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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

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Roy McIvor (1934–?)

PUBLICATION: Roy McIvor, Cockatoo: My Life in Cape York, Stories and Art, Magabala Aboriginal Books Corporation, Broome, Western Australian (2010)

NAME: Roy McIvor

SEX: Male


BIRTH PLACE: The Hope Valley Mission, Cape Bedford

FIRST LANGUAGE: Guugu Yimidhirr, English


  • The McIvor River area: The traditional land of the Binthi clan, to which Roy McIvor belongs. (p.13) Roy was able to reclaim part of this country under Native Title legislation in the 1990s.
  • Cape Bedford: The area on the South East Coast of Cape York where the original Hope Valley mission was established. (p.21) Roy lived at Hope Valley until he was seven.
  • Spring Hill: Due to the crop failures at Cape Bedford, Muni negotiated the purchase of new land and decided to move the mission to Spring Hill. Roy’s family was among the first to move into their own house in 1940. (p.49)
  • Elim: An outstation of the Hope Vale mission located on the beach. (p.35)
  • Woorabinda: In 1942, Roy and the other Cape Bedford people were forcibly relocated from Spring Hill to Woorabinda: an Aboriginal reserve in Southern Queensland. (p.71)
  • Foleyvale: A station near to Woorabinda reserve, where Roy and the other men from Cape Bedford worked during the war. (p.101) Roy describes Foleyvale as a fertile, black-soiled property. (p.101)
  • Hope Vale: The site of the new mission, built South of Springhill. Roy and the other Cape Bedford established Hope Vale in the 1950s.
  • After travelling around Queensland in the 1960s, Roy returned to Hopevale in the 1970s, and spent a decade living with his wife Thelma in the house he and his father built. Roy returned to Hope Vale again in the 1990s, but by this stage his family home was “old and decrepit”, so the McIvors knocked in down and built a new four-bedroom house. (p.159)
  • Hazelmere: The peanut farm near Hopevale where Roy used to work in the 1960s. (p.120)
  • Palm Island: An Aboriginal Island settlement, which began as a prison. Roy worked on Palm Island as a cleaner and carpenter in the 1960s. (p.126)
  • Upper Coomera: During the 1960s, Roy work on an arrowroot farm in Upper Coomera. (p.127)
  • Brisbane: Roy worked for a building company in Brisbane in the 1960s. (p.127)
  • Bundaberg: Roy moved to Bundaberg in the 1960s for work, and stayed with his sister Dorothy. (p.128)
  • Coen: An Aboriginal community in Central Cape York, where Roy helped build a shed in the 1960s.
  • Roy returned to Coen with his family the 1980s, after being offered a position as an evangelist. (p.147) He had a lot of family connections in the area through his Grandmother, and Roy believes he was well received by the community. (p.149)
  • Stonehenge (near Longreach): Roy’s mother Rachel was born at Stonehenge, and lived there until she was ten: when she and her siblings were taken to Cape Bedford. (p.29)
  • In 1992, a member of Roy’s family applied for funding for them to visit Stonehenge. Roy recognised many of the features of Stonehenge from his mother’s stories. (p.164)


  • n/a


  • Roy began his education in the temporary bush school that was established while the mission was being relocated from Cape Bedford to Spring Hill. (p.52) The school was shut down during the Second World War, and Roy states that this was a “lonely time” as he “never got to see the other kids.” (p.72)
  • Roy started school again in Woorabinda.  His teacher was the lay minister Mr Tarlington, who frequently caned the children across the knuckles when they misbehaved. (p.87) Mr Fritz replaced Mr Tarlington, and Roy claims his preferred method of punishment was making the children wear a dunce hat and mocking them. (p.87)
  • At this time, education for Aboriginal people only went to Grade Four. (p.94) However, Roy’s teacher Mr Jarrett noticed that he and the other children were “eager to learn”, and so he held night classes for students who wanted to continue their education. (p.94)
  • As well as reading, writing and arithmetic, the students at Woorabinda also learnt practice skills: such as cabinet making, metal work and tin-smithing. (p.94)
  • Roy also took art classes with Mr Jarrett’s wife. (p.95) One of his classmates made statues of Captain Cook  ‘…so real it was incredible!’ (p.95). From an early age, Roy demonstrated artistic talent, and enjoyed using colours. (p.95)
  • Roy’s formal artist education continued much later in life. He took his first TAFE Course in 2000, followed by a number of courses in “painting, drawing, pottery, screen painting, lino-cuts, etching, batik and working ochre.” (p.171)
  • In 2003, Roy won an Arts Queensland Scholarship that enabled him to attend the South Queensland McGregor Summer School. He attended the McGregor Summer School again in 2006 (p.171)


