Day 79 – Thursday, 11 August 2022

We had a wonderful night’s sleep, and a sleep-in. After showers and breakfast, we printed out the diary (or tried to), but we have run out of Toner.

We rang ahead to Broome, and they have one in stock at Office National, so we have paid for it and they will hold it until we can pick it up in a few days’ time.

We headed out to BP and refuelled. There were heaps of kites and other raptors overhead of the service station, but I had to go inside and pay when Russ finished at the pump. By the time I got back to the car for the camera they had all skedaddled when the service guys started the ride-on mower.

Internet coverage is a bit hit and miss depending on how many in the park are trying to use it at the same time. After a lot of frustration Russ finally managed to get the photos uploaded onto the website, and sent out the weekly email, but he was unable to put up the latest blog as yet.

The bird life around the park is amazing. I did get some lovely shots of a whistling kite who sat on the power lines for me to take his photo. Russ has some Double-barred finch photos. The birds were on the leaf matter at the side of our van. They are the tiniest little bird. He also scored a Grey-crowned Babbler and a Yellow-tinted Honeyeater – all new birds to us.

He took some shots of some Red-tailed Black Cockatoos but accidentally deleted them when he was trying to download onto the computer. Luckily, they came back later while he was sleeping, and I got some shots using his camera of the adult feeding the juvenile.

The number of people who stopped or came over to where I was with the camera, was interesting. One guy is from Charlton and another lady is from Sale. I have to tell them all that Russ is the Twitcher and I just learn from osmosis, but I always recommend the Pizzey and Knight Bird App to anyone who shows an interest.

Washing all done except for the bedding which will be finished tomorrow. The washing machines here are $5 and $6 to operate.

It was a marvellous day here with a cool breeze blowing and keeping the temperature down to the middle-to-high 20s.

We went to the Restaurant for tea and sat outside on the patio. They have mood lights and mosquito candles all around the perimeter and it was great. The hostess, Kim, is a young girl from Vietnam whose English is impeccable. When I complimented her on it, she said I had made her day as part of her time spent in Australia is to improve her language skills. She worked in Robinvale for three months before accepting the position up here. She has another six months to go on her visa.

The meal was upscale, but nothing to write home about. Russ and I both ordered the Chicken Supreme with Pumkin Puree (and I didn’t eat the vegetables). For dessert I ordered a Crème Brulee (made from a packet and cold) and Russ had the Sticky Date Pudding with ice-cream. His was hot, but he said it was also probably premade and heated in the microwave.

While waiting for our meal to be served we discussed options for tomorrow and I booked a Boat Tour to Geikie Gorge, beginning at 9:30am.

Fitzroy Crossing is a small town in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, 400 kilometres east of Broome and 300 kilometres west of Halls Creek. It is approximately 2,524 kilometres from the state capital of Perth. It is 114 metres above sea level and is situated on a low rise surrounded by the vast floodplains of the Fitzroy River and its tributary Margaret River.

At the 2016 census, the population of the Fitzroy Crossing town-site was 1,297; with a further 2,000 or so people living in up to 50 Aboriginal communities scattered throughout the Fitzroy Valley. Tourism, cattle stations and mining are the main industries in the area.

Fitzroy Crossing and the lands and valleys around it were the home for a number of Aboriginal language groups. When Fitzroy Crossing was established, the main group was the Bunuba people, their land stretching from the present-day Brooking Springs and Leopold Downs Station to the Oscar, Napier and Wunaamin-Miliwundi Ranges. The Bunuba are the river and hill people.

One of the first European explorers of the Kimberley area was Alexander Forrest and his party in 1879, following the Fitzroy River to its junction with the Margaret River at Geikie Gorge. The party then travelled east as far as Darwin.

Following this exploration, around 1882, the first sheep stations were established around the mouth of the Fitzroy and the next couple of years saw the stations move out west, with Noonkanbah and Quanbun opening up in 1886.

The area was finally settled in 1886 by Dan MacDonald when he set up the Fossil Downs cattle station. This was following a three-year, 3,500-mile trek from Goulburn, New South Wales.

Fitzroy Crossing received its first bridge in 1935 which was built up into a more substantial structure in 1958. However, this bridge could be closed for months during the monsoonal summer. In 1974 a new bridge was built 3 kilometres south of the crossing, which moved the focus of the settlement from its original site.

The town was gazetted in 1975 but was shown on maps since 1903.

Prone to occasional flooding, the town was inundated in 2002 and 2011 following heavy rain events in the region.

In 2006, the Fitzroy Crossing Bull Sale, an annual national bull auction with participants from as far away as Queensland, was established.

In 2009 the only grocery store in the town was demolished after fire destroyed it. A new shopping centre was built and opened in 2011. (This might refer to the local IGA store, but we have found nothing that would be described as a shopping centre as we would understand it anywhere in town).

The local high school was closed for two days in 2014 after four children, three of whom were under the age of ten, extensively vandalised the school twice in a week, causing over $50,000 worth of damage.

From 1951 to 1955, S Preston Walker, a missionary with the United Aborigines Mission (UAM) on loan to the Department of Native Affairs,

opened up a novel Fitzroy Crossing Feeding Depot-Mission, which was handed back to the Junjuwa Community in February 1987.

He and other UAM missionaries set up a basic school, a health centre and store which was later taken over by the WA government and expanded to where it is today (2008).

In February 2008, a Coronial inquest described the living conditions for Aboriginal people in the Fitzroy Crossing area as “a national disaster with no disaster response”. Though the coroner noted a co-ordinated government response to the problems of Fitzroy Crossing to be lacking, local leaders have taken some action.

In 2007, a restriction on alcohol sales was campaigned for by members of the Indigenous population and early indications suggest the restrictions were positive for the town.

At a community meeting in 2020, called by a group of senior men, concerns were raised about the high levels of alcohol abuse, associated gambling, fighting, domestic violence and family dysfunction which resulted in a number of children wandering around the town at night and getting into trouble.

Despite the 12-year ban on sales of full-strength alcohol, there were sales by “sly groggers” at inflated prices. Various solutions were suggested at the time, including safe houses for children, elders becoming mentors to children, more infrastructure for youth, and opportunities to give them hope for the future, but I have found no info about the results of the meeting.

Fitzroy Crossing serves as the hub for the communities of the Fitzroy Valley and is also home to many regional service providers because it is a central location to these communities.

The township of Fitzroy Crossing contains most amenities with two roadhouses, a self-serve 24-hour diesel station, supermarket, post office, newsagent, clothes shops, accommodation, mechanics, electricians, plumbers, and cafes and restaurants.

Fitzroy Crossing also has a swimming pool, covered basketball courts, a grassed Australian rules football oval, and many grassed areas around the town for public use.

The Central Kimberley Football Association is centred in the town, six clubs from local communities play in a regular season. The competition was formed in 1991.

There is Wangki Radio, a small Aboriginal community radio station that broadcasts on 936AM to the townsite and most outer communities in the Fitzroy Valley. It provides the latest news, weather, road reports and music to people in the remote parts of the Kimberley.

ABC Radio also broadcasts two radio stations in Fitzroy: ABC Local Radio 106.1 and ABC Radio National 107.7. Fitzroy Crossing also receives all regional Western Australian digital television stations.

Fitzroy Crossing has a climate that is in transition between a tropical monsoon climate and a semi-arid climate. The climate is very hot, with the average maximum temperature ranging from 30 °C in July to 41 °C in November.

The highest temperature was recorded on 1 January 1969, when it reached 47.9 °C. The lowest minimum was recorded on 27 June 1971, when the temperature dropped to 0.6 °C.