The Kimberley region is a truly unique and awe-inspiring part of Australia. A melting-pot of histories and cultures, the character of this place is not replicated anywhere else on earth.
The Kimberley region holds immense cultural value for its Traditional Custodians – the songlines here have remained uninterrupted for thousands of years. There are around 30 distinct Aboriginal language groups in the Kimberley.
Right now, the Western Australian Government is implementing a series of new marine and national parks for special areas across the north Kimberley, including the magnificent Horizontal Falls and Camden Sound region, which will combine to make up a Great Kimberley Marine Park. The new protected areas are a great step forward – and almost exactly match the proposal the Wilderness Society first published in 1992. However, the Government’s plans currently exclude sanctuaries for some of the area's most precious species and would allow trawling in certain areas as well. This is a region that needs world-class protection – and we’re making sure it happens.
The wildlife of the Kimberley is absolutely incredible, with a vast array of plants and animals including threatened bilbies, quolls, five species of turtle, the Gouldian finch, Freshwater sawfish and a recently discovered miniature dolphin species. The Kimberley coast is a nursery for the world’s largest Humpback whale population. The north Kimberley is the only place in Australia where all original native mammals have survived without extinction since European arrival – let’s keep it that way!
The proposal to build a giant liquefied natural gas (LNG) factory at James Price Point sparked such widespread and determined opposition that the proponents of the project couldn't ignore it. Eventually, after years of campaigning, the James Price Point development was canned
by Woodside Petroleum. But the Kimberley isn't out of the woods just yet.
The Canning Basin in the southern Kimberley is one of the most beautiful landscapes you'll ever see. At the heart of the Canning, the Fitzroy River (Mardoowarra) meanders through imposing cliffs, limestone gorges and vast savannah woodlands into a sprawling river delta and King Sound. In the wet season, the Fitzroy floods to such a level that it is one of the largest rivers in the world, replenishing a parched landscape and underground aquifers. The Fitzroy is also home to a remarkable diversity of native fish species.
Unfortunately, it also sits on top of one of the richest reserves of oil, gas and coal on earth – a fact not lost on mining companies and the Western Australian Government.
Some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies are gearing up to exploit the Canning Basin and open it up to decades of mining – including large-scale fracking – which will change the landscape forever. Threatened species like the Northern quoll, Greater bilby, Gouldian finch, Purple-crowned fairywren and Freshwater sawfish are all in the firing line.
At the same time, state and federal governments are also trying to rush through new plans for large-scale agricultural development in the Fitzroy – under the rhetoric of 'Water for Food' and 'Asian Foodbowl' – without acknowledging the fact that the river system is already a healthy, but fragile, foodbowl supporting many communities and countless species.
The Wilderness Society is working with a range of local groups to build a different vision for the Kimberley – one that is based on protecting and respecting the region’s unique natural and cultural riches, not trying to impose outdated industrialisation on the landscape.
We don’t believe that Indigenous people should be forced to sign away their land and culture to secure the kind of healthcare, education and training opportunities that other Australians take for granted. And there are great opportunities for non-destructive development based around Indigenous arts and culture, eco-tourism, land and sea management, native foods and medicines, sustainable aquaculture and renewable energy.
The Kimberley is worth more to the people of Western Australia intact than trashed – State Government figures show that the Kimberley coastal tourism industry is growing at 500% per year and is already worth $250 million annually for the local economy.
Read the new Fitzroy River Report
by Associate Professor Ryan Vogwill from the University of Western Australia, commissioned by the Wilderness Society in response to the Government’s Water for Food program. The report highlights concerns over the Western Australian Government’s plans for large-scale water extraction from the Kimberley’s iconic Fitzroy River (Mardoowarra).
We want to make sure the stunning coastlines of the Kimberley region have world-class protection through the new Great Kimberley Marine Park – and protect species like the Snubfin dolphin and humpback whales.