In March 2017 we will be remembering when war came to the Kimberley, with a story of survival and rescue from the far north-east Kimberley coastal saltmarsh, involving Aboriginal stockmen, whose families are still in Kununurra today. As RAAF 12 Squadron Wirraway, A20-62, was en-route from Batchelor to Wyndham and out over the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf when oil appeared on the windscreen and the engine suddenly lost power, so the aircraft was turned south, "towards Australia," [Lew Dwyer - Pilot in 2014] then glided in, managing to make the coast to a wheels-up forced-landing on the dead-flat wet saltmarsh, where it is 30km from bush to sea, by the WA-NT border. If they had been flying alone they would have almost certainly perished, however, their Squadron Leader, Brian "Blackjack" Walker watched them go down and went on into Wyndham.
The Manager of Carlton Hill Station, Charlie Pretlove who was 'flood-bound in Wyndham' by pedal radio contacted his brother, Charlie Pretlove, Manager of Legune, who was at that time care-taking Carlton Hill Station. Percy told Charlie to get Waddy to go out to where someone had broken their leg some six years earlier - So Head Stockman, Aboriginal man, Waddi knew to go to Cleanskin Bore. Four Aboriginal stockmen and Charlie Pretlove went out to rescue Sergeant Pilots, Lew Dwyer and Warwick Carmody. We have a permanent exhibition at the Kununurra Museum with remnant parts from RAAF Wirraway A20-62, which force-landed on coastal saltmarsh, just 5 km inside WA from the WA-NT border, on March 20th 1942. Come into the Kununurra Museum during Wirraway Week or before to find out more. If you can't visit, never mind, as you can see an 8 part DVD all about Wirraway-Challenge Display that we now have on the Kununurra Museum YouTube Channel from http://www.youtube.com/user/KununurraMuseum
OR go to our Wirraway-Challenge Research page (here on this site :-) which has the YouTube DV's embedded.
[Wirraway means Challenge]
Once again the Kununurra Museum will have an Open Day and Evening for the Ord Valley Muster Week. Come along to enjoy a social event at the Kununurra Museum. As well as the Wirraway-Challenge display, visitors can soak up all sorts of Kimberley history - See what was happening in 1942 at Carlton Reach, Ord River, as the first agricultural experiments were to get under way 75 years ago, understand the history of the WA-NT border or view some new archives received.
As the build-up ends and the wet season is imminent, means an end to most of our events for this year, but who knows what the future holds! Sure enough there is one more gathering for 2016 and it will be on Saturday December 17th, 11am at the Kununurra Museum as follows.
(At the Kununurra Museum ;^)
On the weekend of June 24th to 26th 2016, we commemorated this history with various events that were greatly enjoyed, from many reports, by around fifty people involved.
Opening the forum on the night of Friday June 24th a KHS cut-down version of 1946 'Standard Definition' film of Rosewood Station, mixed with other historic photographs to 'High Definition' format, then a late 1960s documentary film, “On the Banks of the Ord” made by the late KRS Entomologist, Kevin Richards. This was a pristine digital copy provided to KHS by the National Film & Sound Archive (NFSA) in 2013, with rights from and thanks to the Richards family, who had donated the master reel to the NFSA. These were shown on the big screen at the Kununurra Picture Gardens.
The following morning (Saturday June 25th) started at the original Carlton Reach – 'Ord River Experimental Farm' site @lias Lake Kununurra Golf Club, with an introduction by the history forum Master of Ceremonies (MC), Jamie Elliott, who made new Durack family connections, and did a great job with his introductions as MC for the forum for this and all other talks throughout the day, making an impression on all at this history forum.
After introductions an opening address was given by Matthew Durack, son of the late William A. (Bill) Durack. Bill had worked with his brother, Kim Durack at Carlton Reach (1942-1944), which Matthew discussed enthusiastically, giving us insights into his uncle Kim's vision, which was enjoyed by all, and set the scene.
[Photograph - 1957 - Kimberley Michael Durack (1917-1968) - Taken at Camballin, West Kimberley 1957 - KHS-2010-43-P-BD - Carlton Reach 1941 Display - This KHS Archive was part of displays originally made for the conference '50 Years of Ord Irrigation - Reviews & Future Perspectives' in 1991, now on display at the Kununurra Museum.]
