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Mapoon people look to a new chapter

Supplied by Cook Electorate 19 November 2013

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significant milestone in the history of Old Mapoon was reached over the weekend with the 50 year commemoration of the forced removal of residents by the Department of Native Affairs. Even intense storms could not dampen the community’s high spirits as people gathered to celebrate with family and friends from far and wide over the three day event. “From the ashes we have arisen,” was emblazoned across the community hall as a fitting sign of new beginnings for the Mapoon people. In November 1963, police were ordered to remove the last remaining people from the community at gun point and then burn the dwellings to make way for the development of the bauxite deposit. The Mapoon people were

relocated from their homelands, many to New Mapoon with a promise of new housing which never eventuated. Over the years, many people drifted back to Old Mapoon and eventually a thriving community developed not far from the old site. David Kempton, the Assistant Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, attended the celebrations after playing a key role organising the weekend. “Bernard Charlie the Mayor of New Mapoon and I came up with the idea to try and get some funding from the State Housing Minister, Tim Mander, to rebuild some of the houses that were destroyed in 1963,” Mr Kempton said. “Peter Guivarra, the Mayor of Old Mapoon was also approached about the idea.” The trio were successful in their bid and on Friday, Mr Mander announced the State would provide $2 million funding to rebuild five houses in the community.

During the celebrations Councillor Guivarra said historically there had been a lot of misunderstandings between the Europeans and the people of Cape York, which led to a lot of conflict. “Today marks a major step forward for this community,” he said. Mr Kempton explained to a packed hall the importance of Governments doing more than just saying sorry for the past. “This gesture by our Government is a clear acknowledgment of the significance of the removal of the Old Mapoon people,” he said. “It is important that we remember what happened but also take steps towards supporting the rebirth of this community. “These people weren’t just taken from their homes, they were removed from their spiritual homeland. “This is another chapter closed in the Mapoon story as we turn the page to a new beginning,” he said.

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Mapoon people look to new chapter