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Lennard River in the Kimberley region of Western Australia
The Kimberley is one of the nine regions of Western Australia. It is located in the northern part of Western Australiamarker, bordered on the west by the Indian Oceanmarker, on the north by the Timor Seamarker, on the south by the Great Sandy and Tanamimarker Deserts, and on the east by the Northern Territorymarker.

The region was named after the Kimberleymarker diamond fields in South Africa. This was due to the two areas sharing a similar landscape. The discovery of diamond fields in the Kimberley region has subsequently added to the likeness.


Kimberley region map
It covers an area of , which is about three times the size of Englandmarker or comparable to the size of Californiamarker or 15% larger than Japanmarker or twice the size of Victoriamarker or one sixth the size of Western Australiamarker. It has a population of 38,000 est.


The Kimberley 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 Indonesiamarker. Alexander Forrest trekked across from the western coast to the Northern Territory 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 Fitzroymarker and Ord Rivermarker. He subsequently set himself up as a land agent specialising in the Kimberleys and was thus instrumental in the leasing of over in the region during 1883.

In 1881, Philip Saunders and Adam Johns, in the face of great difficulties and dangers found gold in various parts of the Kimberleys. Early in 1881 the first five graziers, who called themselves the Murray Squatting Company, took up 120,000 behind Beagle Bay and named it Yeeda Station. They became the first men to shear sheep in the southern Kimberleys in 1883. There was further European settlement in 1885, 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 Creekmarker.

The population of the Kimberley is only about 41,000, but this figure is growing at a rate of 4.8% per year, around three times the state average. The population is fairly evenly distributed, with only three towns having populations in excess of 2,000: Broomemarker (15,000), Derbymarker (3,600) and Kununurramarker (5,000). Approximately 33% of the region's population are of Aboriginal descent.

Geography, climate and vegetation

The Kimberley consists mainly of ancient, steep-sided mountain ranges from which the extreme climate has removed most soil except in the valleys of the Ord and Fitzroy Rivers in the southern part of the region. In these areas the soils are relatively usable cracking clays, whilst elsewhere they are lateritic Orthents. Although none of the mountains reach even , there is so much steep land as to make much of the region very difficult to traverse, especially during the wet season when even sealed roads are often flooded.

The Kimberley has a tropical monsoon climate. During the wet season, from November to April, the region receives about 90% of its rainfall, and cyclones are common especially around Broome. The annual rainfall, however, is highest in the northwest, where Kalumburu averages per year, and lowest in the southeast where it is around . In the dry season, from May to October, south easterly breezes bring sunny days and cool nights. Climate change since 1967 has led to large increases of as much as per year in annual rainfall over the whole region. Recent studies suggest Asian pollution and not global warming as the cause of this increased rainfall. In 1997 and 2000 the region received especially heavy rains, leading to record flooding of the Fitzroy and other rivers.

The Kimberley is the hottest part of Australia, with mean maxima almost always above even in July and ranging in November before the rains break from on the coast to in the south around Halls Creek. Mean minima in July range from around in the south to around Kalumburu, whilst in November and December they are generally around .

The aboriginal people of the Kimberley recognise traditional seasons based on meteorological events as well as observed events relating to fauna and flora.

The Kimberley is chiefly covered in open savanna woodland dominated by low eucalypt and boab trees. In sheltered gorges of the high rainfall north, however, are patches of rainforest. These were not known to science until 1965. This wet area is one of the most floristically rich parts of Australia outside the Wet Tropics and southwestern WA.


During the Devonian period, a barrier reef system formed before a subsequent drop in sea levels over the Kimberley. This reef system was similar to the Great Barrier Reefmarker and is still visible today in the form of the Napier Rangemarker and the Ningbing Range. Some of the features are Tunnel Creek, Windjana Gorgemarker and Geikie Gorge.

This area is also known as the Kimberly Block physiographic province, of which it is part of the larger West Australian Shield division. This province contains the King Leopold Rangemarker, Durack Range, Leveque Rise, Browse Depression, and Londonderry Rise physiographic sections.The Aboriginals used this to their advantage.


The Kimberley features diverse industries such as:


Broome supports a flourishing pearling industry which operates around the Kimberley coast. Some of the major farmers are Paspaley Pearls, Clipper Pearls, Broome Pearls and the Willie Creek Pearl Farm.


One third of the worlds annual production of diamonds are mined at the Argylemarker and the Ellendale diamond mines. Oil is extracted from the Blina oil field and gas is expected to be taken from offshore sources soon. Zinc and lead are mined at the Pillara, Sallay Mallay and Cadjebut mines near Fitzroy Crossing. Derbymarker is the nearest export base for shipping these metals.

Agriculture and aquaculture

Traditionally, the region was oriented towards pastoral leases - with most of the region utilised by the leases.

More recently agriculture has been focused on the Ord Rivermarker Irrigation Area near Kununurramarker. Irrigation was also trialled in the West Kimberley by way of the now defunct Camballin Irrigation Scheme. There are also fruit growers in Broomemarker and in other areas in the West Kimberley. Beef cattle are grown in the Kimberley and exported live. Wyndham features the last remaining meatworks in the Kimberley - there were formerly works at Broome and Derby but financial constraints have caused these to be closed.

Barramundi are bred in Lake Argylemarker and Broomemarker features a fully equipped Aquaculture Park near the port which is tenanted by amongst others Paspaley Pearls and Broome TAFE. The Kimberley also has a thriving fishing industry.

Indigenous art

Some of Australia's most prominent Indigenous artists and art centres are in or adjacent to the Kimberley region. Artists such as Paddy Bedford and Freddy Timms have an international profile, and there are a number of Aboriginal-owned and controlled art centres and companies that assist artists, arrange exhibitions and sell works. The art centres in the region are also organised through the Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists. Issues have been raised regarding the exploitation of Indigenous artists by businesses and individuals, including in the Kimberley, which were canvassed in an Australian Senate parliamentary committee report.

See Also :


The Kimberley is a popular tourist destination, with areas such as the Bungle Bungle, the Gibb River Road, Lake Argylemarker, El Questro Station, Horizontal Falls and Cape Levequemarker. The Gibb River Road and the road into the Bungle Bungles can at times be accessed in a two-wheel drive car, although one can access many additional areas in a four-wheel drive vehicle.

See also:


At federal level, the Kimberley is represented by the member for Kalgoorliemarker. At state level, the Kimberley electorate takes in most of the region and all of its major towns, while Pilbara includes south-eastern areas such as Halls Creekmarker and Fitzroy Crossingmarker.

The Kimberley region consists of the local government areas of:

Popular Culture

The Kimberley Region was featured on Discovery Channel's Man Vs. Wild.

See also


  1. The Australian Encylopaedia, Vol. V, The Grolier Society, Sydney
  2. The Australian Encylopaedia, Vol. V, The Grolier Society, Sydney
  3. Australian rainfall and Asian aerosols

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