grab reflects a whole historic pattern in Australian capitalism in which mining, along with the pastoral industry, has created enormous pressure on Aboriginal life and has been most rapacious in demanding an unfettered right to access Aboriginal land. The development of Queensland bauxite mining is a particularly clear example of this.
From the 1950s, the discovery on Cape York of huge deposits of bauxite, the ore from which aluminium is produced, spurred a chain of dispossessions; thousands and thousands of miles of Aboriginal land was stolen and ravaged in the service of profit. This theft was executed under the cloak of racist and paternalistic legislation, and abetted by federal and state governments, Aboriginal Affairs bureaucrats, the entire legal system and the churches that administered many of Queensland’s Aboriginal reserves up until the 1970s. Ultimately the insatiable greed for land for mining development led to the brute force of state violence being engaged to raze a whole community to the ground in the 1960s at Mapoon, and to quash Aboriginal resistance to mining at Aurukun in the 1970s. That this quite recent history of enforced destitution and calculated state cruelty forms such a small part of popular knowledge today is a testament to the ongoing racism at the heart of Australian capitalism. It is a history that also serves as a timely reminder that the continued devastation of Aboriginal communities, supposedly for their own improvement, is in fact a continuation of the program of land theft and genocide upon which Australian capitalism was founded and continues to rest.
In the 1950s, the Indigenous population of Cape York lived largely on the sites of three missions on the west coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The northernmost mission, Mapoon, located 170 kilometres south-west of the tip of the Cape York Peninsula and 900 kilometres north-west of Cairns, was the first of the missions to be established in 1891. The Mapoon mission became the staging post for the later establishment of a further two missions on the edge of the Gulf of Carpentaria – the Weipa mission, south-west of Mapoon, in 1898, and the Aurukun mission south of Weipa in 1904. Lastly the Mornington Island mission, located in the Gulf itself, was established in 1914.
The missions were administered by the Presbyterian church, and were jointly controlled and financed by the Queensland government. The Aboriginal people interned on the missions held no title to their land; the land and the mineral deposits slumbering in it were deemed state property. As Frank Brennan described in his 1982 history of the struggle for land rights in Queensland, “these reserves were not seen as Aboriginal land but simply crown land on which Aborigines would live until they moved to find work on cattle stations…or perhaps until they died out.” From their earliest beginnings, the Cape York missions were the product of an already long legacy of colonial brutality. On the Batavia River, the future site of the Mapoon mission, the Indigenous owners of the land had been massacred for the establishment of the pastoral industry by white settlers, Kennedy and Jardine, in the 1890s. The settlers killed 250 of the 300-strong Indigenous population to clear the land at Dingle Creek, and Mapoon mission residents told researchers in the 1960s that their parents had passed stories to them of how Jardine had killed black children by knocking their heads against trees.
Needless to say, the missions – repositories for a people dispossessed – were sites of misery and extreme oppression in which residents were subject to the control of the church’s mission superintendents and from 1897, also increasing government regulation under the strictures of the Aborigines Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act. This Act appointed “protectors”, the leading police officers of each district, to control the movement of all Aboriginal people. Under section nine of the legislation, protectors could arbitrarily move any Aboriginal person, without regard to their traditional lands, to any other reserve of their choosing. It was under this power that the government was soon to convert the first of the established missions at Mapoon into a reformatory for children stolen from their families. The protectors were also empowered to prohibit the carrying out of Aboriginal rites and customs deemed “injurious” to the welfare of mission residents. This practice of cultural assimilation was enthusiastically taken up by the missionaries. Mapoon elder Jean Jimmy recalled how at that mission, the children were separated from their families and forced to sleep in “the dormitory at the age of three years old and there we had to learn to speak like our mission ladies. We were not allowed to talk lingo (our language), because we might learn our legends and things like that.” The Act also barred any person not acting under government direction from access to the missions, effectively rendering them closed communities, breeding grounds for abuse and neglect shielded from public scrutiny.
From their inception, the missions were subject to a “pattern of financial starvation”, with meagre government grants and the Presbyterian church inclined to view their responsibilities as limited to tending the spiritual rather than the material needs of their wards. The impact of this systematic poverty was seen in the appalling health conditions experienced by Indigenous people, undernourished and perpetually vulnerable to epidemics of influenza, whooping cough and hookworm. Mission residents were expected to work for their rations, in the bêche-de-mer industry in the early to mid-twentieth century, or in mission farming. Aboriginal wages were stolen and strictly controlled by the Chief Protector, used for deployment in mission expenditure or, as was often the case, other state development projects. On top of this, a government desire that missions be self-sufficient subjected the residents to regular bouts of survivalism, dependent on Aboriginal people being sent bush in order to get sustenance and fresh water, or reduced to eating coconut cash crops for subsistence.
In 1939 the Aboriginal “protectors” were superseded by a “Director of Native Affairs”. The Director would be overseen by the Queensland minister of Home Affairs, but took on all of the immense power over mission residents formerly held by the Chief Protector under the 1897 Act. In fact, the new legislation broadened the scope of the Director’s power by granting them more oversight of the mission superintendents and explicitly giving them control over mining interests relating to mission land. The Office of Native Affairs was administered as a veritable fiefdom by its directors until the 1980s, when the position was abolished. Over its almost fifty year lifespan, the Office of Native Affairs had only three directors. The aptly named Bleakley, appointed in 1939, was forced to resign under allegations of extreme negligence towards his wards in 1941, and was replaced by O’Leary, who in turn was replaced by his deputy, Patrick Killoran, in 1964.
By the 1960s, Aboriginal wards of the government could apply to seek exemption from the Act, and move off the missions. However, this usually set off a further slide into poverty as former mission residents experienced racism which prevented them finding suitable rented accommodation or employment. A series of cosmetic changes to the Aboriginals Protection Act in the 1960s and early 1970s, and an attendant name change to the Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement, altered little about the realities of the yoke of oppression under which Queensland’s Indigenous population lived. For instance, in 1971, the government handed down new legislation in the form of the Aborigines Act that merely introduced a new system of permits under which the Director maintained ultimate say over who could visit or reside in both Church administered missions or government reserves.
