Cattle first came to the Kimberley in the 1880s, when the MacDonald Brothers drove cattle 5,600Km from NSW in one of the great and epic pioneering events in our Nation’s history. This was the start of the pastoral lease link to cattle, with the establishment of Fossil Downs Station.
Around the same time, Broome was established in 1883 to support the pearling industry. Broome was named after WA Governor, Sir Frederick Broome KCMG. The location of Broome was actually suggested by Charles Harper. Harper was a Member of Parliament, but also had been a farmer, involved with pearling and as a pastoralist. Between 1871 and 1879, he was in a partnership at De Grey Station (Pilbara) and in another pastoral venture in Ashburton. Harper later became Speaker in the WA Parliament.
Live export first took place on a significant scale in 1915 with direct trade between Derby and Java. Today the cattle trade represents significant volume through the Broome and Wyndham Ports, supporting jobs and industries at other ports in the Pilbara and further South.
The history of Northern WA and Broome is a joint one with cattle producers. Cattle has, over the decades since the 1880s, supplanted sheep production across the Kimberley and Pilbara. Cattle are more resilient in the conditions and less damaging to the rangelands. It is under the stewardship of cattle producers that inroads have been made against invasive species of flora and fauna. An example being that action against the threat of wild dogs has helped preserve native marsupial species. The rangelands of the NW have little economic value or opportunity without the commitment and investment of pastoralists.
Without the pastoralist sector, the taxpayers of Western Australia would be faced with significant costs of maintaining these lands and with no rent return and none of the relating economic activity that results from this hard working sector.”