  • Roy’s parents both converted to Christianity when they moved to the Hope Valley mission. Like the other residents at Cape Bedford, they went to Church every Sunday: even when they were living on the outstations. (p.38) The missionary Muni conducted sermons in both Guugu Yimidhirr and English. Roy suggests that Christianity was a source of pride in the community. (p.38)
  • Roy also claims that Christianity was a source of cohesion in the community: which was particularly important when the families from the outstations were brought to live together at Spring Hill.  (p.53)
  • The Cape Bedford people maintained their Christian beliefs while they were in exile in Woorabinda during the Second World War. Roy’s father Paddy took over “spiritual leadership”, and conducted twice-weekly services and funerals. (p.80) The Cape Bedford men took devotions and sang hymns every day while working on the Foleyvale Station. (p.102)
  • Roy was confirmed in 1960, and became a Sunday school teacher and a steward at the Church. (p.145) He also sang in the Church choir, and was later Chairman of the Church Council. (p.145)
  • In the 1980s, Roy considered training to become a Pastor. He decided against it, as this role would involve too much time away from his family. (p.147) Instead, Roy was commissioned by the Lutheran Church to work as an evangelist in Coen. (p.149)
  • Roy and the other Cape Bedford people also had a strong belief in divine intervention. In Roy’s accounts, this intervention came following prayer – such as when Roy prayed for rain in Coen – or through the appearance of angels. (p.151) He recalls that a story of a girl who was guided back to the Hope Valley Mission by an angel after a crocodile killed her mother. (p.56) Roy also describes encounters with devils, or yiki, who were fallen angles that tried to lead the Cape Bedford people away from God. (p.62)
  • Roy also had a strong belief in spirits, and he recalls personal incidents with ghosts at the abandoned site of the Hope Valley mission (p.62) and while camping on the McIvor River. (p.65) He also records his father’s sighting of Ngathi Karl’s ghost. (p.63)
  • As well as menacing and “mischievous” spirits, there are also friendly spirits name dunggan. Roy encountered dunggan while swimming at the Guuthi waterhole, and thought they sounded like playful children. (pp.65-66)
  • The Guugu Yimidhirr also believed in maargami-gnay, which are “half-human, half ape-like creatures” that lurk in the bush. (p.64) Roy tells how these beings travel with the wind, and have the power to transform anyone they catch into maargami-gnay. (p.64) He also recalls the stories of a young boy and girl who were turned into marrgami-gnay, but were brought back to “human form” after being treated with warmed leaves. (pp.64-65)