In 1976, the Black Resource Centre Collective published an account of life under the Aborigines Act on the Queensland government reserve of Cherbourg. In the account, Aboriginal activist Lionel Lacey described how, even as late as the 1970s, reserve residents had to ask the superintendent for permission to use electrical appliances, like hot water jugs or radios, in their own homes. He spoke of the dictatorial authority the Act bestowed on the director, under which “no person on a Reserve can ever own their own home; this will always be owned by the Director. So if a wife and husband are asleep in bed, the Director has the power to wake them up if he wants to.” With regard to land rights, Lacey explained, “we have got no right to the land as far as the Director and others think; they own every square inch of it… When a black person is born in Queensland the Director has the full power to decide everything that will happen to that child.”
Importantly, the 1971 Act also gave the Director the right to issue mining leases on reserve or mission land without consulting the church mission trustees. This new clause reflected the funding conflict between the state government and the Presbyterian church administrators that had existed since the missions had been founded, but which had come to a head around the discovery of bauxite deposits on mission sites. By the 1950s, the missions were in severe financial crisis. Food shortages prevailed and had been exacerbated by government rationing and heightened food prices during World War II. The Department of Native Affairs (DNA), which held joint administration over mission trust accounts, refused to allow the meagre cash reserves of the missions to be used for essentials like foodstuffs over “development”. In this desperate climate, mission mergers for Mornington Island and Mapoon were increasingly discussed at meetings of the Aboriginal and Foreign Missions Committee (AFMC) of the Presbyterian church, and were favoured by the Director of Native Affairs, O’Leary.
When significant bauxite deposits were discovered at Weipa, the Church saw in future mining royalties a way to avoid mission closures. Historian Rosalind Kidd is responsible for some of the most extensive and thorough research into the Queensland mission system, government and DNA policy up until the 1990s. In her 1997 book, The Way We Civilise, written on the basis of access to thousands of previously closed departmental records and a complete reading of church proceedings, Kidd contends that there “is no doubt that the church saw the vast mining project as a ticket out of poverty and dependency. For years, the Cape York communities had been caught in a double bind: refused vital revenue without industrial enterprise, and unable to initiate development because of abject destitution.”
So when the Queensland government tried to circumvent the church in early negotiations to grant mining leases on mission land, the church protested and attempted to assert its rights to exact a compensation grant from the mining company Cozinc, soon to operate as Comalco. Church records from 1958 state that the church had sought a sum of £367,000 to be used for “development for an underprivileged people” and the establishment of a “Native Welfare Fund” comprised of royalties from mining undertaken on state or church reserves as well as the safeguarding of pastoral rights for the Weipa mission. In October 1957, the Courier Mail reported an ultimatum issued by church authorities to the minister of Home Affairs, then responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, that it would not agree to move mission sites for mining leases at Cape York without assurance of funding for new mission infrastructure and housing by the government and Cozinc.
It should be obvious that the church was not operating as a benign force for Aboriginal rights in the process of these initial mining negotiations. Its primary concern was to secure the future of its missions and ensure that church administrators had access to the economic benefits of mining development for this purpose. Its paternalistic attitude towards the mission residents and the purpose of their Comalco claim was expressed clearly in a letter from the Australian Presbyterian Board of Missions (APBM), which had replaced the earlier AFMC, to the Weipa missionary in 1963:
The financial help from Comalco has never been intended as a gift to the people but as a gift for the people. It has always been intended as a grant in aid to the Presbyterian Mission in the area in the interests of the Weipa people. This has always been the official view.
In staking its compensation claim the church inevitably came into conflict with the state government, which saw unfettered private sector development of mining as increasingly critical to Queensland’s economic growth and was not inclined to press Comalco for concessions to a mission system that it was itself unwilling to make any financial commitment to maintain. It should be noted that from 1957, the government was increasingly discussing its Aboriginal policy in terms of “assimilation” versus “protection”, consistent with a view to abolishing the reserves and having the residents absorbed into projected future mining towns.
Comalco did eventually concede to a paltry one-off payment of £150,000 for new mission housing at Weipa. However, when Comalco denied any further financial obligation to provide for the “welfare” of Weipa’s residents and the government eventually locked the church out of the mining negotiations, church resistance to mining leases on mission land turned out to be pretty shallow. Thus by the 1960s, the mission board had shifted from making moderate demands on mining companies to openly collaborating with the government to move mission residents for mining interests.
The Queensland government’s determination to trample Aboriginal rights in favour of untrammelled access for mining corporations is best understood in light of the importance of bauxite mining to the economy.
The discovery of large bauxite deposits on Cape York in the 1950s was central to the development of the national post-war minerals economy. The growing importance of aluminium on the world market had led the Australian government to covet a local industry. In 1946, with an aluminium smelter in the works for Tasmania, where a new hydro-electric plant would provide a cheap source of power for a very energy intensive industry, the government set up the Australian Aluminium Production Commission (AAPC) to execute this plan. The next goal was for the AAPC, according to its first annual report, was to secure a steady source of bauxite deposits “sufficient in size and high enough in grade to justify the establishment of expensive plants” and to encourage commercial investment in the industry.
It was not until 1955 that thoroughgoing exploration for bauxite was undertaken by the Australian mining corporation Consolidated Zinc (Cozinc), which commissioned a geologist to prospect for minerals, including bauxite, on the far north-eastern tip of Australia, in the Cape York area. Cozinc’s survey revealed some of the largest deposits of bauxite known to exist in the world around Weipa. Cozinc formed a partnership with the American mining giant, Kaiser, to establish the Commonwealth Aluminium Corporation Pty Ltd (Comalco) in order to mine the deposits.
The Queensland government saw its own state’s development as dependent on diversifying an economy that had been previously heavily dependent on agricultural production. In the immediate post-war years, the state Labor government had made some attempts to stimulate “secondary industry” as part of its plan for northern development. However, it was with the coming to power of the Nicklin Country/Liberal coalition government in 1957 that state economic policy turned sharply towards the growth of mining previously untapped ore, with the aid of foreign capital to speed the pace of development. Indeed, during his 1957 election campaign, Nicklin had outlined his plan for Queensland’s development as such:
[W]e have directed our whole policy toward the vigorous and planned development of all parts of the State. This State is crying out for…planned development of a State-wide character, which takes into account the great potential of Queensland, and the need for filling up our empty spaces with people and industry, especially in the vital North and North-West regions…. This work will require capital much greater than the usual State resources… We as a government would be prepared to do all in our power within our limits to assist investors.
