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Kalumburu (postcode 6740) and Kalumburu Community (formerly Drysdale River Mission) are both bounded localities within the Shire of Wyndham-East Kimberley Western Australia.
Kalumburu Community is the northernmost settlement in Western Australia. According to the 2006 census, it has a population of 413 people and is inhabited mostly by Aboriginal people from the Wunambal and Kwini language groups.
Kalumburu Community is remote from any main roads — the nearest is the Gibb River Road, 270 km to the south via the Kalumburu Road. It was the site of a World War II airbase, which was attacked by Japanese planes in 1943.
In 1905, the Order of Saint Benedict (OSB) decided to establish a mission near the Drysdale River. The mission was established in 1908, 20 kilometres north-east of the present site, at Pago, near the southern end of Napier Broome Bay, by Benedictine monks from New Norcia. In 1937, water supply problems forced the missionaries to move to the present site at Kalumburu Pool, on the King Edward River.
World War II
Following the outbreak of World War II, the Australian government commissioned an airfield at the mission. After Japanese forces occupied the Dutch East Indies in 1942, Drysdale became a frontline Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base, acting as a staging post for Allied squadrons based further south. The airfield was a refuelling and ammunition depot for the RAAF anti-submarine aircraft operating between Darwin and Fremantle. On 19 February, the mission provided assistance to the crew and passengers of the merchant vessel Koolama, which had been attacked by Japanese planes.
In February 1943, Allied signals intelligence suggested that Japanese aircraft would be built up in Timor for attacks on Darwin. Eight Beaufighters from No. 31 Squadron RAAF were despatched to Drysdale River, to prepare for a pre-emptive strike. On 28 February, it was confirmed that the enemy aircraft had arrived at Penfui, near Kupang. An early morning strike destroyed 12 Japanese aircraft on the ground and damaged another 10. Two Beaufighters were damaged by Japanese fighter aircraft but returned to Drysdale River.
On 27 September 1943, the base and settlement were attacked by 21 Japanese Kawasaki Ki-48 bombers, based at Kupang, Timor, with a fighter escort. The Superior of the mission, Father Thomas Gil O.S.B, aged 45 years.and five Aboriginals ranging from the age of 1 year to 45 years were killed. This included a mother and son. All victims were buried together on mission grounds, the Aboriginals on either side of Father Thomas, following the funeral at the damaged Church. Many buildings at the mission were also destroyed or severely damaged during the raid.
In April 1944, Flt Lt D. S. Askew, the commanding officer of No. 58 Operational Base Unit, reported 367 aircraft movements during that month, the busiest period since operations had begun. He also wrote: "Approximately 250 operational hours were flown from Drysdale resulting in approximately 60,000 lb of bombs being dropped on enemy territory".
In 1951, Drysdale River Mission was officially renamed Kalumburu. Management of the community was later taken over by Kalumburu Aboriginal Corporation, on behalf of the Kalumburu Community Council. The community retains strong links with the OSB, including a priest and several Benedictine nuns.
The military significance of the airfield declined once Truscott Airfield was constructed, about 32 km (20 mi) north, in 1944.
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If you are planning to undertake this trip YOU MUST SEEK OUT other authoritative advice and information - eg visitor centres
Outback travel can be a very exciting adventure but it also can be very hazardous especially off road and in remote and isolated areas.
Your Outback trip should only be undertaken after lengthy and careful planning, plus having plenty of water, fuel, food, working communication devices etc
Understand the distances between fuel stops by ringing ahead and checking with the roadhouses, cattle stations and visitor centres - that what you want is at the next stop.
Understand what is the best time of year to travel and what is not, understand your vehicle and its capabilities and how to repair it plus have spare tyres (Min 2 extra)
The owners of this website shall not be held responsible for any damage, injury or death that you may experience during any trip on or off the roads of the Kimberley
You are responsible for your own actions.