Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Regional Australia Food - stocktake of posts as at 28 April 07

This post provides an update of various posts on food in Regional Australia, replacing the previous post of 6 December 2006.

Posts on Australian native foods are:

General posts on Regional Australia food are:

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Regional Australia - Musings

I feel reasonably satisfied with the way that the Kimberley series is evolving. It takes time to do this type of series, but I now feel that I have a much better understanding of an area that I have always been interested in but knew far too little about.

Unlike some Australian regions, the Kimberley has a high web presence in part, I think, because of the romance attached to the name. It is also an area that will continue to grow in relative importance, building its own unique presence in the Australian mosaic.

In a post earlier this month, Regional Australia - what people search on, I commented on the wide variety of search topics that drew people to this site.

Looking at recent searches I find the same, very varied, pattern. I also find when I look at the most popular entry pages that there is no clear pattern. As you might expect, the blog front page is a very clear winner, but then come a large number of pages with the same score.

I find it interesting to replicate some of the searches as a way of finding out new things from other people's interests. Stops me becoming too obsessed with my own interests. However, this can also be frustrating.

I followed up one search to find a very interesting article in the Brisbane Courier Mail on variations in food across Australia. I had to go. When I came back exactly the same search failed to show up the article. So very real frustration. I should have bookmarked it for later use, but simply did not think about it. Ah well.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Kimberley Region WA 5 - You know that you are in the Kimberley when...

Photo:You never know who you'll meet on the Gibb River road. Photo by Vanessa Mills

ABC Kimberley has been running a series based around the theme You know that you are in the Kimberley when. I thought that I would share some of the entries with you.

You know that you are in the Kimberley when:

Your Easter Monday entertainment is watching a steady stream of cars get bogged trying to get around the rocks to north Cable Beach. (Lyn, Broome).

You have to keep moving the car down the beach so you can be near the water with kids and still able to get a beer from the car fridge. (Wendy, Broome).

After arriving in Broome from Perth and transferring to Airnorth for Kununurra, you're told your luggage will be off-loaded because of weather and the weight factor, but your fishing rods are fine to travel on! (Cindy, Broome).

You have to empty the rain gauge half way through a storm. (Glen, Broome).

You don't blink as a gecko runs across your kitchen wall and two frogs jostle for position on your laundry trough. (Kerry, Derby).

You can’t find your four wheel drive in the long grass on the way back from a swim! (Natika, Wyndham).

Everyone in the street looks you in the eye and greets you as you pass (Shireen, Perth).

You go for a Sunday drive (in the Wet) and it takes you 3 weeks to get back home (Phil).

The trucks all have three trailers. (Garry, Broome).

You own 6 different pairs of thongs (Vanessa, Broome).

You find a 9 foot python in the linen cupboard, again and again, and again (Tracey, Kununurra).

You can read the paper by lightning, after the power goes out. (Browny, Kununurra).

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Kimberley Region WA 4 - useful web sites

Photo: A proud boab with a storm brewing behind. Photo by Gayle Keys.

I have created this page to provide a consolidated point to list web sites that I have found to be useful in exploring the vast Kimberley region. I will add sites progressively.

Local Government



  • Broome historical site
  • Wikipedia article on pearling in WA
  • Australian Government's Cultural and Recreational Portal has an overview article on the history of pearling in Australia. This includes links to other sites
  • WA Fisheries article on the history of pearling in WA


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Regional Australia - what people search on

I have just done a review of some of the search engine visits to see what interests people. It's a varied collection.

The first search that came up was alternative living lifestyle tasmania. This site came up because of reference to alternative but not linked to Tasmania. However, there have been two posts about Tasmania and alternative life styles, the story of Contessa.

The preceeding post was another Google search on global problems of olive cultivation. Because I am interested we have carried several stories here, including some links that may have been helpful.

Then there was the search on Google Netherlands on "west australia" + cattle + stay. I imagine the site came up because of the Kimberley series. However, in this case I am not sure that the visitor would have found much of help.

In terms of specialist interests, there was a Google search on John Edye, pottery. Here the visitor found the story on Winifred West and Sturt, a story that may have been useful although I noticed a number of other direct references in the search results.