Nicklin’s sentiment was strongly shared by Labor in opposition. In 1957, speaking of Cape York mining development, the Labor opposition leader Eric Lloyd said:
It is quite obvious that the area must be a source of great development and one irrevocably tied to the future of the State and Commonwealth. As such great natural resources have lain untapped for so many years, it is only right that every opportunity should be taken to support…their exploitation.
With prospecting having revealed that Weipa and its surrounding areas held bauxite reserves of some two billion tonnes, at a time when known world deposits in total sat at about nine billion tonnes, the Nicklin government hastened to negotiate the generous conditions under which Comalco would mine the deposits. The government passed the Commonwealth Aluminium Corporation Pty. Limited Agreement Act (Comalco Act) in late 1957, which certainly made good on its promise to “do all in [its] power…to assist investors”.
The Act granted Comalco an 84-year lease for bauxite mining, which excised the vast majority of the former Weipa mission, encompassing 5,780 square kilometres of Aboriginal land. In total, Comalco’s lease stole 93 percent of the land officially reserved for the Aboriginal populations of Mapoon, Aurukun and Weipa. The Act also granted Comalco mining rights over some 5,135 square kilometres of land on the eastern coast of Cape York. Kidd notes that the government had drafted the Comalco Act so speedily, and with such verve for accommodating the company’s interests, that it had initially surrendered all Weipa and Mapoon mission land to the mining lease and had to later renegotiate with Comalco in order to retain a small parcel of land for its operation. It was agreed that even this small allotment of land for the missions would revert to Comalco’s control if it was ever surrendered or abandoned by the missionaries.
With the Comalco Act in place, Henry Noble, Nicklin’s minister of Health and Home Affairs, could proudly declare that the Comalco deal was worth £250 million to the Queensland economy. The parliamentarians made the familiar capitalist argument that state investment in such corporations was really in the public interest. However, it was Comalco that was the genuine beneficiary of the deal. Not only had state legislation secured the company rights to perpetual leases over the mining town area and cattle grazing, timber, water and farming rights, but the Weipa bauxite deposits were estimated by Comalco to be worth $60 billion in 1978. Additionally, the government subsidised Comalco’s operations to the tune of millions.
Queensland historian Ross Fitzgerald documented the huge scale of the subsidies; the Nicklin government reimbursed Comalco “three to four million dollars for the construction of the harbour, channel and wharves” at Weipa. Then in 1964, the government liberally aided the construction of an aluminium smelter to refine Weipa bauxite at Gladstone. Despite having received such substantial public funds to bankroll its operations, Queensland Alumina Ltd, the international corporation which was to operate the Gladstone smelter, paid no income tax at all in the first eight years of its operation. Not only this, but in the 1970s Comalco admitted that under the agreement with the government it would pay no more than cost price for electricity for use in its future smelting processes. In 1961 Comalco expanded its profitability by buying the Commonwealth government’s share of the Bell Bay aluminium smelter in Tasmania to add value to its fledgling mining operations on the Cape. By 1980, Weipa was the “world’s largest single mining shipping centre for bauxite”, and in that year Comalco posted a record profit of $75 million after tax. Moreover, the royalty rate imposed by the Queensland government was actually “almost the lowest in the world”, at five cents a tonne compared with Jamaica’s twelve cents.
In the debate between the Presbyterian church, the Department of Native Affairs and the Nicklin government around the terms that would be set for Comalco’s mining leases, the first of a burgeoning mining boom for Cape York, the rights of the Aboriginal owners of the land, the Alngith people, and of Indigenous people from at least another twelve traditional owner groups who were at various times residents of the Weipa mission factored not one bit. Shamefully, Aboriginal people were not even considered Australian citizens until the 1967 referendum. So it stands as a given that the approval of the Alngith people was never sought in the conclusion of the Comalco deal. Throughout the parliamentary debate on the Comalco legislation in 1957, government ministers expressed the most dismissive attitudes to Indigenous claims to land. Mines minister Ernie Evans stated that he “could not envisage any possible future use of the area” over which companies were prospecting in Cape York “for other than mining, except perhaps fishing if markets were available”. To the extent that Aboriginal people were discussed it was in the context of how “fortunate” they were that Comalco should see fit to rip up their land and displace them, as this “was an opportunity for these people to be assimilated, to live as human beings should live”. The minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, Noble, was decisive in communicating the government’s forecast of a near future “when all the people of aboriginal blood in our state will have been assimilated into the community, and it would be the height of absurdity if very large areas of the State…were tied up and made inaccessible to normal occupancy and development”.
The Indigenous people of Weipa were not helpless victims, a subordinate flock merely submitting their welfare and fates to the hands of the mission superintendent or the church board’s paternalistic and pathetic compensation claim. As soon as its leases had been granted, Comalco tried to get the church board to agree to a plan to move the mission residents to Aurukun. When this met with complete opposition from both the Weipa and Aurukun people, the company constructed a model village at Hey Point in order to entice the community to move further afield. A letter from the general secretary of the mission board to the chairman of Comalco in 1964 made clear that the Indigenous people’s reply “was a flat refusal to even consider the amalgamation with Aurukun or…the move to Hey Point”. Eventually it was conceded by the church and the Director of Native Affairs that they would not be able to convince the Weipa residents to move, and 159 of them remained at Jessica Point. But they were reduced to living in squalor on a small pocket of land “surrounded by vast red plains of exposed and barren bauxite”, and enclosed by Comalco mining pits that covered “the Reserve with a pall of dust in the dry season and isolate it with a sea of mud in the wet”. Nonetheless, the Alngith’s stand was significant and but the first of many instances of courageous Aboriginal resistance to dispossession on Cape York, stretching from the 1950s into the present. Comalco’s aborted but persistent plan to expel the Weipa residents was a portent of the increasingly drastic measures that would be taken to ensure land theft for mining rights into the future.
Sitting on a peninsula of land between the Gulf of Carpentaria and Port Musgrave, the Mapoon mission was situated on the traditional land of the Tjungundji people. However, because the children stolen from their families were from all over Queensland, it had become the dwelling place of many different Indigenous peoples. Some of the Aboriginal traditional owner groups represented at Mapoon included the Mpakwithi, Taepithiggi, Thaynhakwith, Warrangku, Wimarangga and Yupungathi. From 1957, the mission site had been engulfed by Comalco’s mining leases, and from the early 1960s a Canadian mining company, Alcan, had also commenced prospecting on former Mapoon land, just inland from the Comalco lease area in the zone between the Ducie and Batavia rivers. Mapoon’s location near Port Musgrave meant the mission also stood in a prime location for a future mining harbour. It was not until 1965 that the Nicklin government granted Alcan a 105-year mining lease over all of the remaining choice Mapoon mission land. This was the culmination of a campaign of state-led terror waged against the Mapoon people over almost a decade to clear their land for mining interests.
