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Savanna Explorer > Kimberley

Central, north and west Kimberley

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.

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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 skies.

Land use in the Kimberely

Land use

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 (red).

Biogeographic regions

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 below.

 Town

 Total population

 Indigenous population

Broome

 15,906

 2,717

Derby

 3,688

 1,481

Fitzroy Crossing

1,507

751

Halls Creek

1,289

792

Table is based on 2001 Census Urban Centres and Localities figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Population snapshot

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 month.

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.

Economic profile

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 Kununurra.

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 town.

Beef production

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.

Pearls

The Kimberley's pearling industry has become Western Australia's most lucrative aquaculture industry with production estimated at $150 million in 1997–98.

Tourism

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.