Before this there was a Google search on Reasons for living in Cooma. This picked up the blog's sea change label, although looking at this made me realise that the sea change label is in fact inadequate.

Then there was a Google seach on History of Murray-Darling River in Australia. This picked up a story on paddle steamers on the Murray-Darling. In fact, there is a fair bit more, but it is on other related blogs. Perhaps I should do a consolidation post.

So six searches, six very different topics.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Acommodation Options in Australia - Caravan Parks

Interesting post on the Australiablog that reminded me that caravan parks are a very worthwhile option to consider when travelling Australia. I won't repeat the full post but simply refer you to it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kimberley Region WA 3 - Shire of Wyndham

Photo: Gorge scene, Wyndham Shire

The Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley covers a vast area of 121,000 sq kms and is one of the four local governments in the Kimberley Region.

The Shire has one of the oldest (Wyndham) and one of the newest (Kununurra) towns in Western Australia. Add to that the largest producing diamond mine in the world together with some of the most spectacular as well as culturally rich landscapes on earth.

Kununurra was gazetted in 1960 and is both the youngest and largest town in the East Kimberley. From its humble beginnings as a small settlement that catered for the workers employed for the construction of the first part of the Ord River Scheme, Kununurra is now a vibrant centre that offers modern services, shopping facilities, an intensive agriculture, mining and tourism sector, a host of community activities and a lifestyle that suits the 6000 people that call Kununurra home.

In the local Aboriginal dialect the name Kununurra means "The Meeting Of The Big Waters" and water (and fishing) is a feature. Gorges and waterfalls, several big tidal rivers, dozens of smaller streams and creeks, Lake Kununurra, and the huge expanse of Lake Argyle.

The community of Warmun (Turkey Creek) Warmun is located about 200 kilometres south west of Kununurra on the Great Northern Highway.

Servicing the small community and the surrounding cattle stations, Warmun is also ideally located to those visitors that are travelling into the Purnululu National Park. The Warmun Art Centre exhibits many of the local indigenous artists and is a popular gallery that many choose to visit while in the community.

Photo: View from Five Rivers Lookout, Wyndham

The town of Wyndham is located on the far northern coast of Australia and was originally established in 1886 as a result of the gold rush to Halls Creek further to the south. In its heyday it boasted of six thriving pubs and its location in Cambridge Gulf provided an excellent port facility for the region.

Today Wyndham provides a vital link in the export of live cattle, sugar from the Kununurra sugar mill and serves as a shipping facility to the numerous mining ventures in the region. The port today also caters for the numerous tourism vessels that ply the Kimberley coast or offer fishing charters to remote parts of the region.

The boom days for Wyndham were during the operating years of the Wyndham Meatworks which employed around 500 workers. Today with a population of about 850 Wyndham remains a small frontier style centre typical of the character of the Kimberley - unpretentious and friendly, but proud of its heritage.

Further Information

Further information about about the area including living and tourism possibilities can be obtained from the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley and from Kununurra Tourism. For a somewhat idiosyncratic but useful personal view see Kimberley Australia Travel Guide.

Monday, April 09, 2007

What's Wrong with Australian Food!?

I have just been reading a good food recipe guide put out by one of Australia's supermarket chains. There was not a single recipe I wanted to cook.

I had lunch with a friend yesterday. We were talking about one of Australia's regions. This region has some wonderful raw materials. Yet the local food is ordinary in the extreme.

Many Australian restaurants now serve what is called Australian modern. At its best, Australian modern is a wonderful combination of foods melded from all the cultures that make up modern Australia. Yet so much food served in the name of Australian modern is very ordinary.

All this makes we wonder what has gone wrong. Is it just that there is now too much choice so that we have lost the ability to focus on the good? Or is it that we are too worried about whether or not the food is good for us as compared to whether the food is good? Or is it that we now just have too little time?

I do not know. But it is annoying me.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A pause - diamonds

Just at the moment I am researching the next stories on the Kimberley Region. As part of this, I have been gathering stories on diamonds.