From the 1950s there had been moves afoot to relocate the Mapoon mission. In April 1954, the Courier Mail speculated about the impending closure of the mission, stating lack of cultivatable land as a reason, and outlining a proposal to move the 250 residents south to the Weipa mission. In that year, a stalemate between the state and church over the financial burden of improving horrendous living conditions ended. A final resolution by the general assembly of the church administration decided to close the mission and absorb the residents into the Weipa reserve. Undeniably, the mission’s future had been in question before the Comalco lease had been concluded and the Queensland government always publicly denied that the eventual closure of the mission in 1964 had anything to do with mining interests on Mapoon land. So in March 1964, three months after the government executed a final order to close the mission, the minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs told the Telegraph that the mission was shut down not “because of an agreement between the Government and Comalco” but for the provision of better living conditions for its residents.
However, the 1955 discovery of bauxite deposits proposed a more “viable” or profitable use for the land consistent with the government’s plans for northern development, and it was from this point on that the mission’s fate was sealed. State policy towards the mission turned from systemic but passive neglect to calculated destruction, with the director of the department of Native Affairs, O’Leary, and his deputy Patrick Killoran enthusiastic partners in government tactics to starve out the community.
Initially, the strategy to force residents to move centred on the intensification of the historical and deliberate underfunding of the mission. By July 1958, the government had dropped its subsidy to a mere eight shillings a week per resident. The government acted in full knowledge of the acute poverty already confronting mission residents. In May, months ahead of the subsidy cut, the department had received information that Mapoon had been short of rations for weeks. Moreover, Rosalind Kidd argues that “[c]abinet documents of the time reveal that annual subsidies were twice as much per head for government settlements than for church missions”. That the rations shortage was no product of administrative oversight, but reflected deliberate pressure tactics, was confirmed by the confident announcement made by Henry Noble to fellow ministers in the parliamentary discussions of the 1957-58 state Budget that the Mapoon mission would be wound up within a year. Having increased the degradation of Mapoon, the government cynically engineered a government tour of the Presbyterian-run missions in October 1958, ostensibly to condemn the deplorable conditions for their Aboriginal inmates and thus publicly undermine the church’s administration. Kidd states that this tour became the basis for numerous MPs to make press statements expressing their “concern” for the Mapoon residents and calling for “an official inquiry and a government takeover because ‘Gulf missions were not doing anything for the money the Government granted them’.” Yet this feigned concern did not halt a further government funding cut six months later which “reduced the food allowance to five pence per day, insufficient even to meet the official basic ration scale”.
Long reconciled to the prospect of a government takeover, indeed even advocating for this outcome, the church was no real opponent to a further excision of land for mining rights at Mapoon. The one factor the government had not yet considered was the trenchant and inspiring resistance of the Aboriginal community. The Indigenous people had always refused to be moved off the mission. By 1962, with the government’s campaign of attrition in full swing, the residents appealed to the Cairns Aborigines and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League for resources in their struggle. One letter to the League detailed the Mapoon community’s intransigence: “We all here are standing very strong… We all said we won’t shift from here… Uncle, you must try and help us fight strong.” The League responded by publishing a pamphlet entitled “They have made our rights wrong” to bring public attention to the forced closure of the mission and to encourage “public outcry…strong enough to halt dispossession of Mapoon people” and to force “the Government to pause before taking similar action on other missions and settlements and before allowing further alienation of Aboriginal lands to mining and pastoral interests”. The pamphlet also detailed the persecution already being meted out to residents like Allan Parry, spokesperson for the Aboriginal Council, who for the impertinence of having spoken out at a meeting with the head of the Queensland missions’ board, Reverend Sweet, in 1959, was “sacked from his job, dismissed from leadership of the church, and eventually exiled to Thursday Island” in the Torres Strait.
With a new government plan in place to move Mapoon residents to another state-administered reserve at Bamaga or “Hidden Valley” on the northernmost tip of Cape York, and with community unrest growing and increasingly public, the state pursued even tougher means to quell resistance. All mail was read by the authoritarian church-appointed mission superintendent, Filmer, to hinder protest and the deputy of the DNA, Killoran, began issuing transfer orders for mission residents identified as opposition organisers. The mission was placed under siege, with the DNA scrupulously monitoring the Aboriginal community’s movements, refusing “troublemakers” entry, and then deliberately separating families to further coerce residents to move. In 1975, sociologist Jan Roberts travelled to Cape York to document the dispossession of the Mapoon people. Her interviews with former mission residents, later compiled into a series of works known as the Mapoon Books, provide some of the most extensive and significant accounts of the eventual forced removal of the community and the events preceding it. Rachel Peter described how the government manipulated its control over mission residents to clear Mapoon. She said, “Maybe a wife goes up to hospital on Thursday Island to have a baby, but she isn’t allowed to return…they have to go to Hidden Valley. That’s how they tricked us.” The church cooperated with the department’s despicable subterfuge, especially in pressuring residents to seek exemption from the Protection Act and thereby leave Mapoon. Another resident, Jack Callope, told Nation magazine in 1962, “The mission has been hammering people to get their exemption and leave… When we asked the missionaries who will take over our land, they do not reply… When I said I did not want to leave Mapoon because I was born there and my father lived there before me, I was told ‘You have no say now. The land is not yours anymore’.”
The words of the Mapoon people also provide the most compelling evidence of a long-standing plan by the state government to clear Mapoon for mining interests. In particular, Rachel Peter remembered a meeting with church authorities and Killoran at Mapoon in 1959 where Killoran directly threatened that “the bull-dozers will come and dig up all our homes – and will dig holes over all our hunting grounds, and we will have nothing left.” Jean Jimmy, another Mapoon leader, also recalled confronting Killoran, by then the Director of the Department, years later at Bamaga. She told Roberts, “When I asked Mr Killoran about our removal, he said ‘Well, the miners wanted the land’.”
