Wadeye – Arnhem and Western

220km south-west of Darwin, at the mouth of the Fitzmaurice River.

Education

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School Wadeye is a Catholic Aboriginal school which is bilingual. Bilingual education was introduced in 1976 and was first accredited in 1985. There are around 722 students attending the school ranging in age from 4 years of age to 19 years. The children are taught in both Murrinhpatha and English.

Health services

The community health centre provides primary health care services to the residents of Wadeye (Port Keats) community via a mix of aboriginal health workers, registered nurses and a doctor.

History and culture

Port Keats was named by Captain Phillip Parker King on the Mermaid in 1819. Most of the foot exploration of Port Keats was done by the Master's Mate, John Septimus Roe. The port was named after Vice Admiral Sir Richard G Keats. However, apart from visiting Macassans engaged in trepang (sea cucumber) fishing, local Aboriginal people had little contact with others until the early 1930s.

Port Keats history includes the story of Aboriginal resistance leader, Nemarluk, who was born in the central Daly River region of the Northern Territory. It is part of the oral tradition of Nemarluk's people that he had vowed to kill all those who intruded on his country. In July 1931, 3 Japanese shark fishermen anchored their lugger near Port Keats. Nemarluk and his party killed the Japanese. News of the murders reached Darwin in October.

Nemarluk's companions were arrested, tried, found guilty and sentenced to death but the sentences were later commuted to life imprisonment. Nemarluk evaded arrest until May 1933 when he was apprehended at Legune Station. While awaiting trial, he escaped and remained at large for 6 months. After his recapture, he was transported back to Darwin and tried. His death sentence was also commuted to life imprisonment. He died in 1940 at Darwin Hospital.

The acknowledged founder of Port Keats Mission is Western Australian, Father Richard Docherty. In 1934, following the arrest and trial of Nemarluk and his companions, the government asked NT Catholic Bishop Gsell to start a mission at Port Keats. Father Docherty and other missionaries chose a mission site east of Injin Beach on the west side of Port Keats. After some 4 years it became obvious another mission site would have to be found, as there was inadequate water, the site was not central to all Aboriginal tribes and there was no place for an airstrip.

The present site of Wadeye was selected and in 1941 the Nuns founded the ‘Our Lady of the Sacred Heart’ school which still operates today. In 1979, Wadeye was separated from the Daly River police district and a new police station opened.

Recreation activities

AFL Football, fishing, with charter tours available, camping, and outdoor pursuits, bushwalking, and annual rodeo.

Attractions

Beaches, waterholes and the Fitzmaurice River