This has been taking time, in part because I keep getting sidetracked. I hope to have more shortly.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Kimberley Region WA 2 - The romance of pearls and pearling

Painting: Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Jan Vermeer van Delft.

Pearls have gripped human imagination for thousands of years.

Pearls were worn in civilised Middle East and Asian societies as early as 3500 BCE, and continued to grow in popularity during Roman times when pearl fever reached its peak. A pearl earring reportedly paid for one Roman general's political campaigns. Cleopatra dissolved a pearl in wine and drank it to prove her love to Marc Antonius.

When my daughter turned eighteen several thousand years later, her chosen present was a string of pearls. Her grandmother loved pearls too.

Where there is romance and value there is also human endeavour, bravery, greed and death. We can see all this in the history of the pearl industry in West Australia. The material that follows is drawn from a variety of sources. Links are given at the end of the post.

Australia's pearling industry dates from Aboriginal times. Northern Australian coastal dwelling Aborigines harvested the abundant pearl shell from the shallow waters and had a well established trading network for pearl shell. In Western Australia, an explorer saw an aboriginal wearing a pearly oyster-shell which had travelled at least 500 miles from its point of origin.

The European pearling industry began in the 1850s at Shark Bay where natural pearls were found in the Pinctada albina oyster. From 1862-68, local Aborigines worked 'dry shelling' without wages, collecting oysters in the shallow waters of the Bay.

Within three years, the supply was so low that larger boats were sent out two kilometres off shore to collect oysters in deep water. Six to eight Aboriginal men and women in a boat would 'naked dive' for shell. This meant diving deep without equipment.

In 1866, two speculators, Hicks and Tays were shown pearl shells near Broome by local Aborigines. The following year a shipment of 9 tons of pearl shell was sold for £2000. When the larger Pinctada maxima oyster producing high quality mother-of-pearl shell was discovered in areas north of Nickol Bay near present day Karratha, the industry spread rapidly along the north west coast (see graphic).

The invention of diving suits - vulcanised canvas suits with massive bronze helmets - revolutionised the pearling industry. Divers could go deeper than ever before, stay longer underwater and collect more shell and pearls.

This was still no easy task, for the suits were heavy and cumbersome. In the words of the WA Department of Fisheries:

"On the bottom they struggled about in lead-weighted boots, often almost horizontal as they peered through inch-thick faceplates into murky waters, frantically scooping oysters into bags because divers were paid by the amount of shell they collected."

By 1910, nearly 400 pearling luggers and more than 3500 people were fishing for shell in waters around Broome, making it the world's largest pearling centre. The photo shows pearl luggers at Roebuck Bay, Broome in about 1912

Workers were gathered from all over the world. The majority of the workers were Japanese and Malaysian, but also included Chinese, Filipino, Amborese, Koepanger (Timorese) and Makassan, as well as Indigenous Australians and people from Europe. The photo (left) from the Broome Historical Society shows Aboriginal workers with diving gear in the late 19th century.

The work was always dangerous. Apart from industrial risks such as accidents, sharks or the bends, there were also major weather risks associated with the area's periodic cyclones, often resulting in major loss of life.

The industry went into into sharp decline after the First World War as the price of mother-of-pearl plummeted with the invention and expanded use of plastics for buttons and other articles previously made of shell. By 1939 only 73 luggers and 565 people were left in the industry

During the Second World War pearling virtually stopped. Japanese divers went home or were interned, while Japanese bombing of Broome destroyed many of the remaining luggers. Following the war, as few as 15 boats employing around 200 people remained.

The development of cultured pearls by the Japanese rebuilt the industry. In 1956 the first cultured pearl farm was setup at Kuri Bay, 420 km north of Broome. By 1981 this had increased to five pearl farms. Today the industry includes 19 of Australia's 20 cultured pearl farms, generating annual exports of AUD$200M and employing approximately 1000 people.

