Oombulgurri Community, Western Australia

Coordinates: 15°11′00″S 127°51′00″E / 15.18333°S 127.85000°E / -15.18333; 127.85000
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Western Australia
Oombulgurri is located in Western Australia
Coordinates15°11′00″S 127°51′00″E / 15.18333°S 127.85000°E / -15.18333; 127.85000
Population27 (SAL 2021)[1]
Elevation385 m (1,263 ft)
Area12,184.3 km2 (4,704.4 sq mi)
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) by air and about 210 kilometres (130 mi) by road northwest of Wyndham. It was first established as the Forrest River Mission in 1913. It had a population of 107 as of the 2006 census.[2] It was inhabited by the Yeidji people who now self-identify as Balanggarra.[3][4] In 2011, the government of Western Australia encouraged residents of Oombulgurri to move elsewhere, after it deemed the community unsustainable.[5] The last residents from Oombulgurri were relocated to Wyndham just before Christmas 2011.[6] There is still a locality with this name that includes the surrounding area, which had a population of 27 at the 2021 census.


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, Gerard Trower. In December 1913, Anglican priest Ernest Gribble took charge, three years after he was forced to resign as superintendent at Yarrabah. His key assistants included James and Angelina Noble.[7] 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.

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.[8][9][10][11] It revealed high levels of alcohol abuse, suicide and child neglect in Oombulgurri. Following the inquest, in 2008 alcohol was banned in Oombulgurri.[12][13]

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.[14][15][16][17]


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.[13] 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.[5] 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.[18] Shortly before Christmas of 2011, the remaining residents were relocated to Wyndham.[6] In 2014 the state government demolished most of the buildings at the site, despite opposition by former residents and a campaign to prevent the demolition by Amnesty International Australia.[19][20]


Oombulgurri is only reliably accessible by boat or by air, as the unsealed track leading from Home Valley Station to the community is washed out most of the year due to the wet season; the total road distance from the nearest town, Wyndham, is about 210 kilometres (130 mi). There is an airstrip nearby for light aircraft.[19][21] Access is also possible via a dirt road from Kalumburu ; the distance from there to Oombulgurri is 308 kilometres (191 mi).[22]


  1. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics (28 June 2022). "Oombulgurri (suburb and locality)". Australian Census 2021 QuickStats. Retrieved 28 June 2022. Edit this at Wikidata
  2. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics (25 October 2007). "Oombulgurri (State Suburb)". 2006 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
  3. ^ "K32:Yiiji". AIATSIS. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  4. ^ "Balanggarra Healthy Country Plan 2012–2022" (PDF). Balanggarra Aboriginal Corporation. 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Plans afoot for remote Oombulgurri community". ABC News. 21 February 2011. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  6. ^ a b "$1.6m spent on dongas for ousted Oombulgurri families". ABC News. 20 January 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  7. ^ Kociumbas, Jan, "James Noble (1876–1941)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, retrieved 5 January 2024
  8. ^ Kimberley coronial inquests extended
  9. ^ The Western Australian coroner is set to visit Oombulgurri today as part of an inquest into five Aboriginal deaths at the remote Kimberley community.
  10. ^ Inquest hears damning evidence
  11. ^ Homes danger to occupants
  12. ^ Clarke, Tim (6 November 2008). "Booze ban forced on Oombulgurri". WAToday. Retrieved 15 March 2024.
  13. ^ a b "Oombulgurri could be shut down". ABC News. 14 October 2010. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  14. ^ Former Aboriginal community leader arrested on child sex charges
  15. ^ Three people from the remote Kimberley Aboriginal community of Oombulgurri have been charged with child sex offences.
  16. ^ Community denies trying to thwart child abuse investigation
  17. ^ Police lay more child sex offences in Kimberley
  18. ^ "Last Oombulgurri residents determined to stay". ABC News. 2 March 2011. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  19. ^ a b Lucy Martin (21 June 2014). "Former residents oppose plans to demolish buildings at remote Oombulgurri community". ABC News.
  20. ^ Harrison, Dan (28 November 2014). "Remote indigenous towns fear trauma and dislocation as bulldozers roll in". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  21. ^ Dupe, Cally. "Tour company offers trips on previously locals-only trail". Kimberley Echo. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  22. ^ "directions from kalumburu to oombulgurri". Google Maps. Retrieved 18 July 2023.


Further reading[edit]

  • Auty, Kate (2023). O'Leary of the Underworld: The Untold Story of the Forrest River Massacre. La Trobe University Press. ISBN 9781760643980.