Woorabinda, Queensland

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Woorabinda Mural, North Road.jpg
Woorabinda is located in Queensland
Coordinates 24°7′S 149°27′E / 24.117°S 149.450°E / -24.117; 149.450Coordinates: 24°7′S 149°27′E / 24.117°S 149.450°E / -24.117; 149.450
Population 1,033 (2011 census)
 • Density 2.642/km2 (6.843/sq mi)
Established 1927
Postcode(s) 4713
Area 391 km2 (151.0 sq mi)
LGA(s) Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council
State electorate(s) Gregory
Federal Division(s) Flynn

Woorabinda /ˈwʊərəbɪndə/ is an Aboriginal community in Central Queensland, Australia, inland about two hours' west drive of Rockhampton. At the 2006 census, Woorabinda had a population of 851.[1]


Woorabinda was first established in 1927, with land gazetted from the County of Waroona, as a replacement for the Taroom Aboriginal Settlement. The land at Taroom was repossessed for the development of proposed Nathan Dam for the Dawson River Irrigation Scheme,[2] which was ultimately never built.

Central Queensland had a high level of frontier violence and Aboriginal deaths, such as at Cullin-La-Ringo at nearby Springsure and Hornet Bank along the Dawson River. There was a forcible relocation of dispossessed survivors into government-controlled settlements starting from 1897, with the introduction of the Aboriginals Protection Act—initially at Taroom, and then Woorabinda. Peoples from at least 17 different language groups were placed within the camp, some from as far as Mornington Island,[3] and were under the control of a local Superintendent beneath the state Chief Protector of Aborigines.

The movement of approximately 300 Taroom residents occurred via foot and hired truck[4] over the 250 km. This walk from Taroom to Woorabinda was commemorated by the community with a supported re-enactment in 2014.[5]

The Woorabinda community is the only DOGIT Aboriginal community within the Central Queensland region. DOGIT communities have a special type of land tenure which applies only to former Aboriginal reserves. The land title is a system of community level land trusts, owned and administered by the local council.


Woorabinda is a township with the seasonal Mimosa Creek nearby, also a source of local water. During rainy season, the township can be isolated due to road flooding. Access is via the Fitzroy Developmental Road, which is sealed north towards Duaringa and where it meets the Capricorn Highway to Rockhampton. To the south, it is gravel road to Bauhinia Downs, where it meets the Dawson Highway and access to Gladstone.

East is the sealed Baralaba-Woorabinda Road, seasonally cut off by flooding. West has a number of cattle properties until the base of the Blackdown Tablelands, serviced by gravel roads.

There is also a sealed airstrip along the north road into town, used by chartered flights and aeromedical retrieval services. No commercial flights operate to the airstrip.

Cape Bedford relocation[edit]

In May 1942, during World War II, a Lutheran Aboriginal mission at Cape Bedford on Cape York in far North Queensland was closed to become used as an army camp. The relocation has also been attributed to governmental fears of Aboriginal loyalty to the German Lutheran pastor and possibly against non-Aboriginal Australian interests in favour of the Japanese. The 254 Aboriginal residents, of Guugu Yimithirr identity, were forcibly relocated; initially to Townsville via road and boat, and then via train to the ironback dormitory at Woorabinda. This trip was poorly provisioned and people arrived at their end destination having been deprived of food and blankets during the winter overland trip.

There was tension between the Cape Bedford evacuees and the residents of Woorabinda, partially due to the strong Lutheran Christian beliefs held by those from Cape Bedford. However, the evacuees also experienced many cultural experiences previously unavailable to them because of the strong church presence, such as corroborrees. During this time, informal Lutheran church services and ministering were maintained by the evacuees to hold onto their Christian beliefs, creating a core strength of spiritual leadership within this group. Choral singing started during this time within the Guugu Yimithirr language from translated hymns as part of their services, which became a core part of their future church identity.[6][7] They maintained a separate identity to the Woorabinda residents during the seven years they spent within the community.

Many died from sickness and exposure due to the poor sanitation and inadequate shelter from the frost and cold winter nights of the inland climate, which the Guugu Yimithirr peoples would not have previously experienced, as they were from a warm, humid coastal climate. The official number of deaths during this period was 33, but could have been up to 48. There were 13 recorded births during that time.[8][9] During their time at Woorabinda, the Cape Bedford peoples experienced paid labour and schooling for the first time.

The survivors were allowed to return to Cape Bedford in 1949, after the war, to what is now known as Hopevale. Most returned north, however, a small contingent remained, which maintained a presence and link to the north which remains to this day.


Council building.

The latest figures (from 2008) identifies Woorabinda residents as having a mean annual income of $27,924,[10] as compared to the mean Australia-wide income of $42,081 in the same census. Unemployment is at 70%;[11] the nearby townships include Baralaba, 40 km away, and Taroom, which are mining towns with a hundredth of the rate of unemployment. Woorabinda has also been identified as amongst Queensland's most disadvantaged suburbs,[12] the others of which are also Indigenous townships.

