Yarrabah, a former Aboriginal mission settlement, is a community governed by an Aboriginal Council, 15 km east of Cairns at Cape Grafton.
The mission was founded by John Gribble in 1892. Gribble, formerly a minister in the Methodist and Congregational Churches in Victoria had prior experience with Aboriginal missions both there and in Western Australia. In 1883 Gribble had been ordained an Anglican priest, and mostly on his own initiative journeyed to Cairns and obtained approval from the colonial government to set up a mission on land eventually proclaimed as a reserve. Few Aborigines sought sanctuary there for the first two years, by then Gribble departed because of ill health, and the management of the mission passed to his son Edward, who became an Anglican minister in 1898, the year that St Albans church at Yarrabah was dedicated. The settlement was under Anglican Church management until 1960 when the Department of Native Affairs assumed control.
In 1904 the Fraser Island people were moved to Yarrabah, over 1000 km away. The population probably numbered several hundred, as in 1902 there were 93 pupils at the Yarrabah school. In 1915 mission records showed 322 'native population', whereas census figures were half this number. Anglican authorities encouraged marriages and settlement at the mission, and forbade the marriage of so-called full-blood women to whites or aliens. In 1903 Yarrabah, known as Cape Grafton, was described in the Australian Handbook:
Wages were limited, and as late as the 1950s were described as 'nominal' for spending at 'a well stocked store'. Employment was found in pineapple farming and sawmilling.
In 1987 the Queensland Government handed Deeds of Grant in Trust for all the land to the Yarrabah Council.
The Yarrabah Community Council runs aged, youth and day-care facilities, a canteen, library and museum. There are also a hospital, substance-abuse and medical facilities, a general store and a State primary school (1892) with a secondary department. Yarrabah's census populations have been:
Judy Thomson, ed, Reaching back: Queensland Aboriginal people recall early days at Yarrabah mission, Canberra, Aboriginal Studies Press, 1989
A pictorial history of the Mulgrave Shire 1880-1980, Cairns, Mulgrave Shire Council, 1980