As the Mapoon residents stood their ground into 1963, the level of state neglect and terror escalated. By early November, the church had abandoned the mission and all the services had been closed down. Jean Jimmy told the Communist Party paper Tribune, “[w]hen we refused to leave our homes in Mapoon they closed the school, they left us without a flying doctor for seven months”. On November 8, with the store running out of supplies and with residents noticing that the delivery plane had bypassed them on route to Weipa and Aurukun, they had no choice but to plead for relief from the superintendent at the Weipa mission. Ultimately, on 15 November, the government forcibly removed the majority of the remaining inhabitants of Mapoon in what historian Geoffrey Wharton, an authority on the Mapoon expulsion, describes as “one of the worst examples of paternalistic and ruthless actions to control Aboriginal people in the recent history of Queensland”.
The Department of Native Affairs sent a detachment of police from Thursday Island accompanied by government contractors to burn down the mission and deport its inhabitants to Bamaga. Jean Jimmy described how on November 15, “[t]he D.N.A ship came with the police on board. They gave us an hour to pack some belongings and took us to sleep at the mission cottage guarded by four policemen, like criminals. Next morning the D.N.A ship took us to Bamaga.” In a written account for the Mapoon Books, Jimmy elaborated:
Next day was Saturday, 16th November, 1963. Orders were given to us to roll up our swags and to take everything down to the beach… We sat all day until after five before all families were given orders to go on board the Gelam… You can see the harbour of Mapoon was covered with millions of birds…the Government boat Gelam was sailing under the shadow of birds. When Gelam reached Mapoon Point, our people that stayed behind cried so bitterly on our parting day.
Another mission resident, Victoria Luff, explained to Jan Roberts how the residents had challenged the police, resisting the removal to the very end:
We asked them what they had come for. They said, “Mr Killoran has just sent us to pick you up. We’ll be going to Thursday Island to have a court case…”. They asked me, “Do I have anything to say?” I thought I was being arrested. I asked him why they came in the night like thieves.
The police were unable to remove all the mission residents, and the 48 who remained bore witness to the razing of the community buildings. Rachel Peter told how she “saw the D.N.A carpenters…going to the coconut trees getting dry coconut branches, put it under the homes and into the homes and strike a match and up goes the flames and down comes the house with everything in it. Even stoves, new stoves that were expensive, but they were burnt down and we didn’t have the chance to get anything out.” Simon Peter attested that after the mission homes were destroyed, all the important community buildings followed. “The Church, cookhouse, school, work-shop, butcher shop, store all burnt down. They left the medical store,” he explained, “but they took away all the medicines.” Left among the ruins and without essential services, the remaining Mapoon residents were eventually forced to leave in early 1964.
Although the Mapoon residents would continue to fight for the right to return to their land into the 1970s, the fruits of the government’s misdeeds were soon realised in the passage of the Alcan Queensland Pty. Limited Agreement Act 1965, granting the company a mining lease over Mapoon for an area encompassing 536 square miles of stolen Aboriginal land. This legislation granted Alcan rights as broad as those already conferred on Comalco, and with construction of an aluminium refinery underway at Gladstone on the east of Cape York, the scene had been set for large-scale bauxite extraction from the areas surrounding Mapoon. The government had laid the basis for a mining explosion, and the brutal dispossession of the Mapoon people showed its determination to obliterate Aboriginal claims to land.
In 1968 Joh Bjelke-Petersen became Premier of Queensland. By this time, the mineral wealth unearthed in Cape York was of huge proportions, and for the next 20 years, Bjelke-Petersen presided over a government with an explicit electoral base in rural and mining interests and a decided commitment to accelerate mining development. Throughout his term in government, Bjelke-Petersen’s patronage of big mining, described by the state mines minister as a “partnership for progress between this government and private enterprise”, would result in notoriously draconian policies to deny Aboriginal claims to land. In fact, one of the first scandals confronting the new government revolved around a conflict of interest related to ministerial kickbacks in the form of Comalco shares. In 1970, when Comalco was floated on the Australian market, the company offered cheap shares to both state and federal politicians, and Queensland cabinet ministers and public servants from the premier’s department were encouraged to take up the offer by Bjelke-Petersen. Although he did not accept any himself, the premier’s wife, Florence Bjelke-Petersen, took up extensive shares, with a 105 percent capital gain. Of course, the displaced inhabitants of the Weipa mission were offered no such benefits.
Bjelke-Petersen attempted in 1974 to impose an increase in the paltry royalties paid by Comalco. In 1972, mineral production was generating $100 million in profits for the company, with the state government receiving less than $2 million in royalties. Comalco claimed discrimination and the High Court ruled in the corporation’s favour, issuing an injunction on the collection of further royalties. However, not even this row could shake Bjelke-Petersen’s sponsorship of mining interests, which extended to massive state subsidies for the building of a harbour at Gladstone and for the construction of schools, housing for government employees and a hospital at Weipa.
Bjelke-Petersen was a champion of the assimilationist policies favoured by previous Queensland governments, which were seen as central to the state’s economic agenda for rural development. Put baldly, these were policies of genocide. Resisting the rising modern national land rights movement that had started to raise the demand for Aboriginal self-determination, the Queensland government consistently and cynically argued that this would lead to an independent black state in Australia’s north, and “separate development” that would “seriously impair” Aboriginal living conditions. Charles Porter, Bjelke-Petersen’s minister for Aboriginal and Islander Affairs, summarised state policy regarding land rights as “acceptance of all Aborigines and Islanders as equal citizens with the same rights and responsibilities as every Queenslander…ensuring that damaging separate development cannot occur”. Such ministerial proclamations laden with “concern” for the development prospects of Queensland’s Indigenous population were just a smokescreen for the viciously racist policy at the heart of the government’s agenda. So, by the early 1980s, Bjelke-Petersen would proudly declare to the Courier Mail, that regarding land rights:
Queensland is the only state that hasn’t fallen for their soft soap about land rights and mining rights. And it won’t happen in Queensland while I’m here… Add up the amount of money spent on Aboriginal people – it’s much more than the whole rest of the ordinary people get on average… All money given to these people acts to their detriment in terms of drink.
Bjelke-Petersen’s project to extend mining interests hinged on a further offensive on the remaining Cape York reserves, in particular at Aurukun mission on the land of the Wik and Wik Way people.
