Cape Keerweer, on the Gulf of Carpentaria coast, was the site of the first attempted European settlement in Australia.
In 1605, the Dutch ship Duyfken, under Captain Willem Janszoon, sailed down the west coast of Cape York Peninsula and made the first recorded Dutch landing in Australia at Cape Keerweer, south of Aurukun. Janszoon planned to build a city at the site. However, after exploitative actions by the crew, fighting broke out with the local people, several sailors were killed and the Duyfken departed.
Aurukun was established as a Presbyterian mission (formerly known as the Archer River Mission station) in 1904. Aboriginal people were relocated from large surrounding areas to the mission settlement over several decades. Today’s township is on the site of the original mission.
On 22 May 1978, the Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Act came into force, constituting the Aurukun Shire Council. The Act granted a 50-year lease to the Council over most of the land in the original Reserve, a large part of the traditional lands of the Aurukun people.
A cairn in Aurukun with two plaques detailing the history of the community