The Kimberley region is a remote and sparsely populated region where an estimated 35,700 (2010) people live in a magnificent and complex landscape that represents one sixth of Western Australia’s land mass; equivalent to twice the size of Victoria.
The natural landscape varies between broad savannah grasslands, rugged ranges, long golden beaches and spectacular tropical gorge country. Much of the flora and fauna is unique to the region and previously unidentified species continue to be occasionally discovered.
Characterised by its distinct wet and dry seasons, the Kimberley experiences a sub-tropical climate. During the wet season from October to March, tropical rains, high humidity and intermittent cyclones produce some of the highest rainfalls seen in Australia and provide annual mobility and access challenges for the people and businesses of the Kimberley. The dry season, a cooler and substantially less humid time of year, between April and September, is a time of peak activity for the region’s communities and industry; agriculture (including the pastoral sector), mining, particularly tourism and associated retail, as off main road transport again becomes reliable. These annual cycles attract many to stay in the region but present special challenges to both government service delivery and commercial operations.
The region is culturally rich with approximately half the population comprising Aboriginal people that represent more than 30 traditional Aboriginal language groups. Aboriginal participation in the mainstream economy, through employment and emerging commercial operations and markets, is increasing. Those areas where cultural and commercial knowledge bases are successfully combined offer outcomes for both Aboriginal people and the wider regional community and include vibrant businesses in Art and Eco-Tourism.
Agriculture, tourism, construction, retail industries and the resource sector are the region’s major industries and combine with the traditional Kimberley pastoral and pearling industries to provide a diverse economic base supported by a growing service industry.
The Ord/East Kimberley Expansion Project, potential development in the Browse Basin and major initiatives such as the construction of the West Kimberley Regional Prison have underpinned housing development in the six Kimberley towns and complement social/community and common-user infrastructure development.
Together, the region’s industries, major projects, housing and infrastructure development combine with the recently announced Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy to address regional challenges and maximise regional outcomes.