An American company, Tipperary, had been prospecting at Aurukun since the mid-1960s and had discovered at least a billion tonnes of bauxite over 736 square miles of Wik/Wik Way land. Formerly a Presbyterian mission, and by the late 1970s under the administration of the Uniting church, Aurukun was one of the most isolated Cape York communities. This meant that the Indigenous community had retained a very close and proud connection to their land and traditional practices. Large-scale mining operations on Cape York had already impacted on the people of Aurukun and contributed to the squalid conditions at the reserve, where the 650 residents often found their well contaminated with bauxite sediment. However, the residents had steadfastly resisted the encroachment of mining on their land for years, and by their persistent protest, had wrung a written assurance from the government in 1972 that there would be no mining agreements signed without direct consultation with the Aboriginal community and the church. The people of Aurukun did not just rest on this promise, and in 1973 when Tipperary practices threatened to flood sacred places around the Watson River, the community evicted the company from their mining camp, forcing Tipperary to abandon their vehicles to the care of only two staff. In 1974, the rightly suspicious community expelled a geologist who claimed to be working for the federal government and who had been carrying out drilling on their land.
By the early 1970s, Tipperary had begun to speak of plans to construct the largest mining town yet in Cape York at Aurukun, along with an international airport to service the industry. So with the company’s designs on Aurukun land increasingly clear, the Bjelke-Petersen government stepped in to smooth Tipperary’s path and aid the course of “development”. Already, the government had cut its budget for the missions at Aurukun and Mornington Island, also under threat from mining leases, from $186,000 to $51,942 and had started to implement the now tried and true method of starving the mission to make it “unviable” and thus justify a government takeover.
On 4 December 1975, the government bypassed any pretence of negotiations with the church authorities or community and rushed to push through legislation, the Aurukun Associates Act 1975, granting a new mining consortium, headed by Tipperary and incorporating Billiton and the French corporation Pechiney, mining rights worth “a conservative $14 billion”. The whole Act was enacted after a discussion two days earlier when Killoran, now the acting director of the Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement (DAIA), and the state minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Wharton, had visited Aurukun. At that meeting, the government gave the community to understand that mining would not take place without their approval, as explained in a press statement made later by the Aurukun Council and reproduced in a pamphlet by the Communist Party:
When the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the director of the DAIA came here…the Minister did not even mention about the mining… Mr Killoran, the Director, said if we did not want the mining there would be no mining… Several spoke out against the mining and none for it.
The community lost no time in registering their opposition to the Act and the deception undertaken by the Bjelke-Petersen government. Just days after the legislation was put they kicked off a campaign of resistance with a press release stating, “We Aurukun people will not allow any mining at all on our land. We will not accept any money for our land… We want Comalco, Billiton, Pechiney and Tipperary to leave our land alone.” Soon, the people of Aurukun were holding daily meetings to organise against the Act, and sending an armed delegation from the mission to evict the remaining two Tipperary staff at the company camp, destroying prospecting markers along the way. They also received financial backing by the church to take legal action against Killoran for breach of trust and pursue a writ to stop the mining going ahead. Unlike at Mapoon, at Aurukun the mission authorities, the Board of Ecumenical Missions and Relations (BOEMAR), did take a public position of opposition to the government for its failure to negotiate the terms of the mining leases and its dismissal of moderate demands that Tipperary “share” mineral wealth by providing employment and training for the Aboriginal population and granting some degree of control to the community over the introduction of alcohol. Yet it is important to point out that the church was by no means seen universally by the Aurukun residents as a purely benevolent force. In 1974, the church had accepted Comalco shares, prompting one Aurukun elder, Albert Chevathen, to register the following protest to a representative of BOEMAR on 9 December 1975:
We don’t want the enemy coming to destroy our land – no matter what we got here, gold, minerals or anything. Don’t let it go… Where do the shares go to? In your pocket? No, we haven’t got anything. Maybe the Church got it?
The Aurukun people actually won their case in the Queensland Supreme Court, which upheld their claim of abuse of trust and ruled that they had a right to challenge any mining they had objected to on their land. Undeterred, the Bjelke-Petersen government appealed this decision at the Privy Council in London. In January 1978 the Privy Council found in favour of the government. Confident in the state’s legal position, Charles Porter, then minister for Aboriginal and Islander Affairs, notified the church of the government’s intention to assume management of Aurukun at the end of March. In announcing its decision to take over Aurukun, the Bjelke-Petersen government cited poor health and living conditions at the mission as the rationale for intervention. Yet as Kidd has argued, internal departmental records “give a different twist”, with a federally-funded nurse informing her superior that “the Aurukun hospital had been kept empty, saving the state $1,000 a week in wages”.
Meanwhile at Aurukun the community continued its protest, soliciting support from trade unions with the Cairns branch of the Seaman’s Union declaring they would black ban Tipperary, and sending a delegation of community elders on a national speaking tour. With considerable media coverage of the plight of the Aurukun community, and in the context of growing support for land rights, the conservative Fraser government felt compelled to intervene to save its credibility. Fraser had after all pledged to maintain legislation introduced by the Whitlam government to grant Aboriginal land claims in the Northern Territory, albeit in a weakened form. With an eviction order for Aurukun looming, the Fraser government in April moved the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self Management) Bill, to allow Aboriginal communities on reserves to opt out of state government control.
Bjelke-Petersen retaliated by passing the Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Act 1978 while Fraser’s bill awaited debate in the Senate. This Act abolished Queensland’s Aboriginal reserves and converted them into local government areas, rendering the Fraser bill irrelevant. It also had the effect of preventing the new local councils from acquiring direct title to any land comprising former missions’ areas and gave the state exclusive access to mining and mineral rights. Predictably, Fraser capitulated in favour of preserving a working relationship with the Queensland government, failing to use his capacity to make the Queensland Reserves Act retroactive and override the state law.
Nevertheless, the Aurukun people refused to give up their fight. They occupied the community airfield, the only way to access Aurukun, and other buildings and facilities. In August 1978, when a triumphant Bjelke-Petersen and his minister for local government Russ Hinze toured the new local councils on Cape York, they were refused access to Aurukun. It was becoming apparent that it would take further punitive measures to quell the struggle, and so a furious Bjelke-Petersen sacked the Aboriginal-elected councils at Aurukun and Mornington Island, alleging that the community had been brainwashed by radicals and held under a “reign of terror”. For good measure, the government deployed a detachment of police from Brisbane to Aurukun to quash any further unrest. The Fraser government backed this repression, publicly stating it was “not unhappy” with Bjelke-Petersen’s actions in dismissing the Aurukun council. So at Aurukun, all arms of the Australian state, from the courts to the state and federal governments, had acted to ensure that the Indigenous population lost all control over their land and to secure access to it for mining interests.