After this first introductory talk the group of 40 to 50 people attending the history forum then drove out, further down the Ord River, past Ivanhoe to the former Kimberley Research Station site, now Department of Agriculture WA - Kununurra HQ, wh
ere the rest of the day was spent with tours and talks covering from the earliest history through to the future directions of Ord Irrigation. First speaking on the earliest endeavours covering through to 1941, was well known Kimberley historian, Cathie Clement, who has placed a summary of her talk on the Kimberley Society - Past Talks web page.
This was followed by Jack Durack, who talked of his father Bill's time at Carlton Reach, which gave us new insights into the human, day to day activities, gleaned from correspondence (some KHS researched and transcribed), to take us through from 1941 to the end of 1945, when the decision was made to move to the KRS site and the Commonwealth became involved.
Noel Wilson of Agriculture WA Kununurra then took us from setting up of KRS in June 1946 through to the present day, then along with Mark Warmington, a question and answers session allowed all present to gain a glimpse into the possible future directions of Ord River irrigated tropical agriculture. Walking tours of the old Kimberley Research Station areas and a bus tour of crop experiments was provided with commentary by the Department of Agriculture staff.
On Sunday there was a tag-along tour to see some Ord memorial sites, historic ruins, and lonely outback graves on and near old Ivanhoe station. This included the graves of Waterloo Station pioneer, Tom Deacon, and next to him
the grave of WWI 10th Light horseman, at time of his death, Manager of Auvergne station for CD&D, Neal Durack, with race meeting winnings, he drowned in the Ord-in flood, attempting the swim at Ivanhoe, to reach his wife (in child), who was about to leave on the ship at Wyndham. Away from these two graves near old Ivanhoe homestead is the grave of Dave Suttie, ('Head Stockman' from the book, 'We of the Never Never').
In the afternoon participants also had the chance to take in some of the fascinating history at the Kununurra Museum and in the KHS Archive, at an Open Day to close the history forum weekend. All events were well attended and from far and wide, came members of the Durack family, who made up almost half of those who came. We hope all who attended enjoyed and will remember these events, with thanks to all those involved in planning and all of you who took part.
Was Presented by the Kununurra Historical Society – Department of Agriculture & Food WA & supported by the Kimberley Society
[Photograph - Below - A 1944 aerial photograph of the Carlton Reach Experimental Farm overlaid to show as it is now, with the main channel cutting through the first Research Station]
Contents - Kununurra Museum Events (on this page)
A Talk & Presentation by 1940's Stockman, Donald Howard was given at the Kununurra Museum on Tuesday June 14th 2016 at 7pm.
An Ord-Victoria Rivers Region stockman who was at Wave Hill and other NT & Kimberley stations back in the 1940s, Donald Howard, is to visit Kununurra next week and there will be a presentation event at the Kununurra Museum. Donald will give a talk and will be presenting his genuine hand-made, 'Fred Gutte spurs' or 'Wave Hill spurs' to the Kununurra Historical Society to go on display at the Kununurra Museum on Tuesday June 14th 2016 at 7pm, all welcome to attend.
President of the Kununurra Historical Society, Andrew Barker, has been in communication with Donald Howard since 2012, receiving regular updates (as new archives) from Donald as he has written his memoirs, proof-reading and offering advice. The “Fred Gutte” spurs were described by Outback Magazine as “literally worth their weight in gold.” Fred Gutte was a highly skilled blacksmith at Wave Hill station in the 1940’s and Donald has personal reminiscences in his memoirs describing some days working with him in the blacksmith's shop at Wave Hill, which are a priceless record. Photograph to right shows Donald Howard holding his Wave Hill spurs.
Gutte made the spurs to his own design and sold them to stockmen and drovers on their personal order. The spurs became famous on every stock route and station throughout northern Australia. Donald said he had paid Mr. Gutte several old-style round tins of Log Cabin for the job.
"A few months ago I presented the museum with 'The 1886 Rosewood Penny' which I found on Rosewood Station near the NT-WA border,” Donald said, going on to explain that they were droving cattle from Wave Hill station to the Wyndham Meatworks. "While watching cattle graze during ‘dinner camp,' I was scratching some small squares of dried mud left in a creek bed after the Wet, when one square failed to break up. I gave it an extra poke then picked it up and found an 1886 English penny which is now on display at the Kununurra Museum."
