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Published on May 8th, 2009 | by john.weir

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Kimberley gets a boost from Baz Luhrmann

 
While Baz Luhrmann’s epic Australia might have received a mixed reception from critics, the film is already proving a hit in boosting tourism to the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Operators are reporting bookings to locations featured in the film are up by as much as 40% as the DVD goes on sale.
 
Tourism Western Australia launched an AUD$2.2 million marketing campaign to promote the Kimberley’s starring role in the film last November and tourism organisations are already starting to see increased interest in the locations.
 Tour operator Australian Pacific Touring has seen bookings for its Kimberley Wilderness Adventures tours increase by 42% between January and April 2009 compared to the same period last year. The company has had to add another six departure dates for its 13 day Kimberley Complete tour in August and September to cope with the increased demand.
 
Kununurra visitor centre, close to many of the key film locations, has also seen the number of unique visitors to its website go up by as much as 50% in the first three months of 2009, mainly from the UK and US.   Nicole Kidman’s claim to have fallen pregnant while filming in Kununurra thanks to the region’s ‘fertility waters’ has helped fuel international interest. Visitors to the website jumped from approximately 3,000 to 4,000 unique visitors a month to 12,000 when the story broke in September, with many people wanting to know where Nicole swam.

Home Valley Station – a long standing cattle station and a new tourism venture 110 kilometres from Kununurra – is the site of Luhrmann’s original inspiration as well as the beautiful backdrop to many pivotal scenes in the film. Approximately 70% of their reservations this year have heard of the property due to its association with the film.
 
To capitalise on this increased interest, Aboriginal organisation MG Corp is hoping to re-build the film set of the Faraway Downs homestead – the fictional home of Nicole Kidman’s character, Lady Sarah Ashley – as a tourist attraction close to Kununurra. The group is currently working with a consultant to secure the funding needed for the project, estimated at approximately AUD$1.5 million.                 
 
Following in the footsteps of the stars
Australia tells the story of an English aristocrat, Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman), and a rough-hewn cattle drover (Hugh Jackman) who drive 1,500 head of cattle across Northern Australia.
 
The key Kimberley film locations include the Cockburn Range, El Questro Wilderness Park, Purnululu National Park, Digger’s Rest Station, Home Valley Station, the King George River and Falls and Carlton Hill Station – the location chosen as the home for Faraway Downs Homestead.
 
Visitors to Home Valley Station can traverse what’s fondly known as Jackman’s Jump-Up on the Gibb River Road, and cross the Pentecost River at a place locals now like to call Kidman’s Krossing. Guided horse rides showcase the kind of terrain made romantic by the film; red, dusty pastoral country intersected with lush rivers. Guests can also take part in Australia the movie tours visiting locations such as Nyali lagoon, Bindoola Falls and Home Valley’s private lookout out to the Cockburn, nicknamed Luhrmann’s Lookout where you can sip champagne as the ranges turn pink, blue and purple.
 
The film’s dramatic cattle scenes were shot further along the Gibb River Road on the vast pastoral country of El Questro Station, the million acre property renowned for its numerous gorges, waterfalls, thermal springs and luxury homestead accommodation.
 
During filming the small outback town of Kununurra, which means ‘big water’ in the local Aboriginal language and is the gateway to the east Kimberley, was the base for many of the 400 cast and crew who had an adventure of their own each day, travelling by four wheel drive through red earth country and boab tree forests to reach the Faraway Downs set at Carlton Hill Station, about a 50 minute drive out of town.
 
After filming, stars took time out to explore the region taking scenic flights over the amazing domed rock formations of the Bungle Bungle Range in the World Heritage listed Purnululu National Park, cruising along the Ord River to Lake Argyle which is around 20 times larger than Sydney Harbour and home to amazing bird and animal life, cooling off under waterfalls and sharing stories with the local characters of the region.

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