Government service providers are the main source of employment, with local industry in the form of the takeaway cafe and Woorabinda Pastoral Company, owned by the council. The satellite Foleyvale Station[13] is just north of Duaringa, and is included in the Woorabinda lands used pastorally.

Alcohol Management Plan[edit]

In 2008, the community and council voted for the total ban of alcohol consumption within the town limits to become a "dry" community. The town has had a significant decrease in alcohol-fuelled violence since the Alcohol Management Plan was introduced.[14]

As of 2013, there has been ongoing movement within the community for a reintroduction of alcohol,[15] with a community-led vote majority for its reintroduction. This has been as part of a larger movement within Aboriginal communities of Queensland for Alcohol Management Plan reviews.

The town also hosts the Mimosa Creek Healing Centre, which is a detoxification and rehabilitation centre for men recovering from alcohol abuse.


Wadja Wadja High School, Munns Dr.

There are two schools in the community. One is the Woorabinda State School,[16] which includes years from prep to year seven. Woorabinda State School opened in 1928, closed in 1970 and subsequently reopened.[17] The school motto is 'Proud and Deadly'. There is a school tuck shop which runs a paid canteen from which meals can be purchased by the community. Part of the school includes the Community Indigenous Knowledge Centre,[18] an initiative of the State Library of Queensland, which is for access by the community.

High school is represented by Wadja Wadja High School,[19] which is an independent non-denominational, co-educational Aboriginal Community School. Alternatively, children are also sent by school bus to the nearby high school in Baralaba to year 10, or to boarding school.

Nations and Population[edit]

The two main groups of people in Woorabinda are the Gangulu Nation and the Wadja Nation, both of whom have Native Title claims to the land.[20][21] The area claimed for the Wadja people is limited to the Woorabinda current land geography; the Gangulu nation expands as far south as Theodore, west past Blackwater, and east to Mount Morgan.

There is a much higher proportion of people under the age of 18 in Woorabinda than in the wider non-indigenous community.[22] Half of the population is under the age of 25,[23] which is significantly higher than the Australian 0–24 years age group, which is one third of the population.[24]

Notable Former Residents[edit]

Mick Gooda, Aboriginal activist, Australian Human Rights Commission's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner

Reggie Cressbrook, North Queensland Cowboys NRL player

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics (25 October 2007). "Woorabinda (L) (Urban Centre/Locality)". 2006 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 25 June 2011. 
  2. ^ http://www.archivessearch.qld.gov.au/Search/AgencyDetails.aspx?AgencyId=2855
  3. ^ Woorabinda, (18 August 1927). The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld.: 1875 - 1929), p. 6. Retrieved 24 August 2015
  4. ^ Woorabinda: Aboriginal Settlement, The Mackay Daily Mercury, p.9, Monday 15 August 1927
  5. ^ Indigenous youngsters walk 200 kilometres from Taroom to Woorabinda, retracing ancestors' steps, ABC News; Marlina Whop, 10 July 2014
  6. ^ Rowse, Tim. "Dangers and revelations: World War II in Indigenous autobiography". Griffith Review. 48. 
  7. ^ Magowan, Fiona; Wrazen, Louise Josepha (2013). Performing Gender, Place, and Emotion in Music: Global Perspectives. Boydell & Brewer. ISBN 1580464645. 
  8. ^ Richards, Jonathan (2012). "'What a howl there would be if some of our folk were so treated by an enemy': The evacuation of Aboriginal people from Cape Bedford Mission, 1942". Aboriginal History. 46: 67–98. 
  9. ^ Black Image - History
  10. ^ National Regional Profile: Woorabinda (S) (Statistical Local Area) Economy 2008
  11. ^ Nation's worst unemployment blackspot just hours from town where almost everyone has a job
  12. ^ Most disadvantaged suburbs in Australia revealed
  13. ^ Cattle drove encourages young Indigenous people into agriculture
  14. ^ Woorabinda launches five-year community plan to address jobs, violence, health issues (6 June 2015). ABC News. Accessed 25 August 2015.
  15. ^ Woorabinda residents vote in favour of alcohol ban lift (26 March 2014). The Morning Bulletin. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  16. ^ Woorabinda State School
  17. ^ "Opening and closing dates of Queensland schools". Education Queensland. 1 August 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2017. 
  18. ^ Woorabinda Indigenous Knowledge Centre
  19. ^ Wadja Wadja High School
  20. ^ Gaangalu Nation (QC2012/009), National Native Title Tribunal, retrieved 23 August 2015
  21. ^ Wadja People (QC2012/010), National Native Title Tribunal, retrieved 23 August 2015
  22. ^ Quarterly Report on Key Indicators, 2008; Poor health and safety in Indigenous communities revealed, National Indigenous Times, 7 June 2008
  23. ^ National Regional Profile: Woorabinda (S) (Statistical Local Area) Population
  24. ^ National Regional Profile: Australia Population

External links[edit]