Kalumburu is the most remote permanent settlement in Western Australia and is located on the King Edward River, 550 kilometres from Kununurra in the south east and 650 kilometres from Derby in the south west. Formerly a Catholic mission, the community now has approximately 470 residents.
For many thousands of years, this area has been home to two distinct Aboriginal language groups, the Kwini (Kuini) and Kulari. In recent years other groups have also moved into the area.
A Catholic mission was established in the area by the Benedictine order in 1905. The site chosen was at Pago, on the coastline at Mission Bay. The mission relocated to the site at Kalumburu in 1932, where there was a more reliable supply of water. The construction of the Kalumburu Road following a survey of the area in 1954 reduced the community’s isolation, however as the road is still unsealed the community can still be cut off during the Wet season.
Kalumburu also played a strategic role in World War II – Drysdale River Mission, as it was then known, hosted a small army base and radar station and the RAAF conducted operations against the Japanese in Timor from the airstrip. On 27 September 1943, Japanese bombers bombed and strafed the airfield and mission, killing 6 people including 4 children. Following this incident, the airfield was moved 32km north-west to the Anjo Peninsula.
The area around Kalumburu offers great fishing opportunities, and visitors can enjoy the natural surroundings at lookouts and swimming holes. Visitors may also wish to purchase artworks from the local Kira-Kiro-Kalumburu Artists.
Take a short 4WD trail to see the WWII bomber wrecks, or follow a nature trail to see unique rock formations and some good examples of rock art. Visit the Father Thomas Gil Museum at the Kalumburu Mission to view an extensive collection of local history and artefacts as well as achievements of the local Kalumburu culture. Visitors may also travel to see the ruins of the old Pago Mission, on the shore of Mission Bay north of Kalumburu.
Some of the special historic sites, natural features and rock art are best accessed with a local guide for a fee. This can be booked and organised through the Community Resource and Visitor Centre.
The community has two small but well equipped stores, with fuel available. Some accommodation and camping is available at the community, with two campgrounds also located on the coast.
Entry Permits are required for transit through Aboriginal Reserves, including Kalumburu, and can be obtained from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs or call 1300 651 077. Once you reach Kalumburu, a community permit is available from the Community Resource and Visitor Centre or the Uraro Store.
Please note that Kalumburu is a dry community. Alcohol may not be possessed or consumed on the reserve.
Access to Kalumburu is via the unsealed 4WD only Kalumburu Road, off the Gibb River Road. You can also access Kalumburu with light aircraft from Kununurra or Wyndham.