The town of Derby is located on the tidal mud flats on the edge of the King Sound. It has the highest tidal range of any port in Australia. The boab tree is a major feature of Derby. It has been used as a street tree and many of the larger growing natural specimens have been preserved. The famous Boab Prison Tree is located 7 kilometres from the town.
The town has a population of some 4,500 people. Half of the population are Aboriginal Australians who speak three different Aboriginal languages. A high proportion of the population are employed in State and Commonwealth Departments or instrumentalities such as Main Roads WA, Health Services, & Water Authority, and in providing services to outlying Aboriginal communities. The remainder are small business people employed in servicing the mining, pastoral and tourism industries.
Derby has two main seasons – the dry and the wet. The ‘dry’ is where the sun shines everyday and there is no humidity. The ‘wet’ offers magnificent thunderstorms and high humidity. Average temperature range: January (max 33°C – min 26°C) and July (max 29°C – min 14°C).
As a service town Derby offers all the amenities. It has recreation facilities including a swimming pool, library, art gallery, ovals and courts for football, cricket, tennis, squash, netball, basketball, rodeo and horse riding. A good selection of shopping is available with two chain stores, clothing and furniture shops, newsagency, chemist and hotels and eateries. There are two primary schools, a high school, tele-centre and preschool facilities. Health services are provided by the hospital and there are extended care facilities for the aged and infirm.
The Derby Leprosarium on the outskirts of the town was one of two in Western Australia that helped to contain an epidemic of the disease from the 1930s to the 1960s. A display at Wharfinger’s House Museum shows some of the artwork completed by the patients from the Leprosarium. Although Hansen’s Disease still occurs throughout the Kimberley it is now controlled by drugs. The Leprosarium closed in 1989 and is now used by the Aboriginal people as a training resource.
Derby is the main base for the Royal Flying Doctor Service in the Kimberley. The base was established in Derby in 1955 and is open at selected times for visits. Communications have always been important for such an isolated town. Derby was famous in the 1920s as the terminus of the first scheduled aviation service in Australia. West Australian Airways Ltd, run by Norman Brearley, began this service with a first flight on December 5th, 1921. At one time the Perth to Derby service was the world’s longest passenger airline route. Wharfinger’s House Museum tells the story of the aviation history of the town as well as the history of the port.
Health Services in Derby include:
- Derby Hospital
- Community Health Clinic Services
- Allied Health (located at Derby Hospital)
- Mental Health Services
The above are just some of the aspects of Derby that have influenced how Derby is today. It is a fascinating place for those who take the time to enjoy its friendly atmosphere, tranquil pace and unique lifestyle.
For more information on Derby, check out these sites;
Boab Health Services wishes to thank the Derby Tourist Bureau for supplying the above information.