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Kowanyama - Cape York - Australia

Kowanyama is a remote Indigenous community on the Gulf of Carpentaria side of Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland, Australia. Our people include Yir Yoront, Kokoberra, Kunjen and Olkola groups, amongst others. Kowanyama means "place of many waters" in Yir Yoront language known by some as Kokomnjen.  In 1905, Mitchell River Mission was established inland at Trubanamen on Topsy Creek, now known as the Old Mission. Our people were gradually drawn from their ancestral lands into the mission settlement. Later, in 1916, Mitchell River Mission was founded on the present site of Kowanyama and the Trubanamen site abandoned. Some people continued to occupy their traditional lands, moving into Kowanyama as late as the 1940s. Around 1200 people now live here in Kowanyama. We identify strongly with our country through the languages, stories, songs, dances, cultural practices and histories that our ancestors have left for us.  (Map by Journey Jottings)



The Kowanyama collection

 The Kowanyama Project is a campaign to build a worthy facility for the Kowanyama collection. The Kowanyama Sinnamon collection methodology has been specifically formulated to allow for ongoing research in a number of fields including; anthropology, ethnographic, cross cultural taxonomy, medicine, botany, land use management and cognitive mapping, biology – marine, mammals & avian & other fauna, geology, hydrology. 

Very few items of Aboriginal material culture, secular or sacred, fail to blend form, function, design and decoration into an aesthetically pleasing object.  Kowanyama traditionally produces some of the most exquisitely beautifully examples of woven bags, spears, shields (a Kowanyama designed shield is the logo of AIATSIS Canberra), woomeras in the Aboriginal ethnographic genre.


International significance and unique Australian asset

 The significance of this collection is that a vast majority of material has complete and unimpeachable provenance. Ethnographic provenance includes; name, language group and clan of maker/owner; language name for item, use, maintenance, gathering & preparation of raw material and manufacture technical data, documentation of raw materials used and associated linguistic information. All categories contain multiple examples of extremely rare outstanding examples of type with even more rare complete provenance. The collection in total is unique for any Aboriginal community, either in situ or in a Museum (Matthews Qld Museum, Roth Syd Museum, Thomson Vic Museum) context in Australia.   


Long term resource for future generations

 As an interpretative resource the Kowanyama Cultural collection is superbly placed to provide long term ongoing research with a body of work which is purpose designed to be accessible for interpretive analysis.

The broad range of examples in many classes in this collection, coupled with associated collection information & photographs, tools, weapons, lithic, shell, personal adornment fibre works allows for significant deep interpretive potential of Aboriginal Traditional life (material culture, food gathering trade routes) both pre & post contact, continuity and change in daily life and environment.

Arthur Beau Palmer  2011 

Content development for multi-platform publishing 

Archival, preservation and revival projects for community cultural assets

Embedding Australian indigenous perspectives  woven from stories in language art dance and song

Traditional knowledge transmission using new media

Land & Water Connect Us All

Kowanyama cemetery Cape York Australia 15.4740° S, 141.7452° E. Many stories. One message. It’s been buried deep in our earth for so long and now it’s rising to the surface. Stories that need to be more than just told. A message that needs to be more than just heard.  It’s our culture. It needs to be felt … deeply. 

The Ngethn O' Campaign

Ngethn o' is an expression. It's a call to our ancestors when entering their country. It means 'we are here' and is respectful acknowledgement, with permission sought and gratitude felt, for the land and water that connects us all. We invite you to experience, on social media platforms, our first cultural festival ... on country. Connect with Kowanyama now. We've got something for you!

Arts & Cultural Festival 2019 - Campaign Promotion


NGETHN O' Cultural Festival - Kowanyama. The planning for this festival is well under way and is a work in progress. Its going to be an amazing moment in time.  Included in the events is a retrospective showcase of films and content featuring Kowanyama perspectives including “My Land, My Place, My People” (1989) ; “Changing Channels” (1989); “Running the River” (1991) and much more as well as recently found raw footage of Kowanyama from the 1980s. 

The Kowanyama Project - A Personal Message


Selected community youth, supported by Kowanyama Culture and Research Centre staff and elders, are being given unprecedented access to the Kowanyama collection. These people will form the initial team responsible for the online archival process of this significant Australian collection.  This clip is a direct and personal message to those involved in this significant collection.

The land and water connect us all - cape york Message

Sorry business prevented the attendance of Kowanyama representatives at the 2017 Laura festival. This WOVEN Tracks clip is focused on a concept originally proposed by the elders of this remote community nearly thirty years ago. It was the subject of the documentary Running the River. This behind the scenes short form video captures the true heart of Cape York  people. Compassionate, connected and supportive of the people of Kowanyama.


Viv Sinnamon


Kowanyama collections curator

Viv is the Kowanyama Collections curator and anthropological researcher with extensive knowledge of Indigenous land and water management practices. 

Tania Major


Cross-cultural consultant

Tania is a multi-award winning advocate for Indigenous and youth affairs as these relate to remote communities, particularly those in Cape York and is a leader in promoting cross-cultural understanding. 

Mark Weaver


Content creation and platforms manager

Mark is an educator and content creator with over 30 years experience in merging both domains to embed Indigenous perspectives for the purpose of affecting change. 

John Clark


Abm Elgoring Ambung NT PBC Executive member

John is a respected community leader and ranger overseeing the management of the natural and cultural resources of Kowanyama.  His knowledge and connection to country and culture is a rich resource in itself.

Bernadette Boscacci


Artist in residence Ngethn o' Festival

Bernadette is an interdisciplinary artist with 30+ years of professional experience in the Arts and Community Cultural Development. Her creative and personal relationship with the people of Kowanyama began in the 1990s and continues to this day.

Alan Flower

Alan is a Kunjen man. He is currently working on the collection, collation and remastering of recent

Archival preservation and revival consultant

Alan is an Olkola man. He is working on the collection and collation of an extensive cache of found footage which is of significant cultural importance to The Kowanyama Project.

Priscilla Major


Kowanyama language advisor 

Priscilla is a Kokoberra Elder and Kowanyama community leader with a deep knowledge of language and culture and a passion to pass on traditional experience for future generations. 

Tom Hearn


Media and promotions support

Tom is the creative director of BushTV, a multi award winning Aboriginal Story Agency. He works extensively across Australia supporting communities in delivering important localised messages.  

New member


Role and responsibility

New member is working hard for the team.