  • During the Second World War, when the Army established an airstrip near the Spring Hill mission, Roy and his cousin Pat starting making models of the planes they saw flying overhead using his father’s carpentry tools. (p.72) For then on, Roy had a “love of working with tools”. (p.72)
  • When they finished school at Woorabinda, Roy and his classmates were filled with “fear and excitement at the prospect of starting work.” (p.100) His first job was to cart sand for a cement works. (p.100) Roy then worked cutting firewood for the girl’s dormitory on the Reserve, before tiring of this job and working with the men clearing weeds in the citrus plantation. (p.100)
  • Roy then began working alongside the other men from Woorabinda and Cape Bedford at the Foleyvale Station. His wage was 2.1 pounds a week. (p.100)
  • His first task was collecting water using a cart pulled by draft horses. Roy learnt to handle horses, and quickly became a “good rider”. (p.102)
  • When the War ended, however, Roy had to put his dreams of becoming a stockman on hold: and assist his family to move back to Far North Queensland and establish the new Hope Vale mission. (p.109) His tasks in the 1950s included clearing land, dismantling the old boys dormitory and church at Springhill to collect the materials, and building new houses (pp.111-112)
  • After the new Hope Vale mission was established, Roy worked on the nearby peanut farm, Hazelmere. His employer, Mr Kelly, used to check on him regularly, and took Roy to Cooktown on the weekends to see films. (p.120)
  • Roy also collected materials and worked in the Curio Shop established by the Lutheran Church. (p.120) The Curio Shop sold their artifacts to tourists who came to the mission from Cooktown, and in the ‘Aboriginal Creations’ store run by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Brisbane. (p.121)
  • In 1956, Roy was given the role of laying the floorboards for the new Church. The new Church, which was the biggest Lutheran Church in Queensland, brought pride to Roy and the people of Hope Vale. (p.121)
  • During the 1960s, Roy and the other men from Hope Vale had to leave the community to look for work. (p.126) His first job was a cleaner and carpenter on Palm Island. (p.127) Later, the church sent him to help build a shed in Coen, and then to work on an arrowroot farm in Upper Coomera. (p.127)
  • For two consecutive years, Roy did four months of hard labour on the farm in Upper Coomera, for which he was paid a mere twenty-two dollars (p.127) He then got an equally strenuous job with a building company in Brisbane, and was paid 12 dollars a week. (p.127)
  • The “first decent pay” that Roy received was for building foundations for the Thiess Company at Pinkenba. (p.127)
  • Roy returned home for Christmas, and then got a job as a builder for Smart Brothers in Cairns. He helped build twelve houses, and was well paid. (p.128) He then moved to Bundaberg, and got a job picking strawberries and beans and working as a cabinet-maker. (p.128)
  • In 1966, a silica sand mine opened at Cape Flattery near Hope Vale. Roy was one of the first to work there, but over time “almost the whole Hope Vale workforce ended up there”. (p.128) Roy claims that the living conditions and the pay at Cape Flattery were substandard, and the work was “back-breaking.” (p.129) Gradually, equipment arrived from Japan, and most of the Hope Vale work force – including Roy – was made redundant. (p.129)
  • Roy then travelled to back to Bundaberg for a job feeding sugar cane into a mill. (p.129)
  • While in Bundaberg, a woman from the Lutheran Church asked Roy if he knew anyone who could paint a boomerang for her. He had never painted in a traditional style before, but decided to try his hand: and the woman was very pleased with his work. (p.169) After leaving Bundaberg, and doing a number of odd jobs around the Cape, Roy decided to settle in Hopevale in 1972 and pursue his art. (p.129)
  • At this time, the Lutheran Church began encouraging private enterprise in the Hope Vale. Roy got a loan from the Aboriginal Development Commission, and opened a shop selling Aboriginal style artifacts and art. (p.135) He made a range of traditional instruments and weapons out of materials collected from the bush around Hope Vale. (p.136)
  • Roy’s business attracted a large number of tourists.  The Government then introduced new legislation that required people to apply for permits to enter the mission. (p.136) The number of tourist decreased dramatically, and Roy was forced to close his shop. (p.138) He continued to work through the Church’s Curio Shop, and also did carpentry. (p.138)
  • In 1974, Roy “had the privilege” of doing a three week art course with an accomplished Aboriginal elder. (p.170) This led to important developments in Roy’s artist career, as he became more creative with his use of traditional Aboriginal styles. (p.170)
  • At this time, Roy also became very involved in the church, and was Chairman of the Church Council. (p.145) In the 1980s, he considered training to become a Pastor. He decided against it, because the job would involve too much time away from his family. (p.147)
  • In 1982, Roy was commissioned as an evangelist to work in Coen. (p.148) He had family in Coen, and was well received by the community. (pp.148-149) However, his income was small, and the cost of living in Coen was high. (p.149) Roy supplemented his wage from the Church by continuing to make and sell bark paintings. (p. 149) During his time in Coen, Roy advocated and oversaw the establishment of a new chapel. (p.150)
  • Roy also helped the people in Coen to establish an advocacy organisation named Mulpa Kincha, and was the inaugural Chairman. (p.151) After a slow start, Mulpa Kincha gained funding for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Cairns, and it begun to function as a useful forum for local issues. (p.152)
  • The organisation split in 1987, due to differences in opinion between families group. Nonetheless, Mulpa Kincha continued to function, and it encouraged people to claim and return to their ancestral lands as a solution to mounting social problems. (p.152)
  • With the support of anthropologist Professor Bruce Rigsby, four clans involved in the Mulpa Kincha organization – the Wik Mungkan, Lama Lama, Kanjuu and Olkala people – gained some of their land back, and were given the options of farming on their blocks. (p.152)
  • Roy and his wife Thelma also helped establish the Home and Community Care Program in Coen, which was designed to help the elderly and sick in their own homes. (p.155)
  • When they returned to Hope Vale, Roy built a passionfruit orchard on the five acres that he and his father had cleared in the 1950s. (p.160) At the time, Roy was nearly sixty, however he was still strong enough to help with the manual labour. (p.160) They grew passion fruit successfully for five years until a workman on the farm inadvertently started a fire, and they lost the entire orchard. (p.161)
  • Roy continued to work with the ministry in Hope Vale for two years. He claims that he was forced to resign because the new Pastor denied Aboriginal people spiritual leadership. (p.161)
  • Roy also continued to develop his artist career. He took his first TAFE course in 2000, and has since taken a number of courses in “painting, drawing, pottery, screen painting, lino-cuts, etching, batik and working ochre.” (p.171) In 2003, Roy’s painting entitle ‘Spiritual Realm’ won the Laura Art Award, and in that year he also won an Arts Queensland Scholarship to go to the McGregor Summer School. (p.171) He attended the McGregor Summer School again in 2006. (p.171)
  • Roy has had his work displayed in a number of exhibitions, and had his first solo exhibition in Cairns Regional Art Gallery in 2007. (p.172)
  • Roy also helped establish the Hope Vale Art and Cultural Centre, and served as its Chairman for a considerable time. (p.172) He hopes to encourage many young people in Hope Vale to engage in Aboriginal art. (p.173)


