About Lockhart River

Lockhart River is a coastal Aboriginal community situated on the eastern coast of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, Australia.  It is 800 km north by road from Cairns and approximately 2550 km by road north of Brisbane.  Lockhart River is the northern most town on the east coast of Australia.  The community is also located approximately 2km inland from Quintell Beach and is within the Iron Range National Park. Lockhart River Aboriginal community is one of the most economically and socially disadvantaged and remote communities in Australia. The Australian Bureau of Statistics ranks Lockhart River people as very disadvantaged. We are considered as remote and disadvantaged as Mornington and Palm Islands.  No other Cape York community has a similar socio-educational disadvantage.  Lockhart River LGA (Local Government Area) is ranked the 24th most socio-economic disadvantaged in Australia and 13th most disadvantaged in Queensland.  Lockhart River has about 700 residents,  mostly comprised of Aboriginal people who originate from five major language groups – Wuthathi (southern), Kuuku Ya’u (northern) and Kanthanumpu (southern Kuuku ya’u) Uutaalnganu, Umpila and Kaanju (northern and southern).  The community is largely dependent on government funding for survival.  Many people are welfare dependent and live in poverty.  Besides the Lockhart River Aboriginal Shire Council, few unskilled/semi-skilled jobs are available for locals.  The unemployment rate is 19.6%, more than 3 times the national average.

Physical Environment and Socioeconomic factors

Lockhart River is located more than 800 kilometres north of Cairns on the eastern side of Cape York peninsula in Queensland, Australia. A mostly dirt road drive of more than 12 hours from Cairns and 4 hours from Weipa.  The community is isolated by road in the wet season from December to May each year. Return flights from Cairns are provided 5 days a week, at a cost over $1000.00 per person. 

Food and all other supplies come by barge, adding an additional freight cost of 30% to all items – a very significant amount for those already living in poverty. 

A government research report showed the retail store was one of the most expensive in Queensland, approximately 65% higher than Brisbane (OESR Treasury Report 2006).

Life expectancy is 20 years less than for white Australians. For indigenous men, this is 47 years old.  There are very high rates of mental health issues and chronic disease, including diabetes, kidney disease and gastrointestinal problems.  More than 50 families are waitlisted for houses.  Overcrowding compounds health issues.  The suicide rate is 5 times greater than average, based on national data.  This rate is 6 times greater for young males.  The high incidence of suicide causes much distress and suffering to individuals and their families. 

 Children must leave the community for secondary schooling. Many do not complete Year 12. Literacy and numeracy levels have been slowly improving over the past few years, but are still below national benchmarks. The current attendance rate at the primary school for Term 2, 2009 is 67.5%. There are no University graduates.

There are numerous, significant issues relating to drug and alcohol abuse, including domestic violence, assault and children’s safety.   An Alcohol Management Plan commenced in October 2003. This restricted the opening hours of the canteen, and only allowed the sale of light beer. No wine, spirits or takeaway was allowed from the canteen.  Subsequently in 2002-03, there was a significant decrease in the rate of hospital admissions of Lockhart River residents. For more information refer to ATSIS (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services) Quarterly Reports.

There has been a zero carriage limit since September 2007.  This means that no alcohol, home brew or home brew equipment is allowed in Lockhart River.  There has been a significant increase in the rate of charges (Breaches of sections 168B and C of the Liquor Act 1992) resulting in a conviction from 56.3 per 1000 persons in 2007-08 to 133.2 per 1000 persons in 2008-09.

Whilst much progress has been made over the past few years, there are still very significant issues of disadvantage that need to be overcome, if we are to close the gap.