THE KIMBERLEY By Thomas Forrester

Place and space

The Kimberley region located in Western Australia's far north, is a massive area of 423,517 square kms (three times the size of Tasmania). The Kimberley has a large range of waterfalls, gorges, beaches and rugged outback. Although it is a remote area, it is growing in popularity for tourists.

History

1,800 million years ago, the Kimberley was a separate land that collided with the ancient Pilbara and Yilgarn regions (through the ice age), forming the heart of the future Australian continent. The King Leopold Ranges are the remnants of massive mountains thrown up by the collision. Their folded rocks tell an important story of the shaping of Australia.

The remote Kimberley region of North Western Australia was one of the earliest settled parts of Australia, with the first people arriving about 40,000 years ago from the islands of what is now known as Indonesia.

The dreamtime stories

The dreamtime story

The boab tree features in rock art and also dreamtime stories, where it was regarded as being too proud and arrogant and was punished by being re-planted upside-down with its roots stuck in the air. Interestingly, the African Baobab is also known as the “upside-down tree”.

The ancient aborigines used this tree for medicine, the younger leaves contained high vitamin C and calcium content, the bark is used to treat fevers as it contains properties similar to quinine (used to treat malaria).

Why is the Kimberley important to Australians?

The western part of the Kimberley has a good past, involving both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Most aboriginal people have a strong connection to the land as their culture has lived for 40,000 years. In 1688 William Dampier and his crew explored the coast of the Kimberley, this stimulated later explorers such as James Cook.

William Dampier

Environment

Despite a lot of the natural wonders, there is much of the Kimberley flora and fauna which remains unexplored and little understood. The Kimberley is home to thousands of plant and animal species, many of them are endangered and now highly protected. The land of the central Kimberley supports a variety of trees, plants and grasses, the Kimberley also contains of woodlands and open forests and desert areas.

The fauna on the other hand is very different. In the Kimberley there is a lot of animals and they vary from stray pigs, to cattle, these are not native to this region and have been introduced. Some of the animals that are native to the Kimberley are, Dingos, Crocodiles, Kangaroos/Bilbies, Wallabies, Bandicoots, Quolls, Echidnas, Goannas, Lizards, Frogs, Snakes and lots of Birds from Jabirus to Cockatoos.

Climate

The Kimberley climate is broken up into two seasons. The wet season and the dry season. The Kimberley is located north of the Tropic of Capricorn, so the climate in the Kimberley is a tropical monsoon climate. You find this climate not only in Western Australia, but across all of Australia's North.

Tropics of Capricorn

Naturally built aspects of the Kimberley!

Pretty much everything in the Kimberley is natural and untouched, from waterfalls, sandstone rocks, caves, beaches and gorges. The roads, mines and small villages are the only things that are man made in this rugged, remote place.

Interconnection

The Kimberley is universally recognised for its landscape, which includes gorges, waterfalls and cave systems and an astonishing variety of wildlife. Tourist attractions include the, Purnululu National Park, Mitchell River and Geikie Gorge national parks, Cable Beach, Lake Argyle and Cape Leveque.

The Kimberley tourism industry has some negative human impacts including, more roads, more mining, building hotels for the tourists, poverty on the local communities and many tourists are bringing in money, that doesn't necessarily help the aboriginal community in any way, but so far this hasn't had a big impact on the people of this area.

Purnulu national Park. Mitchell River. Cape Leveque and Geikie gorge national Park

Sustainability in The Kimberley

In the Kimberley, sustaining the beautiful area is a very big problem as there's, rubbish, cane toads, bushfires, dieback disease, over fishing, pollution, threatened species, and even graffiti on the rock formations.

Cane Toads: introduced to Queensland in 1935, they have now made their way to the Kimberley and are a major environmental pest, significantly impacting on the ecosystems.

Cane toad

Dieback Disease: this disease kills susceptible plants, such as banksias, jarrah and grass trees, by attacking their root systems.

Dieback disease resulting dead trees

Mining

Besides the proposed gas hub at James Price Point, mines as diverse as iron ore, argyle diamonds, coal, oil, bauxite and uranium are all working. They are posing a major threat to the Kimberley. The Kimberley is one of the world's last great wilderness areas, but it's currently covered in more than 700 mining digs, this has a massive impact on the environment because the mines have pollution.

Argyle diamond mine
Argyle diamond

Pearl industry

Pearls are formed when a pearl oyster coats any hard particle entering it with layers of nacre (mother-of-pearl). Pearling in Western Australia existed well before European settlement, pearls in Western Australia made about $67 million in 2014, it is the second most valuable fishing industry to the State after rock lobster. Indigenous Australians wore and traded the shells and pearls for thousands of years. By the early 1900s the Kimberley was supplying 80% of the pearl industry.

Aboriginal, Chinese and Japanese people were used as cheap labor to dive down deep for the pearls which usually resulted in death at a young age.

Hard hat used for diving in the early 1900s

Scale

In the Kimberley we should not make any more hotels or motels for tourists to stay in, to have a certain amount of mines, don't over fish, have water restrictions and try to get rid of cane toads. Public awareness campaigns or posters to make the community and tourists be aware of how this area is easily damaged and you should bin all of your rubbish.

Annual clean up

Change

In the future due to climate change, I think the Kimberley could possibly just be desert, because of the constant heat and erosion of the sandstone rocks, they will crack and eventually fall away. I also think that it will dry up the water ways and beaches. The Kimberley could stay the same for a long time yet. I hope so.

Credits:

Created with images by sandid - "cane toad toad bufo marinus" • FancyDiamonds.net - "Fancy Vivid Purplish Pink Diamond by Leibish & Co" • Ed Bierman - "Old Diving Hat"

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