The Pilbara

The Pilbara region is located in the North West of nine defined regions developed by Regional Development Commissions Act 1993, in Western Australia. It is rich in mineral resources and home to a large mining industry, red coloured earth, stunning natural landscapes, coastal plains mountain ridges cliffs, gorges, ancient rock art numbering in the millions with landscapes dating some two billion years and covering and an area of 502,000 square km.

One of the common statements made about the Pilbara is that it is “the engine room of Australia” accounting for 60 percent of its wealth resulting from the mining industry, salt and natural gas and more importantly iron ore.

Karratha is the representative seat for the region.

Within the Pilbara is found Murujuga or Burrup Peninsula and Dampier Archipelago as it is commonly known. Murujuga is the Aboriginal name for the Burrup Peninsula & Dampier Archipelago. Today it is the location of the Murujuga National Park which covers 4,913 ha, alongside the iron ore mining industry, petrochemicals and gas companies located on the 26th parallel.

The City of Karratha, was up until 1st July 2014, formerly known as the Shire of Roebourne. Since reaching the 20,000 population mark, the City of Karratha became the new name for the Shire of Roebourne. It encompasses the towns of Roebourne, Wickham, Pt Samson, and Cossack and the port of Dampier.

Despite the economic downturn in the iron ore industry, Karratha continues in as a city bringing about infrastructural developments, to support a population growth for the future.

The original towns of Cossack formerly (TienTsin) was known for the beginnings of the gold rush in the early 1800’s, and the pearling industry. It became a ghost town. Pastoral farming took over as the economic mainstay. The ghost town was later refurbished in recent times as the mining industry grew in the region and became a Museum. Cossack is now a popular venue of a regional Annual Cossack Art Festival for locals and tourists visiting the Pilbara.

The offices of the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation established in April 2006, is located in the City of Karratha (Headquarters & Members Services). The Murujuga Land & Sea Unit (Rangers & National Park) is located in the Dampier Peninsula, within proximity to the Murujuga National Park.



Many of the Indigenous people who have an association with the Burrup, now live in Roebourne or Ieramugadu. Roebourne is located roughly 20kms inland from the coast on the banks of the Harding River. In 2016 Roebourne will celebrate its 150th birthday. It is the oldest gazetted town in the North West.

Roebourne was established as a town by European settlers in the late 1800’s. It was the thriving regional pastoral town for many years and the populations began to decline during the 1970s as the resource industry towns of Dampier, Karratha and Wickham were developed.

The town is experiencing a recent revitalisation of its own making as many indigenous residents flourish in the arts and resources industry fields. Click here to open a new window with an updated map of the town of Roebourne)

People from many other traditional Aboriginal language groups also reside in Roebourne like the Ngarluma, Yindjibarndi, Yaburara, Mardudhunera, and Wong-Goo-Tt-Oo.

Many of the Aboriginal landowners identify as having a heritage from many of these groups and therefore the town is very multicultural and rich in its Indigenous culture and language. In recent times a cultural centre has been added to Roebourne.


Karratha is gateway to the Pilbara region, located approximately, 1,550km north of Perth and 850km south of Broome on the North West Coastal Highway. The total area of the City is 15,278 square kilometres. Following the Hamersley Iron project Karratha was set up to supplement the urban capacity of Dampier.

The population forecast for 2016 is 28,351 and likely to double in 2036. Today despite a decline in the mining industry the population is stable at 20,144 with many establishing themselves and normalising the local population from the previous years of fly in and fly out employees.

A boost of infrastructural development continues following the refurbishment of the airport now completed, a civic centre and a new hospital designated for the City of Karratha.

Karratha City is located about 21km from the Port of Dampier in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. It was developed from the 1960s to accommodate the processing and exportation workforce of the Hamersley Iron mining company and later in the 1980s, the petroleum and liquefied natural gas operations of the North West Shelf Venture. The city name comes from the cattle station from which land was reclaimed for the development. In language they say it means “when the earth was soft.” Karratha is the seat of government. Click here to open a window with an updated map of Karratha.



Dampier is a major industrial port north-west of Western Australia, developed in 1963 by Hamersley Iron. The Dampier Port is part of the Dampier Archipelago. The port services petrochemical, salt, iron ore and natural gas export industries. Click here to open a new window with a map of Dampier.

Aboriginal people, including the Ngarluma and the Yaburara tribe, have lived in the area for many thousands of years. The town derives its name from the nearby Dampier Archipelago, named after the English Buccaneer William Dampier who visited the area in 1699. The town was built from 1965 onwards to serve the railway transporting iron ore from Tom Price and Parabadoo. By 1968, the further expansion of Dampier had been constrained by geographical factors and the new town of Karratha was established as a result.

The nearby Murujuga (Burrup Peninsula) which may mean “Hip Bone Sticking Out” in the Ngarluma-Yaburara language is home to what is believed to be the largest collection of petroglyphs(ancient rock art) in the world.

The Archipelago is blessed with 42 islands and a hugely diverse marine ecosystem where the fauna includes whale’s dugongs, turtles, coral, and sponges. Green turtles, (Chelonian Mydas) also nest in the Dampier archipelago.