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Wellesley Islands
Queensland
Wellesley Islands locator map.jpg
Location map
Population 1,136 (2016 census)
 • Density 1.1279/km2 (2.921/sq mi)
Postcode(s) 4892
Area 1,007.2 km2 (388.9 sq mi)
Time zone AEST (UTC+10:00)
LGA(s) Shire of Mornington
State electorate(s) Traeger
Federal Division(s) Kennedy
Suburbs around Wellesley Islands:
Gulf of Carpentaria Gulf of Carpentaria Gulf of Carpentaria
Gulf of Carpentaria Wellesley Islands Gulf of Carpentaria
West Wellesley Islands South Wellesley Islands Gulf of Carpentaria

The Wellesley Islands are a group of islands off the coast of north Queensland, Australia, in the Gulf of Carpentaria. They are a locality within the Shire of Mornington local government area. In the 2016 census, Wellesley Islands had a population of 1,136 people.

Geography

The largest island in the group is Mornington Island and the town of Gununa on Mornington Island is home to the entire population of the locality. Two small islands in the group form the Manowar and Rocky Islands Important Bird Area because of their importance for breeding seabirds. The South Wellesley Islands and the Forsyth Islands are in the same area and all are the local government area of the Shire of Mornington. They form subregion GUP10 of the IBRA Gulf Plains bioregion of Australia.

History

Lardil (also known as Gununa, Ladil) is an Australian Aboriginal language spoken on Mornington Island and the Northern Wellesley Islands, within the local government boundaries of the Mornington Shire.

The islands were charted by Matthew Flinders on 6 December 1802, but he probably did not name them until he was in French captivity on Mauritius Island from 1803 to 1810 where he worked on his charts and journals. Flinders probably named the island group in honour of Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley who, as the Governor of Madras and Governor-General of Bengal from 1797 to 1805, tried to secure Flinders' release. He also named the largest island in the group Mornington Island after Wellesley who was the second Earl of Mornington.

Mornington Island State School opened on 28 January 1975.

In the 2016 census, Wellesley Islands had a population of 1,136 people.

Indigenous origin myth

According to indigenous belief, possibly mixed with fact, the islands were once part of mainland Australia:

In the beginning, as far back as we remember, our home islands were not islands at all as they are today. They were part of a peninsula that jutted out from the mainland and we roamed freely throughout the land without having to get in a boat like we do today. Then Garnguur, the seagull woman, took her raft and dragged it back and forth across the neck of the peninsula letting the sea pour in and making our homes into islands.

Education

Mornington Island State School is a government primary and secondary (Early Childhood-10) school for boys and girls at Lardil Street (16°39′59″S 139°10′57″E / 16.6663°S 139.1825°E / -16.6663; 139.1825 (Mornington Island State School)). In 2018, the school had an enrolment of 263 students with 25 teachers and 14 non-teaching staff (11 full-time equivalent). It includes a special education program.

There are no schools offering education to Year 12 on the island; nor are there any nearby. Distance education or boarding school would be the only options.

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