Mission to find lost road to Kunmunya

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Mike & Susan Cusack, Wilderness Couple 1987

Mike Cusack, Ranger with Parks Victoria, has been leading Aurora Expeditions’ Kimberley Coast cruises since our inaugural 1998 season. Mike’s love and regard for the Kimberley was set in red dirt and sandstone in 1987, when he and his wife Susan were selected from over 500 couples to spend a year, unaided, in the Kimberley wilderness. ‘A Year in the Wilderness’ was an ambitious project sponsored by Dick Smith, then publisher of Australian Geographic Magazine.

The Cusack campsite, chosen for its remoteness and access to year-round water, was located near an old Presbyterian Aboriginal mission that had operated from 1912 to around 1950. In 1916 the mission was relocated from its original location ten kilometres to the north, on the far eastern edge of Port George IV, to the site named Kunmunya.

Mike Cusack Kunmunya MissionMissionary and welfare work in the Australian outback grew from a colonial ideology steeped in the misguided belief that indigenous races would and should succumb to white superiority. During Mike and Susan’s year in the wilderness, they had the privilege of meeting a Worora woman who, as a small girl in 1912, witnessed the arrival of the first Presbyterian missionaries.

The 1916 relocation of the Kunmunya Mission offered the benefit of more reliable water and better soil for agriculture; it was also positioned deeper into Worora country. Supplies were brought in from Broome and a ‘Three Mile Road’ road was constructed through the hills and across creeks to allow donkey carts to transport building materials, and enable regular incoming supplies. The road linked the landing at Nhorgor Inet along the coastline with the Kunmunya site in the south-east.

The Kunmunya mission was abandoned in 1950 and by late 1951 all persons and buildings, including the church, had been relocated to a new mission site.

While the Kimberley’s wilderness has fully reclaimed the access route and mission clearings, Mike and Susan found compelling evidence of The Three Mile Road in 1987. Their regular forays led them to discover a flagstone creek crossing, the remains of cattle yards, and an Aboriginal cemetery previously thought lost.

Mike Cusack guiding in the KimberleyNow, one century after the establishment of the Kunmunya Missionary, and on the heels of additional supporting evidence sourced from topographic maps and aerial photographs, Mike will lead a walk that attempts to retrace the Three Mile Road. The Wilderness Walk will be a key highlight of our forthcoming Kimberley voyages, including a stop at Mike and Susan’s old campsite. By attempting to follow the Three Mile Road, Kimberley visitors will enjoy a remarkable opportunity to be immersed in a remote and powerful landscape, and to pay tribute to pioneers through a firsthand appreciation of the work, deprivation and resourcefulness required to survive this wild environment.

To help discover the Three Mile Road with Mike Cusack, join one of our three Kimberley Coast expeditions in 2014. Voyages departure between June and July and travel along the Kimberley coastline between Broome and Darwin (and vice versa). All voyages include all daily landings and excursions, accommodation, meals, and guiding services.

BOOKING DEAL Passengers are encouraged to book before 31 March 2014 to receive a free ‘Broome Experience’ package valued at over $500, including one night at Cable Beach Club Resort & Spa with full buffet breakfast, a three course meal and an iconic sunset camel ride along Cable Beach. New bookings only. Other terms and conditions apply. Contact us for more details.