The 1886 penny is now 130 years old, that being the same year that we are commemorating this year, when Wyndham was proclaimed a town at Cambridge Gulf, the northern hub to the Halls Creek gold-rush that set in that same year. The 1886 penny is now on display with Mrs Tom Kilfoyle's 1890's travel trunk, and some 'well used' TK & JK Rosewood Station branding irons at the Kununurra Museum. Donald said he hoped his donations would not only be a welcome addition to the museum’s collections but would 'spur on' others to give items of significance to this growing regional collection.
On other occasions during his stay he will also be speaking at the Anglican church on Family Life as the Rev. Donald Howard. The local Anglican minister (the Rev. Gary Alexander) said that his guest speaker would concentrate on family life and show how biblical principles were still a strengthening influence in modern homes. Rev. Donald Howard will speak at 9.30am at the Anglican Church on Sunday, June 12th then at 5:30pm on Wednesday 15th at the Sandalwood Sanctuary (Research Station Road - Mock's old dairy). On Sunday, June 19th he will address the Anglican Church at at 9.30am and in the afternoon, will speak at a combined churches gathering in Whitegum Park at 3.30pm.
Donald Howard worked on Territory and Kimberley stations, including Wave Hill and Flora Valley. He was one of the finalists in the Steer Riding at the Negri Races in 1948, in what was virtually the Championship Steer Ride of North–West Australia. He hopes to launch a book of his exploits next year at the Kununurra Museum.
This coming week we commemorate thirty years since the inaugural meeting convened by Ursula Brimble and chaired by Dennis O'Brien, who (I learned only last week - AB 29 V 2016) had told the convenor, Ursula Brimble, before the meeting that he would NOT be President however it transpired that he did indeed become the first KHS President at that meeting in 1986. Dennis was made an Hon. Life Member of the Society a few years ago. This first meeting resulted in the formation of the Kununurra Historical Society Inc. (KHS) (Us! ;^) on June 5th 1986. In 2016 we commemorate 30 Years as a Society and will have an Open Day & Evening from 12 to 8pm - Sunday, June 5th 2016 - 30 Years! The night before this (Saturday June 4th) we will be having a KHS Members Dinner in Kununurra (hence the casual start time ;^) - Thank you to all those who have sent acceptances or apologies. A new page has been created that outlines this history, illustrated with newspaper articles from 1986 and includes the full inaugural meeting minutes - See the History of the Kununurra Historical Society from the KHS Research Page.
Kununurra Museum Open Day & Evenings to commemorate events of 1941, with great relevance, as some of the most significant events that would lead to the incremental development of the Ord River Irrigation Project, of National Development, that continues to this day.
1941 was the year Kim Durack, at the age of just 24 years, published, 'Developing the North - Proposed Research Station for the Kimberleys,' on March 31st 1941 - By the end of that year the proposal had become a reality in the form of the 'Ord River Experimental Farm,' set up mainly by the enthusiasm of the Director of Public Works, Russell Dumas, with assistance from the State Implement Works, to set up the pump engine, with advice on experiments coming from the Department of Agriculture.
Dumas surveyed the dam sites along the Ord River through the Carr Boyd
Range, for the first time, with Kim Durack in the same year - 1941.
Download Kimberley Michael Durack's 1941 Paper (KHS Transcriptions :^)
'Developing the North - Proposed Research Station for the Kimberleys' (5.6 MB) written by KM Durack and published 75 years ago (in 2016) on March 31st 1941. KHS archive number KHS-2015-1-H-BD
(May 13th to 22nd 2016)
International Museums Day is May 18th in 2016
We will be holding an Open Day and Evening to 8 pm or later at the Kununurra Museum. Come in to see the latest changes at the museum, amazing photographs on multiple screens and to experience some incredible Kimberley history.
Friday April 22nd 2016
(Normal) Open Day & Open Evening to 8 pm.
Kununurra Museum Open Day &
Evening - This was the day Kim Durack published, 'Developing the North - Proposed Research Station for the Kimberleys', on March 31st 1941. New '4k' 4096 pixel wide High Definition screen and video projection at the museum, and new displays made for an audio-visual and object feast for a small interested crowd.
A Talk by Pearl Ogden
Wednesday July 8th 7.30 pm 
[Please bring your own chair]
Donation at Door Welcome
The old and the new methods of mustering. Stuart Skoglund with VH-UTD and the head stockman on Kimberley Downs, 1973. Photo taken by Tom Meeds. From 'Chasing last light. Aerial mustering 1968 – 1978' (Page 24)
The Official Opening of Ord Stage I and the Ord River Diversion Dam took place at a Ceremony on July 20th 1963 - On that date in 2013 (this week), Engineering Heritage WA (EHWA) has nominated the Ord River Diversion Dam for an Engineering Heritage Award, and will unveil a facsimile of a new interpretive panel, on the east bank of the Ord River, Lake Kununurra, at the "Swim Beach," picnic area, close to the Ord River Diversion Dam. KHS has been involved, assisting Don Young of EHWA with the formulation of history for the new panel.
