Decline and recovery of a rural coastal town: Cooktown 1873-1999

Ryle, Peter Albert (2000) Decline and recovery of a rural coastal town: Cooktown 1873-1999. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Cooktown can claim with justification that it occupies the site of the first known European settlement on the east coast of Australia. In 1770 James Cook and the crew of the Endeavour spent forty-eight days on the bank of what is now the Endeavour River, repairing damage caused to the ship when it struck a reef. A small settlement was erected to house the crew while they made the ship seaworthy. After Cook left, the area retumed to the custodianship of its Aboriginal inhabitants until 1873, when a port was established to service the Palmer River gold field. The new settlement was called Cooks Town, but this was soon changed to Cooktown. For the next ten years it was one of the most important port towns in Queensland, with over sixty tons of gold sent over the wharves.

The recent phenomenon of the globalisation of the world economy, coupled with economic rationalism, has led to a reduction of services to rural communities in Australia. In effect, many of these small towns have declined as a result of reduced employment in the service sector, and lowering commodity prices. However, rural decline is not new. Following the minerals boom in Colonial Queensland, many towns associated with mining declined or disappeared as their primary source of income diminished. This applied also to port towns like Cooktown, which were established to service mining fields. When it was unable to find a sufficiently lucrative altemative source of trade to replace gold, the town steadily declined. However, Cooktown was offered a new lease of life when the tourism industry expanded in Queensland following the Second World War. It was able to capitalise on its unique place in Australian history, and its natural attributes of benign climate and proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, to provide the impetus for a tourism driven economic recovery.

Item ID: 19585
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Cooktown (Qld), history, economic history
Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2012 04:20
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 100%
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