  • Department of Aboriginal Affairs: In the 1950s, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs established the ‘Aboriginal Creations’ store in Brisbane. They sold artifacts and bark paintings that Roy and others from Hope Vale made in the Church’s Curio Shop (p.121)
  • In the 1980s, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs recognised the advocacy organisation that Roy chaired in Coen – Mulpa Kincha – and awarded them funding. (p.152)
  • Aboriginal Development Commission: provided Roy a loan to buy a circular saw and sander for his artifact shop in the 1970s. (p.135)
  • The Lutheran Church of Australia: In 1977, a Board member of the Lutheran Church of Australia helped Roy to obtain a lease for his house. (p.141)
  • The Lutheran Church also commissioned Roy to work as an evangelist in Coen in the 1980s. (p.149)
  • Mulpa Kincha: An organisation that Roy helped to establish in Coen, which was designed to lobby the government for improved services. (p.151) Roy was the inaugural Chairman of Mulpa Kincha. (p.151)
  • Home and Community Care Program: an organisation which Thelma and Roy helped to establish in Coen, which was designed to help the elderly and sick in their own homes. (p.155)
  • Hope Vale Aboriginal Council: In 1986 the Hope Vale Aboriginal Council was made the trustee of the ex-mission land, in the form of a Deed of Grant in Trust. (p.162)
  • Indigenous Land Council: Indigenous Land Council helped Roy and the other members of the Binthi Clan to gain control of the Mt Baird Station, which is on their ancestral land. (p.162)
  • The Hope Vale Arts and Cultural Centre: In 2000, Roy helped to establish the Hope Vale Art and Culture Centre. (p.173)


  • Roy describes the effects of the 1897 Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act, which gave the Queensland Government “control over every aspect of the lives of Aboriginal people.” (p.22)
  • According to Roy, the only way to avoid “the Act” was “renouncing one’s Aboriginality.” (p.22) During their time in Woorabinda, his family was offered exemption with these terms, and the chance to resettle in Rockhampton: “but, without hesitation, they chose to return to their home-country.” (p.107)
  • Roy claims the “last vestiges of the Act” were removed in the 1970s. (p.140) A community council was introduced, under a policy of “self-management”. He claims that this policy had some unintended consequences. (p.140)
  • Roy also claims that the “Act” has been recently revived in the form of the Cape York Welfare Reform Trials. (p.22)
  • In the 1970s, the government introduced new legislation that required people to apply for permits to enter the Hope Vale mission. (p.136) At the time, Roy was running a business that sold Aboriginal art and artifacts, but following this change the number of tourists decreased dramatically, and he was forced to close the shop. (p.138)
  • In 1967, legislation was introduced demanding that Aboriginal people be paid award wages. Roy claims that this left a number of Aboriginal stockmen “unemployed and homeless”, and many came to live in Hopevale. (p.140)
  • In 1971, it became legal for Aboriginal people to drink alcohol. Roy claims that, in Hope Vale, “alcohol did not seem to be an immediate problem, but its effects were ominous.” (p.140) Changed gradually occurred during the 1980s, which were obvious to Roy when he returned from Coen in the 1990s. (p.159)
  • In 1977, Roy sought the advice of Des Pietsch, who was a member of the Lutheran Mission Board and officer of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, to ensure there right to live in the house that he and his father had built. (p.141)  The matter eventually led to a new Act of Parliament, and Roy and Thelma became the first people to lease land on an Aboriginal Reserve in 1977. (p.141)
  • Following the Mabo decision of 1992, Aboriginal people could make claims to their ancestral lands based on continuing association. (p.162) This was formalized in the Native Title Act in 1993. Roy was impelled to claim his traditional Binthi country, for all of the members of this clan group. (p.162)
  • Through the Indigenous Land Council, members of the Binthi Clan were able to gain control of the Mt Baird Station, which is on their ancestral lands. (p.162) Roy had hoped that the land would be shared among the Binthi Clan, but – due to intra-clan disagreements – it was divided among the families. (p.162) Roy was disappointed by this outcome, and tried to ensure that all investment in the Station was useful to the entire clan. (p.163)