The Wik and Wik Way people never ceded their claim to their traditional land, and right through to the end of his term in government Bjelke-Petersen would face their resistance. For example, in the late 1970s, Bjelke-Petersen was found guilty of discrimination under the federal Racial Discrimination Act when he refused to transfer title of land to Aurukun resident John Koowarta. Koowarta had acquired a pastoral property through the federal Land Fund Commission. Determined to prevent any precedent for Aboriginal land ownership, Bjelke-Petersen simply had the area upon which the property sat on the Archer River re-gazetted as a national park in 1982 to stymie the transfer of land. By 1987, when Bjelke-Petersen’s disgraceful career as premier came to an end, he had well and truly lived up to his pledge to smash Aboriginal land rights, or what he scathingly termed, “[t]erritorial acquisition en masse for Aborigines as a race in isolation”.
On Cape York, despite government rhetoric, the total surrender of land to mining interests yielded negligible public benefits. The sacrifice of the Indigenous population delivered insignificant and short-term gains to the state, as the mining companies dodged taxes and refused to pay anything but token royalties. The wanton and casual way in which the state dismissed Aboriginal rights is perfectly exemplified by the fact that in 1963, the year of the abhorrent expulsion at Mapoon, the mission site had been found not even to hold economic deposits of bauxite.
The history of the establishment of Queensland bauxite mining is also a history of the resilient and unceasing struggle for land by the Aboriginal peoples of Cape York. Despite Bjelke-Petersen’s determination to bring the Aurukun community to heel, the inspiring refusal of the Wik and Wik Way people to cede their land to mining in the 1970s, even in the face of intense repression, laid the basis for the most significant modern land rights claim: the Wik Native Title claim lodged in the aftermath of the historic Mabo decision which established the legal concept of an Aboriginal claim to land. In 2012, after a decade of court deliberations and appeals, the High Court finally recognised native title rights for the Wik people over 4,500 square kilometres of land and waterways in Cape York. Despite its undeniable significance, the Wik ruling also demonstrates the inferiority of native title, a form of tenure overridden by any other lease at play on Indigenous land, including pastoral or mining leases. Indeed, the momentous Wik victory has not held off mining interests on traditional land. The battle for Aurukun, commenced in the 1960s, continues today in the form of a recently lodged High Court challenge to secure community rights to determine the terms upon which further mining will take place on Wik land. The Wik are fighting to overturn an agreement signed by the former Liberal/National Newman government, and upheld by the current Palaszczuk Labor government, that granted Glencore rights to mine Aurukun bauxite deposits without their consent.
The history of the development of the Queensland bauxite industry shows the extreme and violent lengths to which the capitalist state – under Labor and Liberal/National state and federal governments alike, over decades of Aboriginal affairs bureaucracy and policy – has gone in order to clear the land for mining interests. What’s more, these genocidal crimes were perpetrated under the permissive watch of the church mission system which incarcerated Aboriginal people for almost a century.
Brennan, Frank 1992, Land Rights Queensland Style: The Struggle for Aboriginal Self-Management, University of Queensland Press.
Cousins, David and John Nieuwenhuysen 1984, Aboriginals and the Mining Industry: Case Studies of the Australian Experience, George Allen & Unwin.
Fitzgerald, Ross 1984, A History of Queensland: From 1915 to the 1980s, University of Queensland Press.
Frankland, Kathy 1994, “A Brief History of Government Administration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Queensland,” Queensland State Archives and Department of Family Services and Aboriginal and Islander Affairs, http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/__data/ assets/pdf_file/0008/93734/Admin_History_Aboriginal_and_Torres_
Griffiths, Max 1998, Of Mines and Men: Australia’s 20th Century Mining Miracle 1945-1985, Kangaroo Press.
Kidd, Rosalind 1997, The Way We Civilise: Aboriginal Affairs – the untold story, University of Queensland Press.
Lacey, Lionel G. 1976, “Life Under the Act” in Attwood, Bain and Andrew Markus (eds) 1999, The Struggle for Aboriginal Rights: A Documentary History, Allen & Unwin, pp286-288.
Mandeville, T.D. 1980, The Impact of the Weipa Bauxite Mine on the Queensland Economy, Comalco Limited.
North-East Branch of the Communist Party of Australia 1976, The Aurukun Associates Act 1975: What’s in it for Aborigines and why they don’t want mining.
O’Lincoln, Tom 2012 , Years of Rage: Social Conflicts in the Fraser Era, Interventions.
Queensland Legislative Assembly, 28 November 1957, Parliamentary debates (Hansard), Queensland Government Printer.
Raggart, H.G. 1968, Mountains of Ore, Landsdowne Press.
Roberts, J.P. (ed) 1975a, Mapoon Book 1: The Mapoon Story by the Mapoon People, International Development Action.
Roberts, J.P. (ed) 1975b, Mapoon Book 2: The Mapoon Story According to the Invaders, International Development Action.
Roberts, J.P. (ed) 1976, Mapoon Book 3: The Cape York Aluminium Companies and the Native Peoples, International Development Action.
Roberts, Jan 2008 , Massacres to Mining: The Colonisation of Aboriginal Australia, Impact Investigative Media Productions.
Taffe, Sue 2009, “The Cairns Aborigines and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League and the community of the left”, Labour History 97.
Trengove, Alan 1979, Discovery: Stories of Modern Mineral Exploration, Stockwell Press.
Wharton, Geoffrey Steven 1996, The Day They Burned Mapoon: A Study of the Closure of a Queensland Presbyterian Mission, University of Queensland Department of History.
Wright, Alexis 2006, Carpentaria, Giramondo.
 Aurukun elder Albert Chevathen, 1975.
 Wright 2006, p128. In 2006, Alexis Wright, a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria, published an award-winning novel, Carpentaria, set in a fictional mining town on the Gulf. This powerful and poignant work paints a vivid picture of the experience of Aboriginal dispossession for mining interests.
 Miranda Wood, “Aboriginal activists stand strong at Matagarup,” Red Flag, 19 March 2015.
