The Aboriginal people who live in this community include Kokominjena, Kokoberra and Kunjen groups, amongst others. In the Yir-Yoront language, Kowanyama means “The place of many waters.” The community is situated on the banks of the Magnificent, a tributary of the Mitchell River 20 klms inland from the coastline of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Kowanyama is accessed by an all weather airstrip, as well as unsealed roads in the dry season from Pormpurraw to the north, Normanton to the south and Cairns to the east.
The Kowanyama School educates children from preschool classes (4 years) to grade 10 (15 years). After grade 8, students from Kowanyama are encouraged to leave the community to attend boarding schools. Many students find it very difficult to leave the community and fit into boarding school life.
Kowanyama is serviced weekly in the dry season by road trains from Cairns. The service becomes more frequent as the wet season approaches. Early storms in October can make the 400 klm dirt road to Chillago east of the community subject to flooding. By late December the storms of the monoons have usually arrived, isolating the community by road.