  • While living in Woorabinda, Roy had a bike accident and the wheel spokes punctured his arm. He was sent to the Woorabinda hospital, but there wasn’t enough painkillers available for the patients, so they sent him on to Rockhampton. (p.98) While recovering from his arm operation, Roy contracted an infection, which prolonged his stay in hospital (p.98)
  • In the 1980s, when he was about to move to Coen, Roy suffered from serious back problems. He claims to have tried “every remedy”, but had no success until the local bush medic gave him instructions to soak in a bathtub with boiled bark. Since then Roy has not suffered from back pain. (p.147)
  • In 1990, Roy had to travel from Coen to Brisbane and have a triple by-pass heart operation. (p.155) After the operation, when they had returned to Coen, the place where the surgeons had taken a vein from Roy’s leg became infected. (p.155) The infection was treated with antibiotics, however the illness prompted the McIvors return to Hope Vale. (p.155)


  • Munarra (Paddy): Roy’s father Paddy was born in 1897 on the Binthi clan’s ancestral land near the McIvor River. His father was a European yard-builder from Glenrock station, who was only in the region for a very short time. (p.13) His mother and her sister were both married to the appointed leader of the clan, King Johnny, who became Paddy’s tribal father. (p.13)
  • Paddy was one of the last of the Binthi clan to be initiated at the McIvor River. After a ceremony, the Elders took him to Starcke River and taught him to spear and cook crocodile. (p.24)
  • During the ceremony at Starcke, the missionary Muni came to take the children to Hope Valley. King Johnny was on good terms with Muni, and agreed to send Paddy to the mission: but only after the initiation ceremony was finished. (p.25) Unlike in past gyanyja (initiations), Paddy did not receive ceremonial scarring and nose piercing. (p.25)
  • When he arrived at the mission, Paddy was placed in the segregated dormitories with his relatives. According to Roy, his father “displayed leadership qualities from a young age”, and as such was appointed head of the dormitories. (p.26)
  • Paddy won the respect of the Muni, who gave him other responsibilities: such as being a Captain of the mission’s boat, which fished for bêche de mer, trochus and dugong. (p.26)
  • These responsibilities meant that Paddy was often away from home, but whenever he returned to Cape Bedford he’d go out with his children. (p.43)
  • During their time at Woorabinda, Paddy became an important representative of the Cape Bedford people. Unlike the other men, he was not allowed to leave the Woorabinda Reserve for work, because the Superintendent relied on him to act as their spokesperson. (p.95) Paddy also took over the “spiritual leadership”, and conducted twice-weekly services and funerals for the Cape Bedford people. (p.80)
  • Roy claims that his family was offered exemption from the ‘Act’ while living at Woorabinda, and a chance to resettle in Rockhampton. However, “without hesitation, they chose to return to their home-country.” (p.107) Along with the other leaders, George Bowen and Alick Cameron, Paddy put pressure on the church and government authorities to return the Cape Bedford people to their home in Far North Queensland. (p.107) The Church supported them to travel to Brisbane, where they gained the support of Joh Bjelke Petersen: a sympathetic, Lutheran Member of Parliament. (p.107)
  • When the Cape Bedford people returned to Far North Queensland, Paddy continued to act as a leading community representative and craftsman.  (p.122) He also started a piggery, and acted as a guide for the tourists who visited the new mission. (p.122)
  • Paddy McIvor died in 1967 at the Cairns Base Hospital, and was buried in Cairns because the family could not afford to bring him home. (p.126)
  • Awaay (Rachel McIvor): Roy’s mother was born at Stonehenge near Longreach in Central Queensland. Her father, who worked as a stockman, died when she was only seven. (p.28) To support her daughter, Rachel’s mother did domestic work and relied on the local Chinese families for fresh produce. (p.28) Her mother also died after giving birth to her second son, and her grandmother took care of Rachel and her siblings until the Native Troopers forcibly took them to Cape Bedford. (p.29)
  • When she arrived at the Hope Valley mission, Rachel was made to feel welcome by the missionary Muni and the other girls the dormitory. The local Aboriginal evangelist Ngathi Karl and his wife Gami Louisa soon adopted her into their family. (p.31)
  • At Cape Bedford, Rachel converted to Christianity and learnt how to cook and do domestic work. (p.30) She married Paddy McIvor in 1927, and her sister married Paddy’s brother Willie. (p.35) Roy was the third out of Paddy and Rachel’s six children. (p.35)
  • When the mission community was relocated to Woorabinda during the Second World War, Rachel reconnected with many of her relatives from Stonehenge. (p.85) She also fell ill: but regained her health, and was able to re-establish the McIvor family home when they returned to Far North Queensland. (p.80)