 Simon Frazer and Rachel Brown, “Mining industry receives billions of dollars in state subsidies: report”, 24 June 2014, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-24/mining-industry-receives-billions-of-dollars-in-state-subsidies/5545714.
 “Colin Barnett links closure of remote Aboriginal communities to child abuse,” The Guardian, 20 March 2015.
 Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Council, http://queenslandplaces.com.au/mapoon-aboriginal-shire-council.
 Wharton 1996, p15.
 Brennan 1992, p7.
 Roberts 1975a, p6.
 Kidd 1997, p48.
 Section 9, Aborigines Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897.
 Wharton 1996, p16.
 Section 31, Aborigines Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897.
 Quoted in Roberts 1975a, p7.
 Kidd 1997, p61.
 Kidd 1997, pp92-93.
 Frankland 1994, p6.
 Kidd 1997, p93.
 Kidd 1997, p147.
 Section 32(2), Aboriginals Preservation and Protection Act 1939.
 Kidd 1997, p148.
 Cairns Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League 1962, “‘They Have Made Our Rights Wrong’: The Struggle for Mapoon”, 6 November, http://indigenousrights.net.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/383748/f19.pdf.
 Frankland 1994, p10.
 Lacey 1976, p287.
 Kidd 1997, p267.
 Kidd 1997, p193.
 Kidd 1997, p195.
 Kidd 1997, p201.
 Cited in Roberts 1975b, p63.
 “Call for policy on bauxite missions”, Courier Mail, 5 October 1957.
 Cited in Roberts 1975b, p64. My emphasis.
 Wharton 1996, p27.
 Roberts 1975b, p69.
 Kidd 1997, p203.
 Cited in Wharton 1996, p64.
 Trengove 1979, p10.
 Roberts 2008, p92.
 Fitzgerald 1984, p299.
 Fitzgerald 1984, p186.
 Raggart 1968, p52.
 Quoted in Wharton 1996, p77.
 Queensland Legislative Assembly 1957, p1418.
 Raggart 1968, p91.
 Roberts 2008, p97.
 Cousins and Niewyenheusen 1984, p15.
 Roberts 2008, p97.
 Kidd 1997, p204.
 Queensland Legislative Assembly 1957, p1413.
 Kidd 1997, p206.
 Roberts 2008, p97.
 Fitzgerald 1984, p308.
 Fitzgerald 1984, p309.
 Roberts 1976, p3.
 Griffiths 1998, p49.
 Mandeville 1980, p5.
 Roberts 2008, p97.
 Fitzgerald 1984, p305; Cousins and Nieuwenhuysen 1984, p17.
 Queensland Legislative Assembly 1957, p1409.
 Queensland Legislative Assembly 1957, p1414.
 Queensland Legislative Assembly 1957, p1434.
 Roberts 2008, p104.
 Cited in Roberts 2008, p104.
 Roberts 2008, p104.
 Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Council, http://www.mapoon.com/37.html.
 Roberts 1975a, p7.
 Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Council, http://www.mapoon.com/37.html.
 “Mapoon to be closed?,” Courier Mail, 20 April 1954.
 Kidd 1997, p197.
 “State’s oldest mission closes”, Telegraph, 13 March 1962.
 Kidd 1997, p217.
 Kidd 1997, p217.
 Kidd 1997, p216.
 Kidd 1997, p217.
 Kidd 1997, p218.
 Kidd 1997, p199.
 Taffe 2009, p160.
 Cairns Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League 1962.
 Wharton 1996, p18.
 Kidd 1997, p220.
 Roberts 1975a, p8.
 Roberts 1976, p10.
 Roberts 1975a, p9. Original was capitalised.
 Roberts 1975a, p9.
 “Shameful story of Mapoon”, Tribune, 8 April 1964.
 Roberts 1975a, p11.
 Wharton 1996, p24.
 “Shameful story of Mapoon”, Tribune, 8 April 1964.
 Quoted in Roberts 1975a, p13.
 Quoted in Roberts 1975a, p12.
 Quoted in Roberts 1975a, p14.
 Quoted in Roberts 1975a, p14.
 O’Lincoln 2012, p137.
 Roberts 1976, p44.
 Fitzgerald 1984, p312.
 Fitzgerald 1984, pp313-314.
 Mandeville 1980, p6.
 Quoted in Brennan 1992, p13.
 Quoted in Fitzgerald 1984, p522.
 Cited in Fitzgerald 1984, p536.
 Aurukun shire council, http://www.aurukun.qld.gov.au/shire-profile/our-culture/traditional-countries/.
 Wright 2006, p134.
 Roberts 2008, p118.
 Roberts 1976, p35.
 Kidd 1997, p284.
 Roberts 2008, p118.
 Roberts 1976, p40.
 Roberts 1976, p41.
 Roberts 1976, p40.
 Kidd 1997, p286.
 Roberts 2008, p119.
 Roberts 1976, p41.
 North-East Branch of the Communist Party of Australia 1976, p4.
 Fitzgerald 1984, p315.
 Roberts 1976, pp42-43.
 Kidd 1997, p289.
 “Church criticises Government,” Courier Mail, 16 December 1975.
 Kidd 1997, p285.
 Roberts 1976, p31.
 Roberts 2008, p123.
 The Privy Council could hear appeals from Australian state courts until this legal avenue was closed in the 1980s.
 NAA 1978, Submission 2046: Proposed Queensland Government takeover of management of Aurukun and Mornington Island Reserves – Decision 4909, 21 Mar 1978-22 Mar 1978, A12909, p.14, http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/ SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=8147067.
 Kidd 1997, p295.
 Roberts 1976, p44.
 Roberts 2008, p123.
 O’Lincoln 2012, p161.
 Kidd 1997, p297.
 Roberts 2008, p52.
 Kidd 1997, p298.
 Kidd 1997, p298.
 Roberts 2008, p52.
 Kidd 1997, p299.
 Fitzgerald 1984, p317.
 Fitzgerald 1984, p317.
 Kidd 1997, p289-290.
 Kidd 1997, p328.
 Quoted in Brennan 1992, p12.
 Wharton 1996, p31.
 Jamie Walker, “Bittersweet end to Wik native title saga”, The Australian, 12 October 2012.
 Natasha Robinson, “High Court to hear Wik case against Mineral Resources Act”, The Australian, 20 August 2015.