The commemorative ceremony and unveiling of the new interpretive panel, organised by Engineering Heritage Western Australia, with great support and assistance from the Water Corporation of Western Australia, will take place at the Swim
Beach and has been set down for 10.30 am to 11.15am for the commemorative ceremony. From 11.15am to 12 noon there will be a conducted walk across the Ord River Diversion Dam, which is normally closed to pedestrian traffic. From 12 noon to 1.15 pm there will be a light lunch for invited guests. At 2pm the Kununurra Museum will then be opened for the dignitaries, visiting pioneer engineers, and members of the public. KHS has supplied high resolution images from the collection for use on the
interpretive panel and for a booklet that EHWA will produce.
In 2013 it will be 50 years since July 20th 1963, when the official opening of Stage I of the Ord River Irrigation Project, by then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. On that day, Menzies described Kununurra and the Ord as "the most exciting place in Australia". Photographs of the opening ceremony event and tours Menzies made of the Pilot Farm and a cotton harvesting demonstration can be seen in the slideshow. A countdown to this 50th anniversary has been added to the sidebar on the right.
View an embedded SlideShow of photographs of the July 20th 1963 Diversion Dam opening, from various KHS archive collections,
here while on this page.
[Use the right hand cornered gadget to go full
screen.- and view "Information" (once in full screen mode) for documentation on the photographs. Use the the right hand cornered gadget or your "Escape" key to go out of full
The Kununurra Museum will have two weekend open day during the Ord Valley Muster – The Museum will be open on both Saturdays (18th & 25th May) for a book fair/open day from 10am to 4pm. The Museum has various books for sale new and used, including, A Wild History - Life and Death on the Victoria River Frontier, as well as his new book, Where is Dr. Leichhardt? – The greatest mystery in Australian History, will be available to view and will be for sale at the second open day (25th May). You can read more about these books from the KHS News page.
A Sunday open day to commemorate 50 years since Kununurra was a stop on the Royal Tour of 1963, when HRH Queen Elizabeth II addressed the crowd from the balcony of the PWD Hostel (now the Country Club Resort Hotel). On that day, March 17th 1963, the Queen also opened the Australian Inland Mission (AIM) Hospital in Kununurra, after the Royal Tour had landed, reputedly, the first (and only?) time, that the Queen has landed on an unsealed (gravel - "dirt strip") runway. Do any royal watchers know if this is true? If so please contact us. A countdown to this 50th anniversary has been added to the sidebar on the right.
It would be great to see if there are any photographs of the Royal Yacht, Brittania, alongside the Wyndham jetty, or any others you may have of the Royal Tour to the Kimberley in 1963. Please contact us if you do and tell us your story on this or any other Kimberley history.
To commemorate this 50th anniversary of the 1963 Royal Tour, other collection images not yet online, will be uploaded and made accessible to all. KHS is also hoping to have ready, some 8mm film footage of the Royal Tour, available as our first YouTube video, before March 17th 2013.
View an embedded SlideShow of the Royal Tour in Kununurra, from various KHS archive collections, here while on this page, use the right hand cornered gadget to go full screen.
OR View the Royal Tour 1963 photographic "Set" on Flickr, (Link goes to the set on Flickr in a new tab).
Contents - Kununurra Museum Events (on this page)
Spring into history and get reading from one of a selection of great new titles:
The Story of El Questro by Meg Hornabrook
A Wild History - Life and Death on the Victoria River Frontier by Darrell Lewis
All proceeds go back into your local Museum
Come & check us out! - GRAB A BARGAIN!
Some discounted items - Big selection of second hand books & magazines - Souvenir treasures
8am to 11am
S a t u r d a y & S u n d a y - 1st & 2nd S e p t e m b e r 2012
Spring BOOK FAIR
Where? At the Kununurra Museum - 72 Coolibah Drive, Kununurra
For a Map and contact details - Contact KHS
This Friday 27th July 2012 - 4 pm at the Kununurra Museum - 72 Coolibah Dve, Kununurra. (For a map see our contact page) - Come & meet the author over a cup of tea. All welcome
KHS Museum on the opening night of the Ord Valley Muster in 2011
Museum has three Open Nights planned
for May and June
2012. An Open Day/ and Evening starting on Friday,18th May as this is
International Museum Day, as well as two open nights on the
consecutive Friday Evenings that follow, during the 2012 Argyle Diamonds Ord Valley Muster, on Friday May 25
and Friday June 1.
