January 27th 2011

"Ord's antecendents arose from drought"

[Published in the Kimberley Echo on Thursday January 27th 2011.]

The idea of a dam and spillway on the Ord can be found 100 years ago, when Commissioner of Tropical Agriculture, Adrian Despeissis suggested, “Substantial wooden dams constructed on a double row of jarrah piles driven into the bed of the river, with a core wall of puddle clay between, would appear to form suitable weirs.” Between 1935 and 1942 drought affected the Kimberley, and in a way the Ord Project can thank this drought and the Pastoral Industry for its existence. The focus in 1937 was on supplementing that industry.

Then Minister for Lands and Agriculture, F J S Wise, in 1937 wrote “..we set a plan in motion during the past twelve months in connection with the establishment of experimental areas on Ivanhoe Station somewhere near Carlton Reach.” By 1941 the “unofficial” Carlton Reach Research Station was operational, having been set up with funds, supposedly “siphoned off” from the Kalgoorlie pipeline by the PWD.

During August 1941 the newly appointed Director of Works, R. J. Dumas, spent three weeks in the East Kimberley, “accompanied by F. Forman (Government Geologist). T. Brennan (Acting Engineer for the North West), K. Durack, J. Walker (a half caste aboriginal) and a full blood aboriginal, Jacko,” when he selected several possible dam sites. Early in 1944 Dumas wrote to the Commonwealth, advising of the soil, botanical, erosion and engineering surveys about to take place in the East Kimberley, explaining, the project must become largely a national one and any assistance from the Commonwealth would be welcome. He specifically asked for the use of a Bren Gun carrier with driver. By May 1944 there was a large body of agriculturalists, botanists and surveyors carrying out investigations in the vicinity of Carlton Reach.

1944 Ord Survey Party - Bren Gun Carrier - Crossing Ord River - KHS-2010-7-zz-H

The 1944 Ord survey party's Bren Gun Carrier about to cross the Ord while one of the party crosses the Ord on foot.

Kevin Richards Family Collection.

KHS Digital Archive - KHS-2010-7-zz-H 

A PDF of this article can be downloaded from the link below.