Landscape and climate
This is an area of around 300,000 square kilometres and covers
only the central, northern and western parts of the Kimberley
dominated by the bioegions Northern Kimberley and Central Kimberley
and Dampierland in the west. This country features the spectacular
rocky gorges and ridges of the north which grade into flatter
cattle country in the south and west. The east Kimberley region
around Kununurra with its grassy plains and smaller areas of rocky
country has more in common with landscapes across the border in the
Northern Territory and is included in the VRD-Sturt region.
The summer wet season usually occurs from November to April and
is characterised by hot humid conditions, predominantly north-west
winds and frequent thunderstorms. It can get hot here—average
maximum temperatures exceed 35ºC in inland regions but
moderate along the coast in the early months of the wet. From May
to October the Kimberley experiences its dry season with cloudless
Most of the region is pastoral land (dark blue) with significant
though lesser areas of Aboriginal land (green), nature reserves
(light blue), vacant Crown land (yellow) and Defence Force land
As mentioned above, the area included here is defined by the
biogeographic regions Dampierland, North Kimberley, Central
Kimberley and part of the Ord–Victoria Plains (see map).
The government of Western Australia's definition
of the Kimberley region (comprising four local
government areas) extends slightly further to the south than these
bioregions and most of the population figures given below refer to
this slightly larger region. For more information on the
biogeographic regions on this map go to: ERIN's Interim
Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia (IBRA), see web link
Table is based on 2001 Census Urban Centres and
Localities figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The population figures at right are based on the Australian
Bureau of Statistics census of 2001 which was conducted in
early August of that year. These more standardised Urban Centres
and Localities figures replace earlier ones on this site based on
Statistical Local Areas and Census Collection Districts.
The Kimberley is one of the more sparsely populated
regions, however, the population is one of the fastest growing in
the tropical savannas.
In the dry season, tourist numbers can reach tens of thousands a
The Kimberley has a high indigenous population, forming around a
third of the total population including tourists—and
presumably a much higher percentage of those who are long term
residents of the region.
The major economic contributors in the Kimberley are tourism,
agriculture, mining and pearling. The income from mining is more
than double any of the others ($631 million dollars), with most of
this coming from the Argyle diamond mine, south west of
There are 182 agricultural holdings, covering area of 24,600
square kilometres. Irrigated agricultural production has continued
to increase, with a value of $59 million in 1997/8, most of which
are broad acre crops like sugar grown in the Ord River Irrigation
Area near Kununnura. Note that while Kununurra is outside of the
three bioregions that make up the Kimberley, regional economic
profiles of the area tend to incorporate industries around this
The Kimberley pastoral industry is based on rangeland production
of beef cattle. Cattle turnover from the region was about $42.7
million in 1996–97. There are 98 pastoral leases covering
around 23 million hectares, about half of the region's total area.
In 1997 the cattle population was estimated by the Australian
Bureau of Statistics to be 489,000 head, 25.6 per cent of the state
herd. As there are no meat processing plants in the area, cattle
are exported live or sold as stores.
The Kimberley's pearling industry has become Western Australia's
most lucrative aquaculture industry with production estimated at
$150 million in 1997–98.
In 1996 there were 260,000 visitors to the Kimberly, spending an
estimated $107.5 million dollars. There is a general expectation
that this industry will increase the contribution it makes to the
region. July and August are the peak months for visitors, but
recent campaigns have been attempting to attract people during the
tropical summer, between October and May.