Ceme­tery han­dover

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

THE site of the old Dain­tree Mis­sion Ceme­tery has been handed back to the Kuku Yalanji tra­di­tional own­ers in a cer­e­mony at the Dain­tree Com­mu­nity Hall yes­ter­day.

The Min­is­ter for Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lander and Mul­ti­cul­tural Af­fairs Glen Elmes of­fi­ci­ated at the han­dover cer­e­mony.

The Mis­sion was es­tab­lished over Christ­mas 1941 by the As­sem­blies of God, un­der Pas­tor Wil­liam Are­hurst and his wife, with 50 to 70 in­dige­nous peo­ple call­ing the mis­sion home.

Af­ter con­tin­ual fi­nan­cial strug­gles the Mis­sion closed in 1961, with many of the peo­ple chos­ing to re­lo­cate to the Moss­man Gorge Re­serve. The land was sold, and the Kuku Yalanji peo­ple were de­nied ac­cess to the ceme­tery by the free­hold owner for 50 years.

That changed in 2007 when Al­lan Quaid pur­chased the free­hold as a cane farm and im­me­di­al­tely granted the tra­di­tional own­ers ac­cess to the ceme­tery which con­tains about 200 graves.

Mr Quaid sought the help of John Fraser, CEO of North­ern Skills Al­liance to un­ravel the bu­reau­cratic red tape and help fa­cil­i­tate the han­dover.

‘‘When I spoke to the el­ders and tra­di­tional own­ers at a meet­ing in Moss­man and told them of Al­lan’s plans to hand back the ceme­tery to the tra­di­tional own­ers, there were tears, laugh­ter and prayers of re­lief,’’ Mr Fraser said.

‘‘De­spite the per­sonal hard­ship, not to men­tion the con­sid­er­able costs in­volved, the of­fi­cial han­dover made it all worth­while.’’

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