January 13th 2011

"An agricultural beginning"

[Published in the Kimberley Echo on Thursday January 13th 2011.]

[The Kimberley Echo added the following introductory paragraph]

Throughout 2011, the Kimberley Echo will celebrate Kununurra's 50th anniversary with a fortnightly column supported by the Kununurra Historical Society. The first three will provide background to the events leading up to Kununurra being officially gazetted as a town on February 10, 1961.

Since the first European explorations, many have discussed the possibilities of tropical agriculture in the Kimberley, including Alexander Forrest in 1879, when he named the Ord River after then WA Governor Ord. Towards the end of his journal, Forrest writes on October 15th 1879,

'it will, I believe, be found that an extent of country equal to about 25 million acres has been opened up for pastoral and agricultural experiments.'

[A section here has been removed which stated that Forrest named the Kimberley - He did not - The Kimberley was named by the new Governor in 1880, Sir William Robinson - Read more about that from - Ord River Irrigation Area History]

In 1909 the WA Government sent Mr. J. M. A. Despeissis to investigate the potential for tropical agriculture in the state's north, who reported that with water conservation and irrigation, the Kimberley was suitable for tropical agriculture. In the following years much was discussed but little done.

In September 1921 several East Kimberley pastoralists banded together and formally requested that the WA government should 'consider the construction of a dam at the bend of the Ord to prevent salt water contaminating the fresh water already there.'

In August 1923, Mr. F. J. S. Wise, an officer of the Queensland Department of Agriculture, was appointed as Tropical Advisor. Cotton experiments were happening in West and East Kimberley, with Hay & Overheu having success on Nulla Nulla.

The North West Department showed commitment to cotton and in 1925, the North West Department purchased the state's first cotton gin at a cost of £215/5/-.

After the abolishment of the North West Department, there was discussion but little action until the late 1930's.

1925-c-Palm Springs near Halls Creek KHS-2002-8-as-P6-D

Tropical Agriculture at Palm Springs a few miles from Halls Creek, circa 1925. East Kimberley Region

KHS Flinders Collection of Photographic Prints

KHS Digital Archive Number: KHS-2002-8-as-P6-D

Digitised with the assistance of the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley

[Several minor edits were made to the article, so that the version published will differ slightly to what is written here.]

Other KHS Flinders References in KHS Archives.




[You can download this article as a pdf below. Please note that the statement made in the PDF below that Forrest named the Kimberley is incorrect - See Ord River Irrigation Area History]