Cherbourg is located off the Bunya Highway approximately 250 kilometres (155 mi) north-west of Brisbane and 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) from the town of Murgon. It is situated on Barambah Creek, close to Bjelke-Petersen Dam.
The town, formerly known as Barambah, was founded as a settlement for Aboriginal people in the early 1900s under a policy of segregation being pursued by the Government of Queensland. Its history has been described in at least two books, Dumping Ground by and Is That You Ruthie? by Ruth Hegarty.
Wakka Wakka (Waka Waka, Wocca Wocca, Wakawaka) is an Australian Aboriginal language spoken in the Burnett River catchment. The Wakka Wakka language region includes the landscape within the local government boundaries of the North and South Burnett Regional Council, particularly the towns of Cherbourg, Murgon, Kingaroy, Gayndah, Eidsvold and Mundubbera.
The mission took its name from the original 1840s pastoral run, 'Barambah', which was taken up as a grazing run in 1843 by J.S. Ferriter and Edmund Uhr.
It was initially populated with a few local Aboriginal people, but others from the Esk region and further afield were soon sent to the reserve. Many were forcibly removed from their land and "settled" at Barambah. People from 109 different areas were mixed together and they were not allowed to speak their own languages.
The reserve was administered by the Aboriginal Protection Society, Ipswich, until February 1905, when control passed to the Government of Queensland and a Superintendent was appointed, who reported to the Chief Protector of Aborigines. On 8 December 1931 the settlement was renamed Cherbourg, due to a nearby property called "Barambah Station" which caused confusion in mail delivery.
There were approximately 2079 documented removals of Aboriginal people to Barambah between the years of 1905 and 1939.
The settlement housed a reformatory school and training farm, a home training centre for girls, a hospital, dormitories in which the women and children lived, and churches of various denominations. Training was provided in a variety of agricultural, industrial and domestic fields. People were hired out as cheap labour and at one stage they were not allowed to leave the reserve. In fact, until the referendum in 1967, the indigenous people at Cherbourg were not even counted in the census.
Cherbourg Post Office opened on 15 November 1965 and closed in 1986.
The effect of mixing these different groups of people together and forcing them to learn to speak a foreign language (English) has been an almost total loss of their cultural heritage. Many of the languages are considered to be extinct, surviving only in notes and recordings stored at the University of Queensland.
Over the years, the policies towards Aboriginals changed from protection to assimilation and eventually participation and a measure of self-government with the passage of the Community Services (Aborigines) Act 1984. The Act provided for elected community councils who could make recommendations to the Minister for Community Services on matters relating to the progress, development and wellbeing of the people they represented. On 28 August 1986 a Deed of Grant in Trust was granted to the Cherbourg community, giving this council official status. The Local Government (Community Government Areas) Act 2004 gave Cherbourg formal legal recognition as a local government.
Alcohol limits were imposed on Cherbourg residents in March 2009 in an attempt to reduce violence. In 2009, then-Mayor Sam Murray claimed the restrictions were not being enforced and the problem was being pushed underground. Early reports indicate that the bans have not reduced violent assaults in the town which are occurring 30 times more than the Queensland average.
Cherbourg has a population of around 1241 people, making it Queensland's third largest Aboriginal community. The town is located on traditional lands that belong to the 'Wakka Wakka' (Waka Waka), people, but many different clan groups are also represented, including 'Gubbi Gubbi' (Kabi Kabi) people. A sign on entry to the town reads "Many Tribes, One Community". In 2006, median individual income for residents of Cherbourg was $227 per week, less than half the national median. 98.8% of housing in the town is stand-alone houses.
The community participates in Work for the Dole scheme. Unemployment in the town is high as there is very little genuine work to be found in the town or in nearby Murgon. Results from 2006 census survey reported 31.4% of the workforce was employed full-time while 49.5% worked part-time and 5.8% were unemployed.
Cherbourg is home to the Nurunderi (meaning taught by Great Spirit) campus of TAFE Queensland South West. It offers general courses of study as well as ones specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. All people are welcome to study at this campus.
- Albert Henry - (Cricketer)
- Maroochy Barambah - opera singer
- Adrian Blair - Olympic boxer
- Harold Blair – tenor and activist
- Marlene Cummins - musician and activist
- Frank Fisher - Rugby League player
- Lionel Fogarty – poet and political activist
- Eddie Gilbert – Australian cricket player
- Ruth Hegarty - author
- Jerry Jerome - Boxer
- Chris Sandow – NRL rugby league player
- Chris Sarra - Indigenous educator
- Willie Tonga – Australian & Queensland representative rugby league player
- Daniel Alfred Yock - dancer, died in police custody
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- "Cherbourg - town in Aboriginal Shire of Cherbourg (entry 6986)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
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- "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships: Cherbourg community". The State of Queensland. Archived from the original on 12 September 2009. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
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- Emma Pollard (7 July 2009). "Cherbourg alcohol bans 'failing'". ABC News Online. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 22 October 2009.
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- "Nurunderi". TAFE Queensland South West. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
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- Connolly, Paul. "The forgotten story of … Frank Fisher". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
- Blake, Thom (2001). A dumping ground: a history of the Cherbourg Settlement. St Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press. ISBN 978-0-7022-3222-0.