Following the establishment of the Weipa mission, the Presbyterian church, also with the assistance of the Moravians, extended their mission activity further south to the Archer River. Here the Aurukun mission was established in 1904 – six years after the start of the Weipa mission.
Aurukun Mission was administered by the Presbyterian Church and then in 1977, by the Uniting Church in Australia, following the Union of the Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational Churches in that year.
In 1978, the Queensland Government took over the administration of the Aurukun and Mornington Island Missions from the church. This happened in defiance of the communities’ desire to remain with the Uniting Church.
The church, which supported Land Rights and self-determination for Aboriginal people, and the Aurukun community’s opposition to bauxite mining on their reserve land, was in direct conflict with the Queensland Government’s policy of the day, which, under the Premiership of Joh Bjelke-Petersen, was avowedly assimilationist.
Click photos to see larger versions
The Uniting Church supported the Aurukun and Mornington Island people in their opposition to the government’s takeover of the two communities. This was the reverse of the Presbyterian’s earlier response to Mapoon where the church acquiesced to the government’s closure of the mission.
In 1978 Aurukun and Mornington Island became Local Government areas, with the local Shire Councils holding 50 year leases over the old reserve lands.
As a result of the Wik and Wik Waya native title determinations since 2000, native title has now been recognised over the majority of the Aurukun reserve land.
Aurukun has a population of 1,269 according to the 2016 census.
The Aurukun Uniting Church is the main church in the community. Aurukun has an active congregation that varies in size from 30 to 120 people. Recently, as a result of an evangelical crusade, 70 people were baptized. There is a good team of local elders who are also undertaking ministry and theology studies.
The Aurukun congregation is presently without a minister. The church and community needs an ordained minister to support and develop local leadership and to provide an effective inter-face with the community and government.
The church building is relatively new. It was opened in December 2004, replacing the old church that had been there from the mission days.