The Governor explores Derby jetty.
The Governor explores Derby jetty.

Broome Day 3: A trip to Derby

Alongside Broome, there are two towns in the Kimberley with a population of more than 2,000 people, one of which is Derby. Derby also has an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent percentage population of almost 50%.

Falling within Nyiginka country, the town was founded in 1883 and named after Edward Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby, the British secretary of state for the colonies. Like Broome, the town was bombed by the Japanese in WWII as it was home to an airbase and jetty used by Allied forces. Derby hit the pages of history again in the 1920s when it became the terminus for the first scheduled aviation service in Australia, West Australian Airways Ltd on December 1921, which unfortunately crashed, near Geraldton.

It was to this town that the Governor travelled to today.

Thunderbirds are go?

The Governor is briefed on the project.The Governor is briefed on the project.

On the road between Broome and Derby lays the Kimberley Mineral Sands (KMS) Thunderbird Project.  A joint venture of Sheffield Resources and Yansteel, the Thunderbird site is home to the highest grade and biggest reserve of ilmenite (used for paint pigment production) and zircon (commonly used to glaze ceramics and pottery).

Currently still a construction site, the mine hopes to be in production by 2024. Mining officials have been working closely with the Traditional Owners in order to protect sacred sites. The company also holds a strict environmental policy and conscious rehabilitation plan with the aim to replant and restore the land once the low impact mining work is completed.

It is estimated that Thunderbird’s mine life will extend to around 36 years and have a permanent workforce of 280 people – most of which will be drawn from the local area, acting as a drive-in, drive-out mine as opposed to the more traditional fly-in, fly-out.

The Governor inspected the current builds and plans.

Dare to bare

RAAF Base Curtin's official patch.RAAF Base Curtin’s official patch.

One of Australia’s three ‘bare bases’ Curtin RAAF base is approximately 30kms from Derby. Officially opened in 1988 and named in honour of former Prime Minister John Curtin, the base was actually established in the 1950s to provide support for land, air and sea operations in the north. Its ‘bare base’ status means that the base is currently used for training exercises and operations by the Royal Australian Airforce, though it has also been utilised as a service airport and an immigration detention centre. Whilst most infrastructure associated with those operations has since been removed, the heavy jet capable airstrip, basic power and water infrastructure remains ‘maintained’.

The Governor was delighted to receive a tour of the base today, and to see of the recent developments.

The Commonwealth government has recently announced a $250 million refurbishment program over 2-3 years commencing late 2022.

Spirits among us

The Governor learns about local cave painting designs.The Governor learns about local cave painting designs.

Further down the road and not far from the town of Derby is the Mowanjum Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre, a creative hub and museum for the Worrorra, Ngarinyin and Wunumbal tribes. These three language groups are united by their belief in the Wandjina – a sacred spiritual force and the creators of the land.

The Governor enjoyed an extensive tour of the exhibitions and art gallery, including choosing a piece for his personal collection.

Finally in Derby

The Governor engages in conversation with locals.The Governor engages in conversation with locals.

To round out the day, the Governor was welcomed to a sundowner at the Norval Gallery in Derby. Attendants included members of the Shire of Derby and West Kimberley, personnel from the RAAF and Army base, local identities and Aboriginal artists.

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