Check out the interesting history of the Coomalie region by visiting the Batchelor Museum Development Association web site http://batchelormuseum.org.au/.
The Coomalie Region is part of the greater Darwin Region and the area encompasses the well serviced townships of Batchelor and Adelaide River. The region commences 75km south of Darwin extending either side of the Stuart Highway to the south for 45kms, ending south of the Adelaide River Township. The area is 1650km2 and has an estimated population of 1,112 residents (Census 2011).
The industry base of the Coomalie Region is increasing in its diversity, having moved from a heavy reliance on the pastoral and mining sectors to now include tourism, education and horticulture as major sectors of the local economy. Service industries to these major industry sectors are also developing within the region.
The Coomalie Region is a significant tourist destination with high visitation rates, Batchelor being the gateway to Litchfield National Park and Adelaide River the headquarters during WWII after the bombing of Darwin. The region is steeped in history from early Chinese market gardens, use as a base during the Second World War, and mining.
The original inhabitants of the Coomalie Region were Aborigines of the Kungarakan, Awara and Warai groups. The first European activity in the region was recorded in 1860 when members of George Goyder’s survey expedition undertook extensive surveys in the north of Australia.
The first settlement in the region was at Adelaide River Township in 1870, when a depot was established for telegraph workers constructing the Overland Telegraph Line. The town expanded with the construction of the railway line from Darwin to Pine Creek in 1888, then expanded again when it became a huge military base with the 119 Australian General Hospital and the main American headquarters, Base Section One during World War II. After the bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942, it became the centre of military activity. Today the Adelaide River War Cemetery is the resting place of 54 civilians and 434 service men and women killed in the Top End during WWII, plus 287 service personnel who were lost in Timor and Northern regions, but who have no known grave.
At the heart of the Coomalie region lays the Rum Jungle district, named following a bullock wagon load of rum, destined for construction gangs that was bogged near a patch of jungle on the crocodile infested East Finniss River and the bullockies set about drinking the rum, having a most glorious binge. Thereafter the locals enviously named the areas as Rum Jungle.
In 1912 the present town of Batchelor was named and during the war years the area grew again with the airstrip expansion. The original aerodrome was constructed in 1933 and was upgraded and used extensively in the war years. In 1949 uranium was discovered at the Rum Jungle Mine and the mine continued until 1971 when uranium mining came to an end.
Coomalie has a unique character and identity that is a result of the area’s history from WWII, mining and horticulture.