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A Trip Through Kimberley.
FROM DERBY TO WYNDHAM, 640
MILES-BAD STATE OF THE
[By W. M. Burton.]
Australia's curses are many. Rab- bits, sparrows, foxes and tick form no inconsiderable part ; but the greatest curse under which this continent suf- fers is the lack of water. The drought fiend has devastated the Eastern States, and the days of prosperity are things we read about, and shall not again see for many years. To talk of drought in the tropics seems ludicrous in the ex- treme, yet Kimberley at the present time is going through the severest drought ever known in those regions since the days of settlement. Since November last only 9 inches has fallen in West Kimberley on an average (5 inches at Hall's Creek). The usual rainfall is 30 inches. In East Kim- berley they enjoy a 10 inch average out of a 40 inch rainfall. The losses amongst sheep on the Fitzroy River
will be very heavy ; there is very little hope. Only the river frontages are stocked, and two months ago the river had stopped running and was dry for miles. Waterholes which generally carry water well into September were already dry, and the billabongs had but little water, of a muddy description, and undrinkable. Green grass was not to be seen, while the dry was fast disappearing. I estimate the losses at fully 50 per cent, before the next "wet." 'However, the pastoralists have only themselves to blame. They hold huge tracts of magnificent water- less country without a hoof upon it. This country would carry all their stock in a dry season, if wells were sunk or dams made. Water can be
got at very shallow sinking, from 15 to 20 feet. They are adopting a penny-wise and, pound foolish policy, which this year will be brought home to them. It is the of times told story " When the horse is gone they shut the gate." No one would grieve at leaving a place like Derby for a jaunt up the Fitzroy River. Derby, without a doubt, is the most unprogressive vil- lage in a progressive land. Their slaughter yard is situated in the town, where pigs wallow in mud up to their necks, and are fed on offal. Sheep are shepherded on the Common, and yar- ded at night at the rear of a hotel. Goats roam about the back premises and camp in the main street at night ; while huge piles of rubbish are to be seen outside every door. Boxes, kero- sene tins, and bottles are strewn all over the Common, making the place hideous to the eye. The sanitary ar- rangements are perfect. A Mechanics Institute is to be found here, but there are no books or papers. There is no school although there are some 30 children ; no church or Sunday school. Not a flower or garden is to be seen in Derby. For 200 miles I traversed the Fitzroy River to Fitzroy Crossing, call- ing at the Kimberley Pastoral Co.'s station, " Liveringa," and Emanuel and Co.'s station "Noonkanbah". Both these stations were shearing, and Liv- eringa expected to put through 93,000 sheep, and Noonkanbah 50,000. An alteration is being made in labor con- ditions. Formerly all shearing and other work was done by blacks, now white men are replacing them. At Liveringa 28 whites made up the board, with a white man pressing and rolling.
At Noonkanbah 14 whites and 9 blacks manipulated the shears ; all other work is done by natives.
A great wave of indignation has spread all over Australia regarding the treatment of natives in Westralia. To say the natives are well treated by the squatters would be absurd ; on the other hand to say they are badly trea- ted would be equally absurd. It all amounts-to what you consider good or bad treatment. Some stations treat
the aboriginals very well, indeed, giv- ing them ample food, tobacco, and clothing ; while others are not so par- ticular. However, it is not a matter of good or bad treatment that we who are advocates for a " White Australia" object to, but the wholesale sweating of natives, and the enrichment of the few at the expense of the natives and the country. If the squatters prefer black labor to white, let them have it by all means, but they must be com- pelled to pay the black man an equal wage as the white. In my extensive travels from the Gascoigne River to the Ord, in all sorts of disguises. I can conscientiously say that I have never witnessed a case of gross cruelty by the squatters. I have seen some cruel wrongs perpetrated upon the blacks by the police and others, and I have seen some cases of starvation, but flogging or anything of that description I have not seen, although I have visited hun- dreds of stations. The native problem is a knotty one to solve, and I do not envy Dr. Roth or anyone else their position of Protector of Aborigines.
Fitzroy Crossing is a "township" of four houses ; a store, hotel, police sta- tion, and cattle station. Four miles across the river there is also a tele-
graph station, and you then pass through 50 miles of magnificent downs country, resplendent with Flinders and Mitchell grass; with patches of lux- uriant spinifex country. This is Go- Go and Fosil Downs, and is the finest country in West Kimberley. After leaving the downs you come into aurif- erous country, and travel amongst hills for 120 miles to Hall's Creek. No one dwells amongst the hills, although stock are to be seen there, and water is plen- tiful. Patches, here and there are very good from a pastoralists point of view, while a prospector will have much to interest him in the search of nuggetty outcrops. If ever I have seen gold bearing country this is it, and some day a big find will be discovered, here. Hall's Creek, the defunct "cat," is a six-house village, situated on the Creek of that name. At times business is brisk, my visit being one of the occa- sions. Two fossickers from a place called Taninias had brought in 10ozs gold, and excitement was great in con-
sequence. It is not often so much comes in at one time, hence the com- motion. When the rain sets in many men will flock to Taninias, but now it would be madness to go there, as there is no water. This gold is worth £4 2s 6d per oz.
