Broome Cathedral W.A.
“Pilbara to the Kimberley”
On the 15th of May 2012, I was ‘on the track’ early with my destination Broome and the Kimberley. It turned out to be a good trip because it was not as hot as last week – with the thermometer hovering only in the mid-30s. But now I was meeting more road-trains. The Rocky landscape and the outcrops of the Ranges finished about 50km north of Port Headland, then it was flat country for the next 350km, with nothing but short scrub and grass for company. To lighten your reading, the following photos are a cross section of interesting views to introduce this travelogue of Broome Diocese. To have a close-up, click on any photo; to return to text, click the back arrow at the top left. Before you set out, take a moment to look at the map of the diocese: Broome Diocese Map
Here, I wish to express my sincere thanks to Bishop Christopher Saunders, for his hospitality during my short stay in the diocese, and to the priests and religious whom I had the good fortune to meet. The Map from the Broome diocese Directory 2011, is used courtesy of Bishop Saunders. The Broome Diocese website is www.broomediocese.org Take a moment to check it out. Especially beautiful is the ‘Media Release’ of the new Icon for the Cathedral – “Our Lady of Peace”. Click on the media release to view it. It was unveiled by Bishop Saunders on 07th June 2013.
Towards Broome, the trees and ferns appeared and were taller than anything I had met earlier; I suspect they are the fruit of cyclone rains. However, I must admit my expectations of the desert as a sandy type of land were wrong. Instead, it was greenish all the way, with cattle (Santa Gertrudis) grazing at regular intervals along the road, but they posed no danger to motorists. ‘Sandfire’ Roadhouse was rebuilding after Cyclone 2011-12 and there was plenty of shade for a change.
Further north the trees ceased as once again the land opened up on the ‘Roebuck Plains’ Station where there were plenty of cattle and calves for the next 20km. Then the trees and forests returned and Broome was on the Horizon. I arrived there about 5.00pm and found Father Paul Boyers V.G. (Vicar General of the Diocese of Broome) at the ‘Tropical Presbytery’ and Cathedral.
Next day, Paul took me to 8.00am Mass at the oratory at Broome Notre Dame University, then on to St Mary’s College – for the Opening and Blessing of some newly-funded buildings. It was a great day for Broome as St Mary’s College focuses on being a Reconciliation School.
Later, Fr Paul headed back to his parish at Derby, while I visited many sites and took in a tour of a pearl farm. Pearling is a big industry here and the tidal waters help the pearl oysters to grow and develop. Here they have two high tides each day that rise between eight and ten metres each time. The Western Australian Pearling Industry stretches along two and a half thousand kilometres of mostly uninhabited coastline from Vansittart Bay in the north to Shark Bay at the western-most tip of Australia.
The following photos are: 1. At the shop on the Broome Pearl Farm; 2. Visitors’ boats for viewing oysters on the pearl farm; 3. Broome Pearl Farm HQ from our boat; 4. Pearl Farm Inlet. 5. Bronze statues commemorating early Chinese pearl divers.
I visited the local Broome museum, which has expansion plans in hand, and the Memorial Park where there are many artefacts on display. Then it was on to the Sisters of St John of God Convent Museum, renowned for its coverage of local history. For example, I didn’t know that Broome was bombed twice in WWII, as were many other towns and communities in the Kimberleys and Northern Territory. Finally, I made it to the Chinatown area and the Pearling Museum.
Now it was my turn to take the road to Derby and when I arrived I made directly to the new Visitors’ Information Centre which proved most helpful. I took a drive out around the famous Derby jetty and was surprised to discover no beaches – only vast kilometres of mud flats! These days neither iron ore nor cattle are loaded at Derby on account the difficulties posed by what must be the among world’s highest tidal flows. (The highest is in Nova Scotia and measures 16.5 metres!)
The pictures here are 1. Driving between mudflats to jetty; 2. Boat marooned by low tide – awaiting high tide; 3. the jetty at low tide #1; 4. jetty & shed at low tide; 5. 6 hours later jetty approaching high tide; 6. high tide.
Once again I met up with Fr Paul Boyers and he kindly took me out to the Leprosarium which is about 35km north-east of Derby. It is called “Bungarun” and was a big centre serving between 150 and 300 people at its peak. It closed in 1996 and is now abandoned. The beautiful Heritage Cemetery is fast becoming overgrown. At the Old Convent Museum that I visited in Broome it is clear that the St John of God Sisters played a magnificent role of selfless service at “Bungarun”. 1. Leprosarium – Click twice on picture to read sign. 2. Playground of Holy Rosary primary school in Derby, 3.Queen Victoria Rock outside Derby – click to enlarge and see the ‘nose’ on the distant rock – ‘We are not amused.’