  • By the time he was forty, Roy had meet “a few nice ladies”, but had never had a serious romantic relationship. (p.133) Increasingly, his bachelorhood came to concern him. (p.133)
  • Roy met Thelma, who was a schoolteacher at Hope Vale, in 1972. (p.133) He thought she was very beautiful, and so found a way to engage her in conversation while she was working in the school at night. (p.133) When they meet again, Roy sang her a love song from the 1950s. (p.133) Thelma loved the song, and Roy offered to give her guitar lessons. (p.134)
  • After Thelma and Roy had been in a relationship for less that a year, he wrote to her parents asking permission to marry her. (p.134) After initial hesitance, they consented, and the couple was married in December 1972. (p.134)
  • As a mixed-race couple, Roy and Thelma had to apply for permission to live in Hope Vale. (p.134)
  • Thelma continued to work as a teacher in Hope Vale, and then in Coen when they relocated in the 1980s. She also worked in the office of the Mulpa Kincha organisation, and helped Roy establish the Home and Community Care Program. (p.152)


  • Thelma and Roy had their first daughter, Ramona, in 1974. (p.135) Their first son Selwyn was born in 1976; (p.135) and their second son Elroy was born in 1988. (p.154) Thelma and Roy had to travel to Cairns for each birth. (p.154)
  • When they were young, Roy’s children lived with their parents in Hope Vale and Coen. Roy taught his son Selwyn to hunt for kangaroos and pigs. (p.153) When they were old enough, Roy and Thelma’s children were sent to St Peter’s Lutheran College in Brisbane. (p.155)
  • As adults, Selwyn and Elroy both became electricians, and Ramona became an anthropologist. (p.174) Roy’s children also demonstrated artistic ability, which made him very proud. (p.173)


  • King Johnny: King Johnny was Roy’s tribal father, who the authorities gave a brass breastplate and appointed leader of the Binthi clan. (p.15) It was King Johnny’s responsibility to distribute rations and clothing amongst the Binthi people. According to Roy, Muni relied on King Johnny to keep the roads clear and report any illegal activities. (p.15)
  • By 1916, the Binthi clan’s land was part of Elderslie Station. That year, the station owners caught King Johnny and Roy’s grandmother Nellie fire-stick farming, and so sent them to Barambah Aboriginal Reserve in Southern Queensland. (p.4) After Nellie died at Barambah, King Johnny apparently walked the 1,800 kilometres back to the McIvor River (p.4)
  • Batharra (Uncle Willy): Roy’s paternal uncle Willy stayed with the Binthi clan after Paddy had been taken to the mission. Muni subsequently sent Paddy and other young men from the mission to collect Willy, and they took turns of carrying him on their shoulders to the mission. (p.13) While at the mission, Uncle Willy married Rachel’s sister, Aunt Dolly. (p.36)
  • Roy tells a story in which Willy fell violently ill near the Guuthi sandhills, which are on the Binthi’s traditional land. The other men thought Willy was going to die, however he asked them to carry him to the top of the sandhills. Roy suggests that the Guuthi sandhills cured Willy. (p.17)
  • Aunt Dolly: Roy’s maternal aunt was brought to the Hope valley from Stonehenge, along with his mother. (p.30) Aunt Dolly married Paddy’s brother Willy, and the families lived next door to each other in Elim and Hope Valley.
  • Mugay Woibo: Mugay Woibo was taken from the Binthi to the mission, at the same time as Roy’s father Paddy. This created a bond, and they refer to each other as brothers. (p.27)
  • Ngathi Karl: Ngathi Karl was an Aboriginal evangelist who preached at the Hope Valley mission. Karl and his wife adopted Roy’s mother, Rachel, when she was brought to the mission from Stonehenge. (p.31)
  • Roy recalls that Karl once attempted to take some of the mission’s chickens to Cooktown on the mission’s boat, to see to a Chinese trader. Roy’s father was Captain, and during the voyage the boat tipped and the chicken got loose and began swimming around the boat. (p.45)
  • Roy also retells Karl’s story about his encounter with a devil, or yiki, who tried to led him away from Christianity. (p.62)
  • Ngathi Karl passed away before the move to Cape Bedford, however Paddy McIvor recalls being visited his ghost later in life. (p.63)
  • Pastor George Schwarz (Muni): Muni came to Cape Bedford in 1887, as stayed as the missionary at Hope Valley for more that fifty years. (p.24) Roy points out that Muni was a dictatorial character who suppressed traditional Guugu Yimidhirr culture and kept them in isolation from the settler-colonial world. Nonetheless, many people in the mission also came to see him as a beloved leader. (p.24)
  • During the Second World War, Muni was falsely accused of conspiring with the Germans during the Second World War, and was interned in a Prisoner of War Camp in Brisbane. (p.71) When the War ended Muni retired in Cooktown, and when he was 85 he held his last service in Hope Vale. When Muni died six years later, he was buried in Hope Vale. (p.117)
  • When Roy started teaching Sunday school in Hope Vale, he drew inspiration from Muni’s example to become a more successful teacher. (p.145)
  • Emily McIvor: Emily was Roy eldest sister, and Paddy and Rachel McIvor’s second child. During the Second World War, when the Guugu Yimithirr people were relocated to Woorabinda, Emily died of an illness that swept through the community. (p.80) Roy claims that Emily knew she was going to die, because an image of Ngathi Karl leading a group of people appeared to her in the sky during a thunderstorm. (p.80)
  • On the way to Stonehenge, Roy’s extended family stopped at Woorabinda and visited Emily’s grave. They replaced the small wooden cross with a tombstone. (p.163)
  • Mr Jarrett: Roy’s primary school teacher at Woorabinda. At that time, schooling for Aboriginal children only went to Grade Four, however Mr Jarrett responded to the children desire to continue their education by holding night classes for the senior primary students. (p.94)
  • When Roy had a bike accident, and was sent to hospital in Rockhampton, he was saddened to hear that Mr Jarrett had left the school. However, when he returned to Woorabinda he was greatly relieved to find he was still there. (p.99) When the Hope Valley people returned to Far North Queensland after the war, Mr Jarrett came with them and worked in the new school. (p.111)
  • Mrs Jarrett: Mrs Jarrett’s wife, who taught Roy art at Woorabinda. Mrs Jarrett recognised Roy’s artist talent at an early age, and inspired him to continue with art. (p.95)
  • Des Pietsch: a member of the Lutheran Mission Board and officer of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Roy appealed to Des to ensure his right to live in the house that he and his father had built.  Des took the matter to the Government, and this eventually led to a new Act of Parliament. As a result, Roy and Thelma became the first people to lease land on an Aboriginal Reserve in 1977. (p.141)
  • Father George Rosendale: Father George was one of the first Aboriginal people in Hope Vale to be ordained by the Lutheran Church. He spent 10 years living and working in Coen, and after he resigned Roy took his positions as an evangelist. (p.147) Father George introduced Roy to the community at Coen, and helped him and his family to relocate. (p.148)
  • Bruce Rigbsy: An anthropologist from the University of Queensland. Bruce worked with Roy to help the Coen people involved in the Mulpa Kincha organisation to claim their ancestral lands. (p.152)
  • With his help, the Wik Mungkan, Lama Lama, Kanjuu and Olkala clans all made successful claims. (p.152)


