Oombulgurri Community, Western Australia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Western Australia
Oombulgurri is located in Western Australia
Coordinates 15°11′00″S 127°51′00″E / 15.18333°S 127.85000°E / -15.18333; 127.85000Coordinates: 15°11′00″S 127°51′00″E / 15.18333°S 127.85000°E / -15.18333; 127.85000
Population 0 (December 2011)[1]
Established 1973
Abolished 2011
Postcode(s) 6740
Elevation 385 m (1,263 ft)
LGA(s) Shire of Wyndham-East Kimberley
State electorate(s) Kimberley
Federal Division(s) Durack
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
33.1 °C
92 °F
18.6 °C
65 °F
1,106.6 mm
43.6 in

Oombulgurri, also written as Umbulgara, was an Aboriginal community in the eastern Kimberley, 45 kilometres (28 mi) northwest of Wyndham. it had a population of 107 as of the 2006 census.[2] In 2011, the government of Western Australia encouraged residents of Oombulgurri to move elsewhere, after it deemed the community unsustainable.[3] The last residents from Oombulgurri were relocated to Wyndham just before Christmas 2011.[1]


Mission establishment[edit]

The Anglican Forrest River Mission for Aborigines was founded in 1896–97 by Harold Hale but was abandoned after a few months. A permanent mission, known as the Forrest River Mission, was established on the site in 1913 by the bishop of the north west, the Rt. Rev. Gerard Trower. In December 1913, Anglican priest Ernest Gribble took charge, three years after he was forced to resign as superintendent at Yarrabah. Gribble remained as superintendent until the early 1930s.

In 1926 the mission was plagued by an influenza epidemic and impacted by the Forrest River massacre where police killed a number of Aboriginal people. This event remains controversial.

The mission was closed in 1969, after the 1967 Aboriginal referendum.

In 1973, fifty Aboriginal people decided to resettle their abandoned tribal land and rename it Oombulgurri. Within a year, the population had grown to 200. Infrastructure and welfare programs were set up in the 1970s and 1980s to provide the residents with basic amenities and to allow the town to become self-sufficient.

Coronial inquest into Aboriginal deaths[edit]

In 2007 a coronial inquiry began into Aboriginal deaths in the Kimberley, including five in Oombulgurri.[4][5][6][7] It revealed high levels of alcohol abuse, suicide and child neglect in Oombulgurri. Some time after the inquest, alcohol was banned there.[8]

Child sex investigation[edit]

A Police task force operation sheepshank began after a report was compiled on an alleged paedophile ring at the Aboriginal community of Kalumburu, in the Kimberley resulting in arrests of three men and a juvenile from Oombulgurri.[9][10][11][12]


In October 2010, the government of Western Australia announced plans to close the community of Oombulgurri, as its population had decreased from 150 to less than 50.[8] In February 2011, the government was reportedly considering a number of proposals about the community's future once all the residents had moved out, including converting it into a tourism retreat or a juvenile justice facility.[3] On 1 March 2011, the community's only store was dismantled and removed by boat. As of 2 March 2011, only seven residents still remained in Oombulgurri.[13] Shortly before Christmas of 2011, the remaining residents were relocated to Wyndham.[1] In 2014 the state government's plan to demolish most of the buildings at the site was opposed by former residents.[14]


Oombulgurri is only reliably accessible by boat or by air, as the unsealed road leading to the town is washed out most of the year due to the wet season. There is an airstrip nearby for light aircraft.[14]



External links[edit]