Shire of Aurukun
Aurukun, on the western coast of Cape York Peninsula, has a population of about 1000 people. The 1991 census states that collection district number 10501, the town area of Aurukun of 0.19 km2, had a population of 788 with 89% of the population Aboriginal people or Torres Strait Islanders. Collection district number 10502, the balance of the Shire of 7192 km2, has a nil return because either there were no people in residence or there were too few to show (for reasons of confidentiality) on the community profile. In August when the 1991 census was undertaken, it is likely that there were in fact 150-300 people living in outstations.
In 1986 Aurukun Shire had a population of 957 of whom 74.8 spoke Aboriginal languages at home. No Aboriginal person had post-secondary qualifications and only ten persons had occupations listed as professional, para-professional, trade persons, clerks, personal service and sales, or plant and machine operators. The balance of the Aboriginal population were labourers (only 11), unemployed, listed as occupation 'not stated' (only 5), or inadequately described (91). It is likely that most of the labourers and inadequately described were on CDEP. Nearly all the adult non-Aboriginal population of about 150 had paid employment.
This report is the result of an investigation into community development planning capacities in Aurukun. It discusses how policies put in place by past governments may have lead to the current situation in Aurukun. This is particularly so with reference to the history of the establishment of the Aurukun Shire Council and its mode of operation.
The dense urbanisation of the town area and factors leading to its continuing growth are discussed along with Aboriginal resistance to this development and their retreat into alienated opposition.
Further, several issues that constrain Aboriginal control and participation are presented. Recommendations, designed to open up a closed and alienating system of government and to offer people a greater choice in residence are offered. Both sets of reforms will allow the people of Aurukun to take control of their own lives.