  • The Guugu Yimidhirr; Roy describes the make-up of the traditional “Guugu Yimidhirr nation”, who occupied the area surrounding the modern town of Cooktown.  The Guugu Yimidhirr nation was made up thirty two clan groups, which were divided into two moieties that take their names from their totem animals: the white cockatoo (wandarr) and the black cockatoo (ngurrarr). (p.!0) Roy is a member of the Binthi-warra (clan), which is part of the wandarr moiety. (p.10)
  • Roy claims that the symbols of the black and white cockatoo carry both new and old meaning in contemporary Hopevale.
  • Roy recalls the traditional Guugu Yimidhirr method of settling disputes using mala-digarras: the “lawyers for the accused”. (p.17) After messages were sent out via message sticks, the relevant groups met on ceremonial or neutral grounds. The accused party would stand behind the mala-digarras, who would deflect spears thrown at them with a woomera. (p.17)
  • Roy also describes the traditional emphasis on sharing in Guugu Yimidhirr society. In Guugu Yimidhirr, the exonerating expression Walaan refers not only to a person who is not only a good hunter, but also someone who shares their catch. Meanwhile the expression mattharr refers to a “incompetent and lazy” person, who does not supply for his kin. (p.61)
  • Roy also describes the factors that the Guugu Yimidhirr consider when choosing a campsite: proximity to water, as well as to undercover shelter, in the case of extreme weather. (p.71)

Colonial Contact:

  • Roy recounts the post-contact history of the Guugu Yimidhirr people. Following the Palmer River Gold Rush in the 1870, many lost access to their traditional lands and came into violent conflict with the colonizers. (p.21) The Aboriginal people at Cape Flattery were massacred after a fisherman was attacked on Lizard Island, and his wife was left to die at sea. (p.17) Others at Normanby died a “terrible death” after being given tea and sugar laced with arsenic. (p.17)
  • Roy also recalls the harsh treatment his family suffered at the hands of the station owners who occupied their territory on the McIvor River. (p.16) Roy claims that, on one occasion, a station owner and his sons rode through the Aboriginal camp, and arbitrarily whipped any Binthi people they could find. (p.16)
  •  Roy’s grandmother Nellie and his tribal Grandfather King Johhny were both sent to Barambah Aboriginal Reserve in Southern Queensland for practicing fire-stick farming. (p.16)
  • Roy also records the violence perpetrated by Native Troopers, who came from all over Queensland and were skilled trackers. One leading tracker, Sergeant Kenny, came to live in Hopevale when he retired and was employed by Muni to work in the sisal hemp plantation. (p.16)
  • Roy claims that the depopulation and dispossession suffered by the Guugu Yimidhirr had a negative impact on their social structure. (p.21)

