• A drone shot of Aurukun in Far North Queensland. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Residents are being encouraged to return to the remote community of Aurukun in western Cape York and forge peaceful pathways forward.
Douglas Smith

10 Jan 2020 - 4:26 PM  UPDATED 10 Jan 2020 - 4:26 PM

A number of residents have returned to a remote town after tensions flared last week following the alleged murder of a 37-year-old man on New Year’s Day.

On Friday, Aurukun Mayor Derek Walpo said in a statement that people who had evacuated the township over the past ten days had began to return in order to access community services which remained operating as per normal in the remote far north Queensland town.

“Aurukun Shire Council continues to provide many of the community services to ensure residents have access to school, the community centre, supermarket, bank, post office, PCYC, airport, and childcare," said Mr Walpo.

Following tensions that erupted in the wake of the murder on January 1, a local military program – consisting of army war veterans who aid young Indigenous men to join the armed forces – assisted residents who evacuated the town by providing basic services at a makeshift camp 80 kilometres away.

Co-founder of the Kapani Warrior program, Dr Tim White, spoke to NITV News on Wednesday and said the Aurukun unit for Kapani were helping people with basic living needs until they wished to return to their homes.  

"We're providing basically the safety and support needs and basic survival needs until these people can find somewhere that’s safe and appropriate to move to - but the option isn't for these people to go back to Aurukun," said Dr White.

"We were expected to hold the fort at the camp for three days but we've been here for eight days now."

Local resident, Eloise Yunkaporta also said on Wednesday that some of her family members had "given up going back home" and were "going to start a new life somewhere else."

"It's sad though because in other parts of the world, people think that we're not good enough - we're just gonna keep doing the same thing every day of our lives, but we have to change for once and have our kids grow up in a nice manner," she told NITV News.

Reports out of the region claimed 450 people had been displaced, while 1000 people had remained in the town. 

Two teenage males aged 17 and 18 have since been charged with murder.

In his statement, Mayor Walpo said that he did not like to see locals feeling that they had to leave the shire and encouraged community members from each of the clans involved in a long running dispute to meet with him and other councillors to talk about their concerns and peaceful pathways forward.

“I understand my family remains in mourning and respect that. However, as the leader of the Aurukun community I represent the whole community and have a duty of care for all Aurukun residents including those who have left the community,” he said.

“I encourage Aurukun people to return to their community. It is their right to live harmoniously alongside their fellow Wik clan families."

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