Lockhart River is a town in the Aboriginal Shire of Lockhart River and a locality split between the Aboriginal Shire of Lockhart River and the Shire of Cook.
Location: Lockhart River is 2,413 km NW of Brisbane; 754 km NW of Cairns; 259 km E of Weipa.
Lockhart River is the northernmost town on the east coast of Australia. The community is also located approximately 2 kilometres inland from Quintell Beach and is within the Iron Range National Park. The population consists mostly of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, whose ancestors were forcibly moved to the area beginning in 1924. The Lockhart River 'local' population consists of five different clan groups: the Wuthathi from the north of the Olive River; the Kuuku Ya'u from Lloyd Bay and Weymouth Bay; the Uutaalnganu from the Lockhart River south to Friendly Point; the Umpila from Friendly Point to the Massey River; and the Kaanju from the inland mountain areas behind the coast.
The Lockhart River Art Gang features world famous aboriginal artists such as Rosella Namok, Samantha Hobson, Silas Hobson, Fiona Omeenyo and Irene Namok, Dorothy Short, many of whom have artworks in the Australian National Gallery in Canberra and throughout the world. The local artists are known as the Lockhart River Art Gang.
A number of smaller communities also exist: Wattle Hills Station, Pascoe River 'Farm', Chili Beach, Packer's Bay and Portland Roads. Wattle Hills Station is located just inside the mouth of the Pascoe River, north of Lockhart River. It is a share arrangement for persons opting out of mainstream society. Approximately 30 persons live in open-plan style houses. This station has its own airstrip and mail service once a week. Some of the houses have telephones connected and all are linked by their own private UHF radio network under the Rural Fires scheme.
Pascoe River 'farm' is located on the banks of the Pascoe River quite some distance inland. Access to the farm is from the main Lockhart River to Archer River road, 52 kilometres from the Lockhart River community. A track leads a further 15 kilometres to the farm. It is occupied by the Fyfe extended family group. Approximately 10 to 15 people live on the farm.
Chilli Beach has a number of dwellings squatting along the secluded beaches and headlands. Approximately 10 - 20 persons live there. Packer's Bay also has a number of open-plan and full residential style houses occupied by persons opting out of mainstream society. Approximately 10 persons live there. Portland Roads community is a standard housing area with some open-plan style houses and no power, water or sewerage facilities. It was predominantly a fishing community until the recent changes to Fisheries Regulations. Many prawn trawlers, cray boats and yachts use this sheltered anchorage. Approximately 10 persons live here.
The Lockhart River district is an area of rainforest and lowland wet tropics. It is one of the most beautiful and diverse regions in the world, a paradise for birds, butterflies and many unique animals, insects and plants. Some of the species here are only found in this area. It is an incredibly beautiful part of the world where you can stand on Quintell Beach, and look back towards the spectacular mountains of the Kutini Payamu National Park (formerly known as Iron Range National Park). Close by is the iconic Chili beach, a North Queensland tropical beach, fringed with coconut palms, and clear waters lapping at white sand. The beac h itself is also spectacular, with huge boulders and rock formations on the beach. Huge trees grow on the edge of the beach.
Port Stewart is a small community on the eastern coast of Cape York approximately 229km north of Cooktown. Accessible by a good gravel road, it is not the greatest spot if you want to get out to the bay, unless you have a boat, as the beach area is at the river mouth, and the actual ocean is some distance away.
Lockhart River takes its the name from the river located 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) south of the community. The river was named by explorer Robert Logan Jack in January 1880, after a close friend, Hugh Lockhart.
Non-indigenous people first arrived in 1848, when the explorer Edmund Kennedy set up a base camp near the mouth of the Pascoe River at Weymouth Bay. Kennedy left eight men at the camp but by the time they were located by the supply ship, only two remained alive, the other six having died from disease and starvation. By the 1870s, fishermen with luggers looking for trepang, pearl shell and trochus were in the coastal areas. Miners in search of tin and gold, along with timber cutters, were in the hills around Gordon Creek and the country inland around the Wenlock River.
Beginning in 1924, Aboriginal people gathered and were collected from eastern regions of Cape York and placed at the Anglican Church Mission at Orchid Point near the Lockhart River, which had been a centre for the sandalwood trade. Six months later, the Mission was relocated to Bare Hill, south of Cape Direction. After the Second World War broke out, the European superintendent went on furlough in 1942, and the Aboriginal people were told to go to several bush camps and fend for themselves. After 4 to 6 months, the mission was re-established but with poor resources and lack of funding. A better period followed in the 1950s under superintendent John Warby. A Cooperative Society operated during this time in the trochus shell industry until prices failed. New housing was built and separate group villages were brought together into one on the coastal side.
During World War II, Lockhart River Airport was constructed as a large American bomber base with three airstrips operating. The US bombers flew to Papua New Guinea and were met by their fighter escorts based at Bamaga and Horn Island further north. Many thousands of troops, both US and Australian, passed through as part of their jungle training before being shipped to southeast Asia, and many sorties from the base were flown against Japanese forces during the critical Battle of the Coral Sea, 4 8 May 1942. Portland Roads community, 40 kilometres north of Lockhart River, was the supply port for the war effort with a large jetty. This jetty has since been removed. Many old bunkers and rusting 44 gallon drums can still be found in bush areas.
In 1967, the Anglican Church handed over the mission to the Queensland Government who tried to relocate the people to Bamaga. Most of the people refused to go. In 1968-9, the people were relocated from the traditional area of the Uutaalnganu people on the coast to a new site in Kuuku Ya'u country further north and inland from Quintell Beach. This move and the assimilation policy of the new government administration resulted in much discontent and friction. The Lockhart River Community was given 'Deed of Grant in Trust' (DOGIT) title to the lands in 1987. Locally elected councillors now provide administration for the Lockhart River DOGIT.