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.

The following information has been sourced from the State Library of Queensland.

‘Aurukun was originally known as Archer River Mission Settlement.  It was originally established in 1904 for the Presbyterian Church by the Reverend Arthur and Mrs Richter who were assisted in the early settlement period by T W Holmes.  The Richters led the establishment of the settlement up until 1913 when they returned to Germany, apparently for a short visit or holiday, intending to return in due course. However, due to the outbreak of the First World War, they were unable to return to Australia and were eventually replaced by Mr and Mrs Holmes.  The reserve was expanded in 1922 to include the Kendall River area located to the south.  The town eventually became known as Aurukun which is said to have local meaning associated with a large lagoon on the Watson River, to the south.  At the beginning, the majority of the buildings, including the church and mission house were constructed of local materials by residents using a range of traditional skills.  Over time however, stronger and more permanent buildings were constructed using materials brought in from elsewhere.  The below photograph, taken in 1913, shows the mission house in its more permanent form, replacing the earlier structure.’

Mission House, Aurukun, 1913


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.