The Kimberley, in the north-west corner of Australia, is one of the world’s last cultural and natural landscapes that is not yet industrialised. Aboriginal people make up about half of the region’s population and retain strong links to their country. There are at least 26 major language groups. The knowledge Kimberley Aboriginal people hold about the land and sea is a key part of the region’s environmental future.
Kimberley landscapes are breathtaking. Few places in the world are as awe inspiring, with ancient and rugged ranges, gorges, escarpments and plateaux, sheer cliffs, mudflats and sandy beaches. One of Australia’s mightiest rivers, the Fitzroy, has so far been protected from damming and continues to have great spiritual and cultural importance for the Aboriginal people who live and depend on it. The eucalypt woodland and tall grassland that covers the region and most of northern Australia are the world’s most extensive intact tropical savannahs.
Kimberley rainforests were only recognised by science in the 1960s. Even though they cover less than 1% of the landmass they contain 25% of the region’s plant and animal species. Scientific expeditions find new species of plants regularly. Such findings have led people to say this region is like the Amazon 100 years ago: remote, little studied and poorly understood. The Kings Park Science Director, Dr Kingsley Dixon, refers to the Kimberley as ‘the last great botanical frontier in Australia’.
The vast Kimberley coast and seas are recognised as being amongst the most intact marine areas in the world. Science has only recently begun to investigate them. Three islands surveyed have been found to support 280 species of coral. The largest Humpack Whale population in the world calves and breeds in waters between Broome and Camden Sound.
Despite the cultural and natural riches of the Kimberley, most of the region remains unprotected and unmanaged, an astounding omission given its international importance and place in the Australian consciousness. The islands and archipelagos, plateaux and gorges are vulnerable to the oil and gas industry, and mining companies are actively exploring for minerals including coal, uranium and bauxite. The region’s remoteness has until recently kept most exploitative industries at bay, and made a scientific investigation difficult. The race is now on for the region’s future: natural wonderland or industrialised wasteland.
Environs Kimberley (EK) is the region’s peak environmental organisation. We are dedicated to the protection and management of this special part of the world. We advocate for the preservation of its natural assets and work with local communities to manage the natural environment.
EK was founded in 1996 as a lobby group to campaign alongside traditional owners and members of the wider community to stop the Fitzroy River from being dammed and the establishment of a large-scale irrigated cotton industry in the region; today, as an incorporated body, we continue to support development that is compatible with the Kimberley’s globally important natural and cultural riches.