“Karratha” is an Aboriginal word meaning “good” or “soft” country and is the name of the pastoral station on which the City now stands. The local government covers an area of 15,882 square kilometres and is the traditional country of the Ngarluma, Yaburara, Martuthunia and Yindjibarndi peoples, whose history dates back more than 30,000 years. It contains the Pastoral Stations Karratha, Mardie, Mt Welcome, Woodbrook, Warambie, Pyramid, Sherlock, Mallina and Cooya Pooya.
The Pilbara region, and Karratha in particular, is dramatically beautiful, with rugged mountain ranges, jewel seas and incredible numbers of petroglyphs etched into the astonishing rock piles which occur within the City boundaries. Probably the most extraordinary collection of these occurs on the Burrup Peninsula, named Murujuga by Aboriginal people – which means a piece of the human anatomy – the hip-bone – sticking out.
Murujuga is now a National Park and contains broad valleys, huge rock piles, plateaux, beaches, streams, waterfalls and pools after rain. Murujuga juts out into the waters of the Indian Ocean and the Dampier Archipelago – a group of Islands named after the first known white man to explore the area – William Dampier, who first came in 1688. The islands too are rugged and beautiful and are a very much appreciated recreational area for the people of Karratha.
Inland the area contains many beautiful spots, hills and ranges, rivers and streams, pools, and many historic old Station Ruins. Millstream National Park, which straddles the Fortescue River, is about 100 km inland from Karratha on the Tom Price Road – which is bitumen nearly the whole way. Further afield (some 300 km along this road) lies the magnificent Karijini National Park, one of our nations most iconic natural wonders.
Karratha residents love the outdoors and enjoy boating, water sports, camping, exploring and all sports. The town has been fortunate to have its own theatre since 1986 and has a strong performing arts community. Originally, the Walkington Theatre, the City opened its new award-winning Red Earth Arts Precinct in 2018. Karratha also has the nation’s biggest regional art award – the Cossack Art Awards where several hundred artists from all over Australia vie for over $100,000 of prize money. This is held in the beautiful old ghost town of Cossack.
Roebourne has a strong Aboriginal Art community and visitors are often able to see Aboriginal women at work and can purchase artworks at both the nearby settlement of Cheeditha and the Roebourne Art Group premises in town.
Being the oldest town in WA north of Geraldton, Roebourne also has a suite of gorgeous old buildings dating from the mid to late 19th century. The old Roebourne Gaol contains a range of artefacts and photographs from the towns early days and shows some of the unfortunate history of black-white relations in the area.
Karratha is the port for a range of industries, including iron ore – which is mined at 15 localities across the Pilbara hinterland; LNG – produced for offshore fields in the Carnarvon basin; salt – produced locally on extensive solar evaporation ponds at Dampier Salt’s facility; ammonia and ammonium nitrate – both of which are produced locally on the Burrup Peninsular. Other exports from the area include natural gas, LPG and agricultural products. Karratha’s total exports are currently around $17 billion, which is just under $700,000 for every man woman and child in the City – the highest per-capita production in Australia.
Karratha is a logistics hub for mines and other industries in the Pilbara and offshore and boasts the second busiest airport in Western Australia. Its population is about 25,000 and it has a significant manufacturing base aligned primarily to the construction and resource industries. It enjoys some superb sporting facilities, is building a new Theatre and Arts precinct and is the major shopping hub for the Pilbara.
The local Chamber of Commerce has over 400 members and is continually growing and even during the downturn, the Pilbara has a requirement for 600 unfilled positions. Karratha has been called “the Powerhouse of the Pilbara” and as the Pilbara will soon be producing 40% of our nations export income, the saying “When Karratha sneezes, the country catches a cold” is understandable.
But it is the amazing countryside, the lifestyle and the immense sense of freedom that people really love. Welcome to Karratha – we hope you enjoy it as much as we do!