It was in the year 1924 when Lockhart River was founded due to the coercion of the KuukuYa’u, Wuthathi, Umpila, Kaanju and Uuthalganu clans to a new Anglican mission at Orchid Point. However, the mission was moved in 1925 to Bare Hill (putchiwu’chi) since it had a preferable water supply and it could grow limited crops as well.
Although most are sandbeach people, the new rules laid out by the new mission did not allow them to speak their language and practise their cultural traditions. They were even moved inland; which is a bit far away to their sea country. Although the community is marked with good intentions but sometimes misguided policies of successive governments and missionaries, the people in Lockhart River were able to manage their unique culture alive and strong.
Take note that all the roads within the Lockhart River community are sealed and getting in during the wet season is hard. The small airport of Lockhart River has a 1500 metre sealed runway located around 5 kilometers from the township which is suitable to use for any weather and operates for 24 hours.
A daily air passenger service from Cairns to Lockhart River is available from Monday to Friday, as well as chartered and emergency flights. Flights usually takes about an hour and a half.
After being gathered and relocated from the eastern regions of Cape York, placed at the Anglican Church Mission at Orchid Point, then to Bare Hill which is south of Cape Direction, the Aboriginal people who are now inhabitants of a coastal community of Lockhart River had gone through a lot.
Some of the people were kidnapped only to be paid meagerly by lugger captains. Fortunately, they were also hired Hugh Giblet to gather sandalwood but were guarded and rewarded with clothing, food, and cased liquor. After Giblet died, the Aboriginal people remembered him fondly as someone who respected the culture and worked with the Aboriginal people.
RB Howard, the Chief Protector of Aboriginals, recommended an Aboriginal settlement be built at Lloyd Bay in 1906. However, the people once again faced issues due to the pricing decline of sandalwood and the cessation of employment. Howard pointed out concerns about the supply of intoxicating liquor and that an officer is necessary to make sure the Aboriginals Protection Act would not be avoided.
When WWII came, the Aboriginal people were advised to 'go bush' to avoid air raids. As a result, the people were able to re-establish their connection with the ngaachi (place/land/estates) and spread out like before. To establish a community spirit, H Johnson encouraged traditional skills such as language, bushcraft, and hunting. When Johnson's successor retired, John Warby, whose name is honoured in an era of Lockhart River history succeeded.
During the 'Warby Time', housing was re-organised to bring the Aboriginal people closer to the sea. Not only that, but the people were also able to build their homes using local materials. In the year 1953, Warby reported that the Aboriginal people of Lockhart River had embraced Christianity. John Warby was able to create the Lockhart River Christian Cooperative which taught the people to run cooperative businesses, establish a voluntary night school, provide employment, foster church activities, and improve living conditions. Each family became a shareholder, and they played a role in routine administration and participated in decision making for the first time.
Warby helped the Aboriginal people in Lockhart River in a lot of ways; however, there were still difficulties. The Anglican Church in the year 1964 transferred the mission to the Queensland Government who tried to relocate the people to Bamaga once again. Fortunately, some leaders stood up to the government and refused. In 1970, although they gave in, it was only to move closer to the airport and also the supply port of Portland Roads at the Iron Range.
There were still challenges, but in September 2001, the majority of the land held by the Council under the Deed of Grant in Trust was entrusted to Traditional Owners under the Queensland Aboriginal Land Act. Thus, the Mangkuma [mung-Kooma] Land Trust was formed which holds the land on behalf of the Traditional Owners. In accordance to the Qld Local Government (Community Government Areas) Act of 2004, Lockhart River Aboriginal Council became the Lockhart River Aboriginal Shire Council making it the same as all other local governments in Queensland on January 1, 2005. Despite all this, the culture of the Aboriginal people in Lockhart River have survived despite the attempts of many.