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Hope Vale, Cape York Peninsula


Hope Vale is a Cape York community of 1,500 people, who belong to clans that are part of the Guugu Yimithirr Tribe. For information about the artists working at Hope Vale, see our page on Hope Vale artists of Cape York.

Hope Vale is situated 48 kms north of Cooktown, in a beautiful valley. It is surrounded by tropical native bushland and mountain ranges, abundant in ancient caves which have been painted for thousands of years by the Guugu Yimithirr people.

The first European settlement in the region was a mission called Elim (at Cape Bedford) which resulted from the shipwreck in 1885 of a Lutheran missionary J. Flierl and the crew of the boat on which he was travelling. Elim was later abandoned due to poor land quality, and the alternate site of Hope Valley was founded.

At the outbreak of World War Two, the missionary managing Hope Valley was interned and the people sent to Woorabinda near Rockhampton, almost 1500 kms south of Hope Valley. Nearly a quarter of the people died during the following years from diseases. In spite of these adversities, in 1949 the survivors returned to a new site, and a new Lutheran mission at Hope Vale. Aboriginal people from the Hope Valley and Bedford Missions were settled here.

The coloured sands at Elim beach, north east of Hope Vale, traditional country of the Thiithaarr clan, offers a palette of a wonderful variety of colours, fascinating local people and visitors as much today as in ancient times.

Coloured sands at Elim Beach, Hopevale

The Hope Vale Cultural Centre is at the heart of Guugu Yimithirr culture and actively involves people of all ages in passing on the cultural traditions and promoting the use and teaching of the Guugu Yimithirr language, which is still alive and spoken daily by local people.

The Centre offers a space to learn ancient skills, such as gathering and weaving of local fibres and dyeing them with bush dyes and modern skills such as printing, etching and modern art techniques.

Hope Vale Art Centre

Hope Vale Dancers

The long and strong tradition of artists born of this country and of the Guugu Yimithirr, include Ben McGreen, John Allums, Godfrey Gordon, Ken Walsh, Tulo Gordon, Sid McIvor, Walter Jack and Roy McIvor. With many talented, younger artists emerging, Hope Vale envisions a bright future for its culture.

Prior to invasion by miners, cattlemen, pearlers and fishers, "Guugu", meaning speech, voice or word and "Yimithirr" meaning "this way" was spoken along the coastline from the Annan River in the south to the Jeannie River in the north, and west to Battle Camp. However, the language was understood beyond this area. (Source: The Federation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages and Culture)

The descendants of these speakers now live at Hope Vale. The original mission was founded by German Lutheran missionaries who learnt and wrote down Guugu Yimithirr. There are two distinct divisions of the language, Thalun-thirr (seaside) and Warrgurgaar (outside). In 1997 it was estimated that there were perhaps 120 remaining speakers of the language, but this number is now increasing.

Prominent Aboriginal leaders and brothers Noel and Gerhardt Pearson are from Hope Vale.


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