By Nicky Way
According to the local Aboriginal language, the word "Karratha" means soft earth or good country. With 23 per cent of Western Australia's gross profits coming out of the town, it seems the description is spot on.
According to the Shire of Roebourne’s website, Karratha is the powerhouse of the Pilbara. With a population of 14,000, it's located 850km from Broome in the north and 1500km from Perth in the south.
Karratha has rapidly expanded since it popped up in the 1960s and it now embraces the communities of Bulgarra, Pegs Creek, Millars Well, Nickol, Nickol West, Baynton, Baynton West and Tambrey. In the shire you’ll also find Dampier, Wickham, Roebourne, Point Samson and Cossack, raising the total population to just under 20,000 (ABS).
"Work" here often means mining – and in particular Rio Tinto’s Iron Ore projects located in nearby Hope Downs, Mt Tom Price and Greater Paraburdoo. Other Rio Tinto operations include Dampier Port and Cape Lambert Port and salt mines at Dampier, Lake MacLeod and Port Hedland. Woodside's major operations include the North West Shelf Project and Pluto LNG. Not to be forgotten is Citic Pacific Mining’s magnetite iron ore development at Cape Preston, about 100km from Karratha.
Karratha also supports a variety of industries including construction, transport, tourism, agriculture, fishing and ammonia exports.
Karratha has five primary schools: Karratha, Millar’s Well, Tambrey, Peg’s Creek, St Paul’s and Baynton West. For high school you have a choice of Karratha Public or St Luke’s High. Further education’s covered at Karratha TAFE for tech and trades courses. Karratha Occasional Care provides paid child care services. There are plenty of playgroups though at the Baptist Church, Karratha Family Centre and Karratha community house.
A range of medical services includes health centres, GP clinics, physiotherapists, mental health, drug services, speech pathology and chiropractic services, to name but a few. Karratha and Roebourne both have a public hospital, but the nearest private facilities are in and around Perth. Like other remote WA communities the town is also serviced by the Flying Doctor.
The biggest retail centre in the Pilbarra is Centro Karratha. There you’ll find food and grocery retailers and department store chains including Coles, Target, Telstra, Just Jeans and Jeans West. You’ll also find a smaller group of shops and some health services at the Karratha Village.
There are plenty of leisure centres too. Karratha and Roebourne have an aquatic centre, plus there's an entertainment centre, golf course, bowls club and concert amphitheatre. With all these leisure facilities there are plenty of venues for Karratha’s events and activities. Karratha’s FeNaClNG Festival, taking place in the first weekend of August, is such a big to do that a public holiday has been declared for it! The festival showcases agriculture, craft, sideshows and many sporting events.
Karratha childcare includes YMCA Tambrey Early Learning Centre. You can even get a civilised cuppa at Jamaica Blue and Muffin Break. There are two pharmacies, two surf shops, beauticians, hairdressers, a hospital, two dentists and two doctor's surgeries. For the takeaway enthusiast there is McDonalds, KFC and Chicken Treat. Millstream National Park, Dampier, Cossack, Samsons Point and many beautiful beaches provide day and weekend trips away. The offshore islands are close, making fishing a popular pastime."
- Susanne, Karratha
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