Note on Sources

The Costello's jewellery site has short introductory material on pearls. Wikipedia has a general article on pearls. Wikipedia also has an article on pearling in WA. There is a short WA Fisheries article on the history of pearling in WA, while the Australian Government's Cultural and Recreational Portal has an overview article on the history of pearling in Australia. This includes links to other sites including the Broome historical site.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Kimberley Region WA 1 - Introduction

In my last post Getting the local gossip - ABC Regional Radio I mentioned Kununurra in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia. I thought that I might follow this up with a few posts on the region itself, in some ways one of the most romantic and interesting regions in Australia.

One of West Australia's nine regions, the Kimberley is located in the northern part of the state, bordered on the west by the Indian Ocean, on the north by the Timor Sea, on the south by the Great Sandy and Tanami Deserts, and on the east by the Northern Territory. It covers an area of 424,517 km2, which is about twice the size of England.

The first settlers arrived in the Kimberley around 40,000 years ago from the islands that are now Indonesia.

While the Dutch may have visited the coast on their way north to the East Indies, the first recorded European visit was by the Englishman William Dampier in 1688 and then again in 1699. Many of the coastal features of the area around the modern town of Broome are named by him.

In 1879, Charles Harper suggested that the pearling industry that had begun in the 1850s could be served by a port closer to the pearling grounds, and that Roebuck Bay would be suitable. In 1883, John Forrest selected the site for the town, and it was named after the Governor of Western Australia, Sir Frederick Broome. Then in 1889, a telegraph undersea cable was laid from Broome to Singapore, connecting to England. Broome

Broome grew quite quickly because of pearling, attracting workers of many nationalities and especially Japanese. However, the riches from the pearl beds did not come cheap, and the town's Japanese cemetery is the resting place of more than 900 Japanese divers who lost their lives working in the industry. Many were lost at sea and the exact number of deaths is unknown.

Pastoral settlement started around 1885, when cattle were driven across Australia from the eastern states in search of good pasture lands. Mary Durack's book Kings in Grass Castles tells the story of this period. Many other Europeans arrived soon after, when gold was discovered around Halls Creek.

Despite this initial growth, economic development in the Kimbererley struggled because of remoteness and high costs. The pearling industry was reduced to a shadow of itself because of collapse in the price of mother of pearl. Then during the war both Broome and Derby, the region's second port, were heavily bombed by the Japanese air force.

Since the war and especially in recent decades, the region has undergone an economic resurgence.

The pearl industry has grown because of the development of the cultured pearl industry. The development of the Ord River scheme during the 1950s created a new centre, Kunanurra, in the east near the Northern Territory border.

Diamonds were discovered: one third of the worlds annual production of diamonds are mined at the Argyle and the Ellendale diamond mines. Oil is extracted from the Blina oil field and gas is expected to be taken from offshore sources soon. Zinc and lead are mined at the Pillara, Sallay Mallay and Cadjebut mines near Fitzroy Crossing and exported from Derby after being trucked to the town.

Most recently, the Kimberley has become a major tourism destination for people attracted by the area's history, spectacular scenery and growing range of attractions.

Today, the population of the Kimberley is around 38,000, growing at a rate of 4.8% per year, around three times the state average. The population is fairly evenly distributed, with only three towns having populations in excess of 2,000: Broome, Derby and Kununurra. About half of the region's population are of Aboriginal descent.

The Kimberley has a tropical monsoon climate. During the "wet season", from November to April, the region receives about 90% of its rainfall, and cyclones are common especially around Broome. The annual rainfall, however, is highest in the northwest, where Kalumburu averages 1270mm (50 inches) per year, and lowest in the southeast where it is around 520mm (20 inches). In the "dry season", from May to October, south easterly breezes bring sunny days and cool nights.

Note on sources

This material is drawn especially from a number of Wikipedia articles. Links are included to the original material.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Getting the local gossip - ABC Regional Radio

Photo: Gordon Smith, Tree Change. Can you spot the houses in this photo? There are at least two.

For those interested in the tree or sea change option or who just want to find out about home, ABC local radio provides a another good entry point.

Go to The Backyard. There you will find an entry point to ABC local radio about the country. Not all the stations shown on the map have links. The western half of the country appears linkless. But if you click on the state it will then take you through.

As an example, if you click on WA and then on Kununurra it will take you through to ABC Radio Kimberly where you will find all sorts of interesting local information.