Derby developed slowly as a small town serving local tenacious pastoralists who settled in the area despite the isolation and harsh conditions.

In 1880, sheep stations were built nearby at Yeeda and a landing port was built. The massive 11 metre (36 feet) tides, rips and scattered islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago made a port necessary for the development of the West Kimberley outback.

In 1885, a jetty was constructed to service the growing pastoral areas and the thousands that flocked to Western Australia for the gold rush. Trouble broke out between the European settlers and local aborigines and violence and hostility racked the town’s development.

Derby was the western “base” in the 1960s and 1970s as the Gibb River Road was built for the station owners in the outback to carry their beef from the remote outback stations to abattoirs at either Derby or Broome in the West Kimberley, or to Wyndham in the East Kimberley.

1688William Dampier, who helped to careen the “Cygnet” north of One Arm Point, became one of the first Europeans to see the Kimberley region.
1818Captain PP King, towards the end of his extensive survey of the northern Australian coast, gave the name Cygnet Bay to the waters that would later be known as King Sound.
1838Lieutenent Stokes named King Sound and reassigned the name Cygnet Bay to the area we know today. Stokes also named Point Torment (because of the mosquitoes) and the Fitzroy River (to honour a former shipmate, Captain R. Fitzroy). Stokes’ colleague, Lieutenant George Grey, examined land to the north-east, naming the Glenelg River.
1869Pastoralists attempted, without success, to colonise areas adjacent to the present Shire of Derby/West Kimberley. They occupied land at Camden Harbour and south of Roebuck Bay.
1879Alexander Forrest undertook land-based exploration. His favourable report led to pastoralists entering the region and eventually settling at Yeeda Station.
1881The revenue cutter “Ruby” under Captain Walcott sailed into the Meda and Fitzroy Rivers, delivering goods for the Yeeda station settlers.
1883Derby officially named a townsite (and unlike Broome which remained vacant) was occupied by a Government Resident and a police detachment. Several stations existed by this time and Yeeda’s wool, awaiting shipment, was swept away by a tidal wave resulting from the Krakatoa volcanic explosion in Indonesia. Geologist EJ Hardman described Devil’s Pass now known as Windjana Gorge.
1884First lot sold in Derby. A start was made on a jetty and tramway. Road Board elected.
1885Wooden 102 foot jetty built at Derby costing 3000 pounds. Floods caused heavy losses in flocks for some settlers. The Kimberley’s first wedding was held at Derby. Splendid pearl shell was found in King Sound. Measles took a heavy toll on both Aboriginal and white residents. Fencing commenced on stations and the Kimberley’s first hotel opened in Derby.
1886Halls Creek gold rush occurred. Lee Sing established the Kimberley’s first market garden at Goody-goody, about six miles from Derby. Town residents established a cricket club, and camels were introduced as beasts of burden.
1887Derby’s first newspaper, Telegraph station and Courthouse built.
1889Telegraph link to Perth established.
1892Post office officially opened in Fitzroy Crossing as a telegraph office on September 1.
1894Police camp was established at Fitzroy Crossing by Constable RH Pilmer in July.
1895Fitzroy Crossing post office moved to higher ground in February of 1895.
1897Crossing Inn. The “official” beginning occurred on the issuing of approval “for a wayside house licence for premises erected at Fitzroy Crossing” on July 5, 1897.
1897Fitzroy Crossing police station, quarters & lockup were opened.
1897The hunt for renegade tracker Jandamarra (Pigeon) and his gang. The final extension of the 4km long Horse-drawn tramway down the main street to jetty.
1904First School developed in Hardman Street.
1910SS Colac ran aground south of Derby.
1911Myall’s artesian bore drilled (322 metres) Pop. 228.
1915A manual telephone exchange opened in Derby.
1921Australia’s First Air Mail service arrived at Derby in a Western Australia Airways Bristol Tourer piloted by Major Norman Brearley and Charles Kingsford Smith.
1922Australia’s first scheduled air service commenced between Geraldton and Derby.
1934The Australian Aerial Medical Service (later Royal Flying Doctor Service in 1955) began operation in the Kimberley.
1935Bridge at Fitzroy Crossing was constructed over Fitzroy River. Was a low level concrete structure.
1936Leprosarium opened with 90 patients.
1939Australian Inland Mission Hospital opened at Fitzroy Crossing. Handed over to Health Dept by the Uniting Church in November, 1980.
1942Air raid by Japanese Bombers over Derby.
1949Air Beef Scheme begun at Glenroy Station.
1950Rice growing project began at Camballin.
1951Iron ore mining commenced at Cockatoo Island. Derby meatworks commenced operation.
1952Native Affairs Department handed over what was originally a ration depot to the United Aborigines mission for the establishment of United Aborigines Mission Base at Fitzroy Crossing.
1953First school opened at Fitzroy Crossing.
1955Royal Flying Doctor Service base opened in Derby.
1956Mowanjum Aboriginal Community established.
1957New Derby High School built. People came to settle at Mowanjum.
1958Oil found at Meda.
1958A wider bridge over Fitzroy River at Fitzroy Crossing built on top of original low level bridge.
1959Radio-Telephone service to Perth.
1959Swimming Pool opened.
1960Derby’s Boab Festival began as the brain child of Arthur Nicholls, publican of the Club Hotel (now The Spinifex Hotel). The headmaster Frank Harding was the first President.
1964New concrete and steel jetty completed at a cost of 1,000,000 pounds. Shire offices and civic centre built for 60,000 pounds. Rusty’s Supermarket opened. Population 2670 in town.
1965Civic Centre and Boab Inn were built.
1968Willare Bridge across the Fitzroy River completed.
1969Numbala Nunga Nursing Home opened.
1973The last State passenger ship arrived in March.
1974New bridge at Fitzroy Crossing.
1976Fitzroy Crossing Hospital’s present site opened.
1978New police station and court complex opened at Fitzroy Crossing.
1983Automatic telephone services began in Derby and Fitzroy Crossing. King Sound Hotel opened. Port of Derby closed.
1985New post office officially opened at Fitzroy Crossing February 1, 1985.
1986Fitzroy Crossing Recreation Centre opens. Satellite television service commenced.
1988RAAF Base opened by Prime Minister Bob Hawke – named after John Curtin, Prime Minister 1941-45.
1989Civil Terminal and facilities opened at Curtin Airport. Relocated to Derby August 1995.
1991STAGE 3 of Derby Regional Hospital Redevelopment opened.
1992Iron ore mining ceased on Koolan Island.
1997Derby Wharf re-opened as an export facility.
1999Derbys First organised Protest in favour of “Tidal Power”.
2001Centenary Pavilion at the jetty and Derby Pastoral Trail opened.
2002Kimberley Diamonds opened up the Ellendale Diamond Field east of Derby.
2003First school building (1904) destroyed by fire.
2005Derby Youth Centre constructed on site of First School
2007Mining recommenced on Koolan Island. Re-commencement of Direct Air Service between Derby and Perth. Stage 4 of the Derby Regional Hospital Redevelopment completed.
2008Pillara mine closed.
2010Curtin Detention Centre Re-opened.
2011Derby’s New Visitor Centre opened on the 6th December by Wendy Duncan MLC
2012Derby Regional Prison opened
2014Curtin Detention Centre Closed. 
2015Virgin Australia flights Derby to Perth ceased. Kimberley Diamonds Ellendale mine closed.
2016Kimberley Meat Company opened its abattoir at Nilibubulica
2017Sections of the old Numbala Nguna Nursing Home were burnt down. the Royal Flying Doctor Base in Derby closed
2019Mining resumes on Koolan Island

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