The establishment of the Hope Valley Mission:

  • Roy attributes the survival of the Guugu Yimidhirr people to the establishment of the Hope Valley mission by the Lutheran Church in the late 1990s (p.21) Roy gives an account of the development of the mission, and his early life there.
  • In 1885 the esteemed Lutheran missionary, Reverend Johann Flierl, was delayed in Cooktown on route to German New Guinea. During this stay, Roy claims he “saw the need for a mission”, and established one on the Aboriginal reserve at Cape Bedford. (p.22)
  •  The first permanent residents of the Hope Valley mission were all girls from the clans in the area. They were followed by men who sought wives. (p.22) Other Aboriginal people were brought to the mission, by their desperate parents or the authorities. (p.22) Roy claims that all newcomers to the mission were accepted by the mission, and adopted into local families. However, he presumed they still missed their families. (p.22)
  • The residents converted to Christianity, and were prevented from engaging in many traditional practices: such as singing, dancing, polygamous marriage and initiation ceremonies. (p.36) Roy recalls that the first time he saw a traditional Aboriginal ceremony was in Woorabinda during the Second World War. (p.86)
  • The residents of the mission were, however, allowed to hunt and gather, and Paddy and Rachel took their children spear fishing, collecting freshwater mussel, and hunting for flying foxes and pigs. (p.36) Overall, Roy enjoyed his early life at Cape Bedford and at Hope Valley.
  • Roy claims that there was a strong sense of community at Cape Bedford. This was evident when everyone worked together during the relocation from Cape Bedford to Spring Hill.
  • Paddy McIvor worked to rebuild the new mission, and Roy’s family was among the first to move into their own house in 1940. (p.49) Roy recalls that the residents were more self-sufficient at Spring Hill, and thus his father and the other mission labourers didn’t have to spend long periods of time away from the home. (p.56)
  • After the War, Roy came back to Spring Hill to help dismantle the Church, and was engulfed by sadness and nostalgia. (p.73)

Forced relocation to Woorabinda:

  • Roy also recalls the traumatic experience that the Hope Valley people endured during the Second World War. At the start of the War, Roy and his family were forced to move into humpies by the sand-ridges. (p.72) Later, the entire community was forced to relocate to Woorabinda, an Aboriginal Settlement in Southern Queensland.
  • Roy recalls that his family was celebrating his sisters’ birthday when, mid-meal, soldiers told them to leave everything and board a truck. (p.74) He also describes the arduous journey from Cooktown to Woorabinda: during which the confused Cape Bedford people suffered from sickness, hunger, dehydration, and sleep-deprivation (pp.76-77)
  • When they arrived in Woorabinda, circumstance did not improve. Within days, people began to get sick, and by the end of the War one third of the population had died. (p.81)
  • Roy and his friend also got into fights with Woorabinda children: particularly when they accused them of being Nazi sympathisers. (p. 88) However, they enjoyed their free time: hunting for kangaroos and porcupine; watching boxing football and English dances, and occasionally going to see a movie. (pp.91-94)
  • At the end of the War, Paddy McIvor and the other leaders from Hope Valley launched a successful campaign for Government support to return the community to Far North Queensland. (p.108)
  • Roy and his family returned to Woorabinda on the way to Stonehenge in 1992, and the experience evoked mixed emotions. (p.166)

Rebuilding the Hope Vale Mission:

  • When the first working part of Cape Bedford men returned to Far North Queensland, they established a new mission to the South of Cape Bedford name Hope Vale.
  • These working parties – described as the “pioneers” – dismantled the Army building that had been established and built the first houses. (p.108) By the time Roy and his family arrived in the new mission in 1950, the pioneers had already built a store and houses for the pastor, staff, schoolteachers and carpenters and had grown vegetable gardens. (p.110)

MODE OF LITERARY PRODUCTION: Cockatoo: My Life in Cape York, Stories and Art is written by Roy McIvor.

Additional Resources

Source Project

This biographical entry was contributed by Australian Indigenous Autobiography Archive

Citation details

'McIvor, Roy (1934–?)', Indigenous Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 5 March 2024.

© Copyright Indigenous Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


Cape Bedford, Queensland, Australia

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