In a joint initiative between the Queensland State Government, the Federal Government and the Dutch Consulate, the site, which is located in the small Aboriginal community of Mapoon on western Cape York, will soon undergo development of a memorial commemorating the first authenticated contact of Dutch sailors with Aborigines over 400 years ago.
The ‘First Contact Memorial’ will sit on Cullen Point off Mapoon and will feature a steel replica of the Dutch ship ‘Duyfken’ perched upon a wall featuring plaques in Dutch, English and local Tjugundji that tell of the Duyfken’s journey into Port Musgrave back in 1606.
Before development of the memorial begins, large amounts of Asbestos left over from the demolition of a Presbyterian mission in the 1800s had to be removed, and OCTIEF, as a recognised leader in asbestos management, was hired to lead the remediation project.
OCTIEF’s Director (Asia/ Pacific) Kevin O’Hara took a special interest in the project stepping down from his Director’s chair to act as Site-Superintendent, a role he described as “challenging”
“It was possibly one of the most rewarding jobs we’ve done,” Mr O’Hara said.
The Mapoon project involved performing a contaminated land assessment, devising a remediation strategy, removing material debris, excavating and separating contaminated soil while simultaneously training community members.
“We were engaged by the Public Service Commission, but because they don’t have budgets, OCTIEF had to develop the remediation program in line with a training program so that we could get funding to do the remediation,”
“So we tailored the remediation process … in a way so that we could actually train the local people how we were going about it, show them, give them specific units of competency, statements of attainment and then teach them how to do it themselves,”
The training program was run by OCTIEF’s Operations Manager Lee Carter, who trained 10 Mapoon locals in the Fixed Asbestos Handling and Maintenance course, some of which then assisted with the actual remediation job.
Mapoon’s highly remote coastal location offered up some unique situations for those involved in the project, like the need to develop a crocodile management plan and the opportunity to fish off the site.
“You go up to these communities and it’s another world,” Mr O’Hara said.
“Before we would actually go onto the asbestos work areas in the mornings we would actually set a crab trap, and then we would check it at lunch time and check it in the evenings and we were catching mud crabs all day. It was unbelievable.”
The ‘First Contact Memorial’ is expected to be unveiled by the Mapoon Aboriginal Council, the Mapoon Interim Land and Sea Advisory Commission, Tjugundji Elders and Dutch Consular officials in late September.
The project was first raised by Netherlands Parliamentarians back in 2010 and is expected to increase tourism in the area.