I visited, while in this district, the old diggings Brockman and Ruby. At the former place a few fossickers have been there since 1886, making a pre- carious livlihood. At the latter,
Messrs. Durack's mine, the Ruby, was
putting through a crushing which goes an oz to the ton. A cyanide plant was about to be erected. The tailings are supposed to be worth about 1-1/2oz to the ton. Judging by the primitive
mode they have of crushing I should think this not at all unlikely.
The second day after my arrival at the creek, the place was in a com- motion. A marriage was about to be celebrated between a squatter and a full-blooded Kimberley lubra yclept? Mary McGrath (another injustice) This was performed by the postmaster, who is also registrar and warden, at 8a.m. by special license ; which cost £10. The company then adjourned to the hotel, where the health of the happy couple was drunk in fusil oil, locally called whisky; The groom, with his ebony bride, then left for their honeymoon to the Ord River muster- ing cattle. The brides' trouseau con- sisted of a cotton singlet and dungaree trousers with bare feet. Ye gods, there is no accounting for tastes ! Copley and Patterson's stations, the Ord, Stuart, and Margaret were taking a bang tail muster and, expected to tot up 85,000 head, more or less. Wes- tralia's cattle king bought the Ord River property of 7,000,000 acres with 45,000 head of cattle at 30s. per head. During the first year sold 7000 at £10 per head. Then bought the Stuart and Margaret River properties, with 28,000 cattle, at £2. This year they ship 12,000 which probably will bring £10 in Freemantle. Not bad business
this. South Australia's cattle king will have to look after Copley and Co.
The country from Hall's Creek to Wyndham is in a bad way. Water is very scarce on this track, and next month traffic will be stopped. There is only one well in the 240 miles ; there certainly should be two, more especially at a place called Fly Camp. The Roads Board should certainly give some attention to the water supply from the Nine-Mile to Wyndham. At the Six-Mile there is no water. At the Three the fluid is salt. There are two wells there. One a windmill for stock, which cost £6000 This is use- less, the water being as salt as the sea. The other is not much better. There is no water supply in Wyndham. The Territory Times circulates largely in East Kimberley, and no doubt the members of the Board will read these remarks. I should also like to remind them that it would be more becoming if they placed a fence round the ceme- tery. I have seen droves of goats camped on the graves.
Wyndham is a terrible place. Built on the ledge of a hill, it is a perfect in- ferno for heat and insects. No air can get at Wyndham, so when Mr. David- son, of Connor, Doherty aud Durack, invited the whole country to a picnic down the Gulf from Saturday till Sun- day, the whole country availed them- selves of the opportunity. On the re- turn of the Waihoi, the inhabitants returned the compliment by entertain- ing the general manager. Supper was provided at the Wyndham Hotel ; and after a eulogistic speech by the Resi- dent Magistrate, several songs brought an enjoyable outing to a pleasant ter- mination about midnight. Wyndham will remember this gala for some time to come, and, it will afford, that quiet locality a topic that will make a breach
from the usual cattle and horse.
The travelling public have a griev- ance against both Derby and Wynd- ham. There is little or no money there, coin being represented by orders or " shin plasters." A bank or a Government guarantee would certainly be a great acquisition. Exchange runs away with a lot of money, and this paper currency seems strangely incon-
Cattle at the yards in Wyndham are bringing £5 per head, in three years time they will not bring £3. Stock is increasing enormously, and closer settle- ment is the order of the day. All the way from Hall's Creek to Wyndham the country is in the hands of 100,000 acre men, who seem to be doing well. This country wants more of that stamp of settler. How can you make your towns prosperous when one firm or syndicate own 7,000,000 acres or 14,000 sq. miles, as in the Northern Territory. Meat works are talked about in Wyndham, but I notice the man representing capital never returns after once seeing that desolate spot.
Port Darwin, from the deck of the Waihoi, has a charming appearance after the mangrove swamps of Wes- tralia. But when you get on shore it makes you think what a mess South Australia has made of this beautiful place. With a railway through to Rockhampton this would be one of the most important towns in the Common- wealth, and would have a population of two or three thousand. A graving dock and ship-building yards should be in evidence here, and it should have been long since a coaling station. Also Port Darwin would make an ideal sanitorium or pleasure resort. Instead of all this what do we find here. Hous soit qui mal y pense.
Port Darwin, July 25., 1905.