Opening up the Kimberley

11 May, 2005 08:45 PM

FOR 50 years after the settlement of WA in 1929, the majority of the Kimberley region remained a vast, undeveloped wilderness.

That was until Alexander Forrest, brother of explorer John Forrest, offered to lead an expedition from the from the Fitzroy River inland to the Overland Telegraph.

In 1879 the Legislative Council gave him 1600 pounds in to try and discover fertile grazing and farming areas.

And that he did.

After setting off from Roebourne, the party struck inland along the Fitzroy River.

When they were unable to scale the imposing cliffs and break through the King Leopold Ranges, Forrest was forced to steer the group around the ranges to the south west.

This moment, borne from defeat, would soon turn to an historic victory, when, near the Ord River they discovered some of the finest pastoral country in the Kimberley.

Just three years later more than 3,000,000ha had been taken up.

And so the drovers came.

The men who drove the cattle from NSW and Queensland across the heart of Australia soon became the source of campfire legend.

Irishman Nathaniel Buchanan is described by many as the greatest drover of them all.

In 1881-1882 he led a team of 70 drovers and 20,000 cattle from Queensland to the western parts of the Northern Territory, and two years later took 4000 cattle from Queensland to the Ord River Station.


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