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Thursday, November 20, 2008
Baz Luhrmann's latest epic film Australia featuring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman was filmed across this vast country including locations in the Kimberley, Northern Territory and Queensland.

Wild and adventurous, Kununurra leads to some of Australia's most remarkable natural attractions. The gateway to the East Kimberley, it has flame-red soil, endless blue skies and rugged bush scenery. From there you can head to Purnululu National Park and the Bungle Bungle Range, Lake Argyle, Mitchell Plateau, Ord River and Argyle Diamond Mine.

Kununurra is a fairly young town sitting on an ancient landscape where early Aboriginal tribes roamed. An irrigation scheme has created a permanent waterway out of a series of waterholes.

To make a film about the "real Australia" it would be difficult to imagine a better location. The Kimberley region covers around 421,000 square hectares and stretches from Broome to Kununurra, so there was more than enough scenery for Baz Luhrmann's creative juices.

Home Valley Station is a 283,000-hectare property about 120km outside of Kununurra. Australia was filmed there in 2007 and it was the location of a great deal of the film's scenes in The Kimberley, particularly the Cockburn Ranges.

The station is owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation and has around 40 staff in peak season. It has an on-site training academy designed for Indigenous men and women from the area. Cattle operations have benefitted from the introduction of new Brahman stock and dedicated breeding paddocks.

The property has a central homestead surrounded by a variety of guest accommodation options. Guests can camp or stay in a luxury cabin overlooking the creek and even be involved in a mini-muster or a spot of barramundi fishing. Use of the property's canoes is included.

There are eight Grass Castles reminiscent of the Kimberley's early pioneering settlers. They have polished timber floors, private verandah, air-conditioning, ceiling fans and large bathrooms.

There are 28 Homestead Guesthouse rooms, and while the new buildings have replaced the original stockman's quarters, designs with similar materials replicate the originals. Corrugated iron walls and cool concrete have been used, and a courtyard has a large pool with plenty of space and shade.

There are four Sand Castle Eco Tents. The extra large semi-permanent safari-style tented cabins are in beautiful bush settings with privacy, new shared bathrooms and close to the homestead facilities and campfire entertainment.

There are also private and general camping sites.

The Dusty Bar & Grill is the epicentre for entertainment. Guests not only mingle with each other but local wildlife. Long cool drinks and hearty à la carte meals are served.

The actual homestead featured in the film was specifically built and was intentionally left to deteriorate.

The Cockburn Range took around 1900 million years to create and feature through the film's Kimberley scenes. The range is an extensive sandstone escarpment shaped like a huge fortress of fiery orange-red cliffs. It rises more than 600m and is cut by rivers that form steep sided gorges.

Pentecost River Crossing, 9km from the station driveway, has been used in the film. Only 20m long, the river can only be crossed in the dry season — during the wet it rises dramatically. Nicole Kidman's character crossed in a World War II-era truck and vintage Chevrolet — these days 4WDs make the crossing. There is a bush camp on the river 4km from the homestead, and it was at that site, looking across the Cockburn Ranges, that Baz Luhrmann made the big decision.

When in Kununurra, pay a visit to Kimberley Fine Diamonds. It was established by outback pioneer and jeweller Frauke Bolten-Boshammer. Rare Argyle pink and other coloured diamonds are on display, and Frauke has the largest collection of them. Nicole and her husband, Keith Urban (and in fact most of the crew), visited the store and made a purchase, but lips were sealed as to what it was.

The Kimberley Grande is the newest accommodation in Kununurra. It has 27 large rooms and was created to replicate the pioneer style of architecture common to the area. It has tropical gardens, a bistro, tavern, fine dining restaurant and large pool.

The Kimberley isn't the only town to be very excited about seeing itself on the big screen. Bowen in Queensland's Whitsundays is sharing the excitement. It has stunning untouched beaches, beautiful bays and a comfortable tropical climate. Horseshoe Bay is possibly the prettiest spot in Bowen and many of the Australia crew spent peaceful time there.

It is said that Merle Jochheim was responsible for Baz Luhrmann choosing Bowen as the location. He walked into the pie shop and Mrs Jochheim, who had no idea who she was dealing with, gave him the full tourist treatment. She gave a running commentary of photographs dating back to the early 1900s. He was impressed and it wasn't until much later that Mrs Jochheim was told who she had encountered. The town's wide streets and heritage buildings are most charming, and possibly played a part in the filmmaker's decision.

The now-famous little pie shop created Hunky Jackman pies, Baz baguettes and Nicole petit biscuits.

Bowen was transformed into 1940s wartime Darwin for some of the film's big action scenes.

Locals are happy to tell you all about the experience that brought the town to life. The main street was the set of a big droving scene.

Bowen's 1940s Summergarden Theatre became the cutting room for the film. Rushes were shown there every few days and decisions were made for changes, omissions and re-shooting — all in deep secret.

If you want to check out the movie locations and where they all slept and ate and worked, Bob Heywood has air-conditioned limousine tours around town. He drives a 7m-long Ford Fairlane stretch limousine and will tailor a trip for his clients' needs. He was actually recruited as an extra and went on tour to Darwin, playing four roles, so has lots of stories to tell.

Australia will premiere across the world on November 26, 2008.


Kununurra in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and Bowen in the Whitsundays.


Home Valley Station Grass Castles are $420 a night. Full Australian breakfast is included. Homestead Guesthouse rooms are $230 a night. Sand Castle Eco Safari Tents are $190 a night. Camping starts at $15 per person for an unpowered site. Two-hour Mini mustering experience is $220 per person. Horseriding ability assessment and refreshments are included. Mustering runs between April 1 to October 31, but the station is open year-round.

Bowen stretch limos provide one-hour tours for a maximum of six people for $150.

Prices correct at November 20, 2008.

For further information

Home Valley Station
Via the Gibb River Rd
East Kimberley 6743
Ph: (08) 9161 4322
Fax: (08) 9161 4288

Kimberley Fine Diamonds
93 Konkerberry Drive
Kununurra 6743
Ph: (08) 9169 1133
Fax: (08) 9168 1188

The Kimberley Grande
20 Victoria Highway
Kununurra 6743
Ph: (08) 9166 5600
Fax: (08) 9169 1172

Bowen Stretch Limos
Ph: 0407 595 032

Jochheim's Pies
49 George Street
Bowen 4805
Ph: (07) 4786 1227
Fax: (07) 4786 1227
Bowen Summergarden Cinemas
40 Murroona Street
Bowen 4805
Ph: (07) 4785 1241
Fax: (07) 4785 1770

Bowen Stretch Limos
Ph: 0407 595 032

Check out our celebrity Getaway blog or our photo gallery for more Getaway adventure pics.

User comments
If research was done correct you would of also seen that on the other side of the cockburn ranges is a local family station "Diggers Rest Station" who held host to Baz & film crew for 2 months real outback style while they were filming on the Wyndham side of the cockburn ranges. Diggers Rest is also mentioned on the destinations for the Australia Movie, so why did Getway not include it? Dam shame and great disapointment. Kununurra had only minor shots in the film and the rest was from the Wyndham vicinity and the cockburn ranges but not a single mention! Diggers Rest also has authographs from Hugh, David & Nicole on the station homestaed wall. Would of been a great tourism boost should it have been mentioned. I was lucky enough to meet Hugh, David Gulpil, Brandon & Crew and experience lots of excitement. Was a great experience and proud to have them on my home soil Wyndham East Kimberley.

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