History of the Kimberley
The history of Australia’s Kimberley region is a long one. The remote Kimberley region of north Western Australia was one of the earliest settled parts of Australia, with the first arrivals landing about 40,000 years ago from the islands of what is now Indonesia.
The Kimberley region is home to hundreds of thousands of rock art paintings and drawings known as Bradshaw or Wandjina rock art. These beautiful and mysterious paintings are hidden in outback bush galleries on the huge escarpments and terracotta rock surfaces of the north Kimberley.
Early exploration of the Kimberley
The area was first explored by Alexander Forrest in 1879. Forrest was the first European man to discover and name the Kimberley district, the Margaret and Ord Rivers, the King Leopold Ranges, and the fertile area between the Fitzroy and Ord Rivers. He subsequently set himself up as a land agent specialising in the Kimberleys and was thus instrumental in the leasing of over 51 million acres in the region during 1883.
The Durack family sought Forrest’s advice and went on to establish the Lissadell, Argyle, Rosewood and Ivanhoe cattle stations in the Kimberleys. It was at the Ivanhoe Station, to the north of Kununurra, that Kimberley Durack first began experimenting with the possibility of growing cash crops on the rich black alluvial soils of the Ord River valley. This was to later grow into the Ord River Scheme.
European settlement expanded during the late 19th century, when cattle were driven across Australia from the eastern states in search of good pasture lands. Many other Europeans arrived soon after, when gold was discovered around Halls Creek and pearls were harvested at Broome.
A growing tourist destination
The Kimberley in Western Australia’s far north is a dramatic area of waterfalls, gorges, beaches and rugged outback. Despite its remoteness, the Kimberley is growing in popularity as a destination.
People visit the Kimberley to immerse themselves in the awesome landscape – and to meet the locals who they’ve heard are friendly, unpretentious and proud of their history.