The NPA Region is made up of five indigenous communities. There are three aboriginal communities; Injinoo, Umagico and new Mapoon, and two Saibai Islander communities; Seisia and Bamaga.
The first established settlement in the NPA region was that of five semi-nomadic tribes, who came together in peace to settle Injinoo at the mouth of Cowal Creek (meaning Small River). These clans were the Anggamuthi, Atambaya, Wuthathi, Yadaigana and Gudang clans. Their decendants, the people of Injinoo, are the traditional owners of the land.
The people of Injinoo still practise traditional hunting rights and cultural ceremonies, including traditional dance, song and cooking.
To maintain proper management of the land and it's resources, elected community members form the Aputhama Lands Trust board. They work closely with the NPA Rangers, based in Injinoo, to manage traditionally owned land.
Formed by one of Injinoo’s founding families, the Williams, who wanted to live seperate to the community, George Williams was at the time working for cattle baron Frank Jardine. M Jardine provided the Williams family with a home and land, with permission from the traditional owners, the people of Injinoo.
When the people of Lockhart River were forced from their own land, they were given permission by the traditional owners, the Williams and the Jardines to settle at the homestead in Umagico. The community’s name means ‘Black headed python place’.
When the people of Saibai Island began to fear for their future supplies of fresh water, a few families decided to relocate to the mainland. Saibai Island is a small Island (approximately 6km-20km) built up from alluvial soils washed from the river systems of neighbouring islands of Papua New Guinea, only 5km North. The island is prone to flooding, often contaminating fresh water supplies with storm surges.
In 1948, a government reservation was created for the people of Saibai Island wishing to migrate to the mainland. The Injinoo people granted permission for them to settle in their area now known as Mutee Heads, as construction of the Bamaga township was underway. By 1954, the majority of construction was completed and more Saibai Islander families moved to the mainland to settle in Bamaga. The community was named after it’s founder, Bamaga Ginau and is now the administrative hub of the NPA, as it is in the center of the five communities.
The people of Mapoon (now known as Old Mapoon), were forcibly removed from their homes and mission housing in the 1960s, to allow for Bauxite mining to commence in the area. Some went south to resettle near Cairns, some moved North to a resettlement in the NPA, named New Mapoon. Though they are traditionally a peoples from the coast, the settlement was chosen as appropriate due to the fresh water spring located at the back of the community. Indeed, the area was traditionally named after ‘Mandingnou’, meaning ‘Place of spring’.
The people of Mapoon still have very strong ties to their homeland, and some have moved back to resettle in the area of their original community. They still practice culture through telling the stories of their ancestors and homelands through art, song and dance.
The NPA Arts Centre is based in New Mapoon, a centre open to the community, to support all forms of indigenouns Australian art.
The final community to be settled in the NPA is Seisia, another settlement of Saibai Islander people. The island people preferred to live by the sea, so as more families followed in pursuit of fresh water and land, they resettled at the site of the old Red Island Wharf. The name Seisia is made up from the first letter of each of the brothers Sagaukauz, Elu, Ibuai, Sunai, Isua and Aken, the founding brothers of the community. Seisia wharf provides the region with shipping and ferry services, as wel as being a popular local fishing spot.
Though most of the NPA's population reside in the five communities, the area is rich in indigenous and white settler history. Most families also have local campsites bordering the beaches, where they can fish and hunt. We ask that you please be respectful of these areas, as they are not open to general camping.
More commonly referred to as 'the tip', mainland Australia's most Northern point is only 35km North of Bamaga community, accessible by dirt roads. There is still the remains of the once five star Pajinka Eco Lodge that can be found at the base of the tip. Pajinka lies on the coast, bordered by the beautiful white sand of Franjipani Beach.
View of Pajinka, from the tip
Around 1864 the settlement of Somerset was established by Sir George Bowen who appointed Mr John Jardine as Government resident. The site was chosen to be the shipping hub of the Cape, but due to strong currents through Albany Passage, the central hub was moved to Thursday island.
During the 1860's, a hospital was built at Somerset on top of a hill, where the patients could benefit from the fresh sea breezes. Serviced by nuns, the hospital treated leprosy, tuberculosis, common injury and illness as well as seamen suffering from tropical infections or disease. It is told that one seaman who was treated as a patient was carried kilometers away, to be burried in the scrub away from the settlement, for fear of catching his illness.
The Jardine family homestead was located on top of a neighbouring hill overlooking Somerset, where the Jardine cannons can still be found. Due to the lack of reliable written accounts of the first white settlers in Cape York, there are many conflicting stories regarding the settlment of the Jardine family.
The graves of John Jardine's son Frank and his wife fan be found just off the beach at Somerset, alongside Japanese Pearling workers and the graves local indigenous community members.
Looking across the passage from the beach at Somerset, you can clearly see the old pearl farm based on Albany island, now used for tourism accomodation and fishing charters.
View of Albany Island and Albany Passage from Somerset
In the second World War, a naval wharf was constructed on the West coast of Cape York, at the location now called Mutee Heads. USA ally forces built a radar tower on the northern face, the remains of which can still be found. You can also still see the support pillars for the wharf, standing in the bay area.
The people of Injinoo were involved in constructing services at Mutee Heads and in transporting messages from Mutee Heads to Higgins Field Airport (now known as NPA Airport, located just out of Bamaga commnuity).