Come along to the Kununurra Museum from 10am during the day or in the evening to 9 pm on the Open Night dates (May 18, 25 & June 1).
As 2012 is the Australian “Year of the Farmer” the Kununurra Museum, is focusing this year on “Farmers on the Ord,” being a museum for the tropical agricultural, pastoral and social histories of the Ord River Irrigation Area, and the East Kimberley Region, as well as being a “Museum in a Changing World,” which presents New challenges, and New inspirations.
Read more about the Australian “Year
of the Farmer” from http://www.yearofthefarmer.com.au/
Or View their interesting video (embedded here). This may not look too "interesting" from first appearances, however KHS recommends all visitors to press the play gadget > now!
The suggested theme is Museums in a Changing World. New challenges, New inspirations. Today, the world is changing faster than ever. New technology delivers new ideas, gigabytes of information, news of an increasingly unstable climate, all shared by social media. Modern museums must compete for an audible voice against the furious pace of this background.
During International Museum Day on Friday May 18th 2012 the Kununurra Museum will be open from 10am and then for an Open Night, with "Farmers on the Ord" displays at the museum and utilising new technologies online, to share and show the significance
of tropical agriculture on the Ord River.
There are displays at the museum about the Carlton Reach Experimental Farm (1941), the later established joint CSIRO / WA Dept of Agriculture facility, the Kimberley Research Station (1946), and the Ord River Pilot Farm (1961), which was operational by the end of 1960, three years before the completion of the Ord River Diversion Dam, and was started as a means of testing the commercial viability of the Ord River Irrigation Area. The Ord River Pilot Farm, was started by an Act of the WA Parliament, called the Northern Developments Act.
Also see an article online about the first pump engine used by Kim Durack in 1941 from...
Digital slideshows will be running on large screens at the museum or view over 2000 images available online, which have been made accessible to all, in documenting the significance of this National Development project for tropical agriculture, and helping to interpret life in the Kimberley, through the regions own, ever expanding archive, only possible through hard working volunteers and with thanks to all who have contributed archival material.
Friday May 25th 2012 the Kununurra Museum will host an Open Night and will be open from 10am until 9.00 pm, on the opening day for the 2012 Ord Valley Muster.
Friday June 1st 2012 (Day before Muster close) will be the second Open Day/Night event for the 2012 Ord Valley Muster.
Both of the Ord Valley Muster events will follow in the themes of "The Farming Factor" - “Farmers on the Ord.” The Kununurra Museum, is focusing in 2012 on the Australian, “Year of the Farmer,” being a museum for the tropical agricultural, pastoral and social histories of Kununurra, the Ord River Irrigation Area, and the East Kimberley Region, as well as being a “Museum in a Changing World,” which presents New challenges, and New inspirations. See KHS Open Nights 2012 (Above).
On March 20th 2012 it was 70 years since Wirraway A20-62 force-landed on coastal saltmarsh near the WA/NT border, the beginning of a story of survival and rescue in war time East Kimberley. On that morning KHS phoned the pilot of the Wirraway, Lew Dwyer and wished him many happy returns. Lew said, "What for?," before realising it was me and I had reminded him that it was 70 years ago that he had force landed the aircraft, with his co-pilot, the late Warwick Carmody.
Lew laughed heartily and said he had thought about this in past days, but was happy to receive my reminder phone call.
The day before he had driven from his son's home at Charter's Towers back to his home at Taylor's Beach in Queensland, to beat flood waters that he knew were heading that way, succeeding in reaching his home, before floods did cut the roads. Lew is doing well for a ninety year old on a drive like that and still mows his own lawn. I have been receiving a yearly "Christmas Card Phonecall," as Lew calls them since we got Lew to Kununurra for the display opening in 2005. - KHS.
Contents - Kununurra Museum Events (on this page) - Open Nights 2012
International Museum Day - May 18 2012 - Museums in a Changing World. New challenges, New inspirations
2012 Argyle Diamonds Ord Valley Muster - Wirraway - Challenge - March 20 2012
Contents - Kununurra Museum - Events Page (on this page)