Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon. Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

West Kimberley added to National Heritage List

Media release
31 August 2011

The iconic west Kimberley will be placed on Australia’s National Heritage List, Environment Minister Tony Burke announced today.

Mr Burke said the Gillard Government would recognise outstanding heritage values within more than 19 million hectares of the west Kimberley, including Aboriginal, historic, aesthetic and natural heritage values.

The area to be placed on the National Heritage List includes the spectacular Kimberley coast from Cape Leveque in the west to Cambridge Gulf in the east, the Kimberley plateau and country south to the Oscar and Napier Ranges, and the mighty Fitzroy River.

The National Heritage Listing will provide the west Kimberley with Australia’s highest form of heritage recognition.

“The west Kimberley belongs on a list of the places which define Australia,” Mr Burke said.

“Its unique wildlife, stunning coastlines, spectacular gorges and waterfalls, ancient and ongoing Aboriginal cultural traditions as well as its pastoral and pearling history make this one of the most remarkable places in our nation.

“Following a long and comprehensive assessment by the Australian Heritage Council, which included a lot of feedback from communities and my own consultation with the people who live and work in the region, I have determined that the west Kimberley is a fitting addition to the National Heritage List.

“The west Kimberley is one of the most magnificent parts of the continent and its placement on the National Heritage List will ensure it is protected for future generations.”

The National Heritage List was established to list places of outstanding heritage significance to Australia. It includes natural, historic and Indigenous places that are of outstanding national heritage.

Areas in the west Kimberley identified as having outstanding heritage values and inscribed on the National Heritage List include:

  • The incredible natural beauty of the coast from the Buccaneer Archipelago to the King George River; the Mitchell Plateau; King George Falls; Geikie Gorge, Windjana Gorge and King Leopold Ranges;
  • Rich biodiversity, including many plants, mammals, reptiles, frogs and invertebrates that are found only in this part of Australia;
  • Remnants of a vast coral reef, similar in scale to the Great Barrier Reef, that existed nearly 400 million years ago;
  • Dinosaur footprints on the west coast of the Dampier Peninsula which are remarkable remnant of past life in the region;
  • Ongoing Aboriginal traditions associated with Wanjina and the Rainbow Serpent and spectacular rock;
  • Sites which tell a more recent history including Jandamarra, the dispute at Noonkanbah Station and the drove to Fossil Downs which became the longest overlanding cattle drive in Australia’s history; and
  • Evidence of early contact with Indonesia as well as early European exploration of the Australian continent.

“The west Kimberley’s placement on the National Heritage List means its heritage values are now protected under national environmental law,” Mr Burke said.

“It is important to recognise national heritage listing is about protecting our nation’s outstanding heritage values by considering them in any development proposal under national environmental law and the listing itself does not prevent development.

“National heritage listing protects heritage values; it is not an automatic lock-up.

“The National Heritage listing of this vast and dramatic landscape has taken a number of years and I thank everyone involved.

“It was one of the largest and complex heritage assessments under undertaken by the Australian Heritage Council and I commend the Council for its commitment and diligence to the task.

“The Australian Heritage Council’s assessment included extensive consultation with a number of people and groups including the West Australian Government, Traditional Owners, the mining industry, pastoralists and other owners and occupiers.

“In particular, I thank the Kimberley Land Council and Traditional Owners for their contribution to the identification of the Indigenous heritage values for the west Kimberley.”

The west Kimberley is the 96th place to the included on the National Heritage List.

For more information on the listing including a map of the west Kimberley National Heritage Place go to Images of the west Kimberley National Heritage place can be found at