The Mowanjum Indigenous Community has a population of about 350 and is made up of three groups that have moved from their homeland areas to Derby. It is a community that is struggling to survive what was a ‘forced’ relocation. Nearby is the new Mowanjum Art Centre; it is beautiful inside, but the surrounds are sadly neglected.
I also visited the Warfingers House Museum; it has good displays, but they are not well maintained. The Boab Tree Gaol, and the Big Water Trough are good, but once again it seems everyone is going light on lawnmowers in the area! While in Derby I joined a tour out to Winjana Gorge for lunch and saw 8-10 crocodiles sunning themselves as we walked through the 100 metre high cliff walls, most impressive – both walls and crocs!
Photos here: 1. Broome Boab Tree gaol; 2. Winjana crocs sunbathing; 4. Winjana gorge – rock formation (photo is at an angle); 5. Walls of Winjana gorge above river; 6The big trough;
A highlight of my stay was to be able to join about 20 local Derby people on a bus as they headed south to the priestly Ordination of Frank Birrell at Broome Cathedral. People from every community in the diocese were there for a great celebration. It was certainly a long night as we returned the 220km to Derby on the school bus!
The next day Fr Paul left early on a plane with the local undertaker and two caskets [empty!] for funerals up in the remote Gibb River area. It was now late May, but the ‘big wet’ season, and a number of tribal issues, had delayed the funerals since November. Fr Paul managed to bring everyone together for a single burial service and that Sunday was Pentecost and with special music, it marked the opening of the Year of Faith.
After lunch on Pentecost Sunday, I left for Fitzroy Crossing (256km) and arrived in time to offer the 5.30pm Mass for the large congregation of 2 locals and 5 visitors. I stayed overnight and next day visited Geikie Gorge National Park. It featured another interesting cutting through limestone ranges and provided a good workout as with a lot of walking on sandy walking tracks.
Halls Creek (294km) was next and it seemed an easy downhill run, with just a few hills, sharp corners and cattle along the way. There were also some stands of smaller termite mounds to see and an unusual 10km-long pile of varying sized rocks. I felt it was a bit like our NSW ‘The Rock’, or Galore Hill that seemed to have imploded on itself.
At Halls Creek, I celebrated Mass for the Josephite Sisters, who usually provide the Sunday Holy Communion Service with the Readings and Prayers for the congregation of 20-30 people. It is 12 years since they had a regular Parish Priest. However, the presbytery and the church are kept in good order. The next day I set out for Warmun (Turkey Creek), a distance of about 150km, and checked in with Sister Theresa Morellini RSJ and a retreat group. It was a Retreat for Rehabilitating Alcoholics, a twice yearly event for the area.
After lunch I was off to Kununurra (200km) now found myself watching more carefully for cattle and the road trains carrying ore to the recently reopened port of Wyndham. On this section I noticed a lot of smoke haze, especially around Kununurra, where legal and illegal burning off was taking place. Unfortunately it brings problems for the environment that has not had time to recover from earlier burnings. Two views of Kununurra from the lookout. The church spire is more evident if you click on the pictures to enlarge them. The third photo is part of the Winjana Gorge.
Kununurra was an interesting pause on the long road, because I supplied Masses for the parish for three weekends. Sadly, the community had lost their Indian missionary priests the previous Christmas when they returned to their communities.
The weekend began with 8.30am Mass on Saturday morning at The Sacred Place (an open gazebo style area) for the Mirima Community and the Sisters there. They used the Diocesan Missae Kimblae Liturgy (a special Mass written for the Kimberleys that includes chants and different ways for the congregation to participate). Next it was Wyndham (101km) to bring Home Communions at 5.00pm and then to offer Mass at 6.00pm. There was a ‘Big Croc’ at Wyndham, fortunately not hungry.
During my supply at Wyndham I was fortunate to be able to use the Diocesan twin-cab Toyota Ute with its bull-bar. It was comforting to drive through ‘roo and cattle country at night at the wheel such a vehicle, rather than in my little white rabbit. Click on the Toyota to enlarge and read the Diocesan Logo. Back at Kununurra the Sunday Mass was also at 8.30am with an attendance of between 60 and 100 people.
While there, I took a scenic flight over the Ord River, Lake Argyle and the Diamond Mine, Purnulu National Park (the Bungle Bungles), Durack Range, El Questro and Home Valley, Wyndham and Parry’s Lagoon, and back to Kununurra. It was the easiest, fastest, and best way to see the area. The pictures are: 1. The Ord River, 2. Lake Argyle, 3. Ord River and Lake Argyle village, 4. Lake Argyle Diamond Mine, 5. Purnulu National Park (Bungle Bungles), 6. Bungle Bungles, 7. Iron ore loading facility at Wyndham.
Later, I visited the Agricultural Research Station and saw plots for trials of chick-peas, sorghum, sugar, wheat, rice and corn. Anything will grow up there, but the three big pests are the wallabies, the cockatoos and the brolgas and these seem to be winning and taking all the profits.
