Mossman Gorge - a Kuku Yalanji Community

The Kuku Yalanji are true rainforest people that inhabit country stretching from around Cooktown in the north, to near Chillagoe in the west and Port Douglas in the south. Their culture has always involved a deep respect for nature and an intimate knowledge of its cycles.

In 1915, the Chief Prosecutor of Aborigines obtained unconditional leases for the land that forms the current Mossman Gorge Community, gazetted as Aboriginal Reserve in 1916. These blocks were completely covered in rainforest when first selected. A Lutheran church mission was established on the Aboriginal Reserve in the 1920’s. As a result of various government policies and economic changes, Kuku Yalanji people gradually moved to the Gorge Reserve from their traditional camps at sites like Jinkalmu, Brie Brie and the Junction on the Mossman River. Many people moved here from the Daintree Mission when it was closed in 1962. Today the Mossman Gorge Community is an important centre for Kuku Yalanji culture.

Mossman Gorge area is very culturally significant to the Kuku Yalanji people - it contains many story places, poison places, sacred sites and ancestral burial sites.

The community is located on the border of the Daintree National Park, which forms part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA), inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1988. The only access to the Mossman Gorge Park visitation site is through the community, up until recent years, there was only marginal benefit realised by the Community.

In 1985 the Mossman Gorge Community commenced a small tourism operation offering Art and Artefacts for sale, and guided walks through their country. The community recognised the potential for self-sufficiency and a better future from using their knowledge, and the resources of the beautiful Mossman Gorge, via access to the tourism market.

Community members interacted with the tourists that came to visit Mossman Gorge, offering to guide them through their land and selling handmade artefacts. These two initiatives by Community members were to be the foundation for what we now know as Yalanji Arts and, eventually, the Mossman Gorge Centre.

The small community tourism operation was formalised by BBN, and developed over the years into Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime. Over the years Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime accumulated a swath of awards and accolades, finally being admitted to the Tourism North Queensland Hall of Fame in 2011 after winning the indigenous tourism category for three consecutive years.

In June, 2012 Mossman Gorge Centre opened and the Guided Walks of Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime were transferred to the centre, complete with all staff, which enabled both the expansion of the business and the experience for the participant, and gave the indigenous guided walks and the community’s artwork greater exposure. Closure of the road to tourism traffic was necessary due to congestion and damage and the resultant channeling of tourists through the centre ensured a far wider audience than ever captured before.

The Mossman Gorge Centre has now been charged with continuing to provide a world class indigenous experience and has shown consistency by winning awards each year they have been operating.