Cape York Peninsula - People and Culture

People and Culture

The first known contact between Europeans and Aborigines occurred on the west coast of the peninsula in 1606 but it was not settled by Europeans until the 19th century when fishing communities, then ranches and later mining towns were established. European settlement led to the displacement of Aboriginal communities and the arrival of Torres Strait Islanders on the mainland. Today the peninsula has a population of only about 18,000, of which a large percentage (~60 %) are Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

The administrative and commercial centre for much of Cape York Peninsula is Cooktown, located in its far southeastern corner while the peninsula’s largest settlement is the mining town Weipa on the Gulf of Carpentaria. The remainder is extremely sparsely populated, with about half the population living in very small settlements and cattle ranches. Along the Peninsula Developmental Road, there are small service centres at Lakeland, Laura and Coen. At the tip of Cape York, there is a sizeable service centre on nearby Thursday Island. Aboriginal communities are at Hopevale, Pormpuraaw, Kowanyama, Aurukun, Lockhart River, Napranum, Mapoon, Injinoo, New Mapoon and Umagico. Torres Strait Islander communities on the mainland are at Bamaga and Seisia. A completely sealed inland road links Cairns and the Atherton Tableland to Lakeland Downs and Cooktown. The road north of Lakeland Downs to the tip of the Peninsula is sometimes cut after heavy rains during the wet season (roughly December to May).

The Peninsula is a popular tourist destination in the Dry Season for camping, hiking, birdwatching and fishing enthusiasts. Many people make the adventurous, but rewarding, drive to the tip of Cape York, the northernmost point of mainland Australia.

Some of the world's most extensive and ancient Aboriginal rock painting galleries surround the town of Laura, some of which are available for public viewing. There is also a new Interpretive Centre from which information on the rock art and local culture is available and tours can be arranged.

Read more about this topic:  Cape York Peninsula

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