On the 4th of June I joined a boat cruise across Lake Kununurra and up the Ord River to the dam wall that is on Lake Argyle. It is an astonishing feat of engineering harnessing the power of nature that results from the wet season. Lake Argyle has a volume of water 21 times the size of Sydney Harbour. It was the vision of A. K. Durack and it was implemented by the CSIRO. The overflow roars down the Ord River through the gates on Lake Kununurra and out to the Timor Sea above Wyndham. Amazing stuff! Photos: 1. On the Ord boat cruise, 2. On the Ord boat cruise, 3. Picnic beside the Ord River, 4. Very ‘convenient’ picnic grounds beside the Ord, 5. Lake Kununurra dam gates for the Ord River.
The second weekend at Kununurra was a huge liturgical feast for any priest. It began with the usual Saturday Mass for the Mirima Community, then off to Wyndham and 4 home communions. They were followed by the 6pm Mass with 3 baptisms (about 30 adults attending, along with 20 kids and 5 non-indigenous people).
Back at Kununurra for Sunday Mass it was First Communion Day six children lined up for their big day; they were supported by a good crowd and a happy cuppa afterwards. There are always visitors during the dry season.
Later in the day it was off south to Halls Creek, and it became a lovely drive through the Ranges and valleys. At Doon Doon Roadhouse, I dropped off a letter to Elder Nancy regarding the Tuesday Mass, then on through Warmun to Halls Creek in time for the 5.30pm Mass. It was taking place at the end of a Retreat Day at local spiritual sites for the community.
We celebrated around a big fire-drum off the church verandah and opened the Year of Faith with sparklers and the National Prayer. The evening concluded with dinner for about 35 people.
On Monday, I went to the Visitors Centre and the memorial park and found them both most informative, then headed back to Warmun for the 4.30pm Mass in their Sacred Place Gazebo. Here I helped Sister Theresa to set up for the Mass and waited while she took three trips around town to bring people, especially the Confirmation group to Mass.
Up to 40 people came filling the place and making for very good singing and witnessing by the Elders to the young ones. These Elders pronounced a blessing upon the several girls and one boy who were candidates for that year. They also led the prayer to launch the Year of Faith in the community of Turkey Creek (Warmun).
That night, I stayed in the Diocesan Mirrilingki Centre where the AA Retreat had just concluded. In the morning I visited the school and the Confirmation group and was surprised to be given a microphone to use, because all the kids have blocked ears. This is a sad tribute to the fact that many of live with dogs in the dwellings and ear infections and damaged hearing is rife.
Next, I went to the Art Centre. This is, once again, a good set up inside, but the approaches don’t encourage visitors. During the 2011-2012 Wet Season, Warmun was flooded out and the community (except the dogs) was evacuated to Kununurra, with 90 school children being relocated to St Joseph’s School. The school is run by the Josephite Sisters and such a sudden influx of 90 pupils posed problems, but on the day of the departure of those students back to Warmun there were many tears and fond farewells amongst locals and those leaving.
Doon Doon about 80km further along was my next stop for their monthly Mass; it took place on Elder Nancy’s front verandah. The usual number of about 20 came, with dogs and chooks adding to the musical background – and sometimes the foreground! It was an interesting experience. After Mass, it was off for the final 100km with its mixture of cattle and horses along the way, but no troublesome encounters.
In summary, the weekend duties had included 6 Masses in six centres, three baptisms, six First Communicants, Confirmation preparation instructions and a total of between 850 and 900 kilometres travelled. What a challenge the local priests have facing these duties on a regular basis. It takes true missionary spirit to shepherd these scattered sheep of the Lord.
Back in Kununurra, I went with Sister Anne Porter RSJ to the Hospital and there – outside under the shade of the trees – administered the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Anointing and Holy Communion.
There seems to be very good educational and medical facilities in place giving coverage to a large area.
Later, I visited the Hidden Valley in Mirima National Park. It is a great spot with stunning gorges but now – as with so many places – there is no river flowing there. I also called at the Lovell’s Gallery and the local museum and found both worthwhile.
On my final Saturday in the parish of Kununurra I drove to Wyndham in the early afternoon to see the Grotto Site and the Five Rivers Lookout with its views over the Cambridge Gulf and the Timor Sea. At the end of Mass in Wyndham, Elder Marjorie gave a wonderful farewell speech on behalf of the community for my brief services in their midst.
On Sunday, back in Kununurra, there were still more speeches during a cuppa after Mass, and then a lovely dinner with the Josephite Sisters Anne Porter and Christine O’Connor.
On Monday 18th June, I hit the road for Katherine in the Northern Territory – it proved an easy drive in the afternoon because – travelling east – the sun was now behind me.
On reflection, I can say – with the utmost assurance – that the Kimberleys are beautiful – and challenging!