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Cossack gets a makeover thanks to Aboriginal group

About Allen

Journalist and PR guy who loves living in Perth with its fabulous food and wine and wide open spaces.

The historic Pilbara town of Cossack is destined to become a tourism jewel thanks to Aboriginal foundation Ngarluma Yindjibarndi.

It’s been years since I last visited the historic Pilbara town of Cossack, but I remember it well as a strange abandoned outpost of times gone by.

One of Cossack's stunning 1880s buildings gleams in the late-afternoon light.

One of Cossack's stunning 1880s buildings gleams in the late-afternoon light. Picture: Supplied

The town, which sits at the mouth of the Harding River, on the edge of the Indian Ocean, is about 15km from Roebourne and nearly 1500km north of Perth.

While many of WA’s ghost towns are slowly disappearing into the landscape, Cossack is remarkable for its Heritage-listed, beautifully restored 1880s stone buildings.

I remember it particularly for the extraordinary Aboriginal art that was on display in the old buildings.

Have you been to Cossack? We'd love to see your photos. Please upload them here

I’m looking forward to getting back there even more now that a client of ours, the Roebourne-based Ngarluma Yindjibarndi Foundation (NYFL), is taking on the management and promotion of the town.

In what’s regarded as something of a coup, the Aboriginal foundation - which operates a number of businesses in the Pilbara, including a partnership in the historic Whim Creek Hotel - has won the tender from the City of Karratha.

And NYFL CEO Bruce Jorgensen has big plans to highlight the tourism profile of Cossack with a wide range of plans to expand its tourism operation.

As a European settlement, Cossack was once the most important port in WA’s North-West, playing a major role as the port for Roebourne and surrounds, bringing in supplies for the new region and its budding pastoral industry.

In its heyday, the town hosted thousands of people seeking their fortunes in the Pilbara Gold Rush and was also home to the Australian pearl industry.

But it also has significance to local indigenous groups.

Bruce says Cossack offers a great opportunity to tell the stories of its past and the impact of European settlement on the local people.

“It gives us the scope to tell the stories on our terms, explore and recognise the atrocities of the past, but also prove that reconciliation is way of the future and celebrate that fact,” he said.

Today, Cossack is a living ghost town with its fine National Trust-listed bluestone architecture.

It's also the gateway to the iconic Jarman Island Lighthouse and some of the region's top fishing spots.

Cossack's restored Police Barracks offer budget accommodation from early March to late December.

There is an exhibition in the old courthouse and a café.

We visit Cossack, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia

In July, the town comes alive with the creative energy of the annual Cossack Art Awards, recognised as the richest of their kind in Australia.

A permanent display of artworks that have won the Cossack Art Exhibition Indigenous Section for the past 16 years are held by NYFL and will be put on permanent exhibition at Cossack.

An artist in residence will be established and guided tours of the site will run in tourist season.

NYFL will take on operation of the kiosk and broaden its scope as a retail operation for Cossack-specific souvenirs.

Other initiatives include a bed-and-breakfast offer, “gaol stays” that allow guests to experience a night in a cell and the potential for self-contained caravan/camper overnight stays.

Tourism-related initiatives will include indigenous cultural tours with Clinton Walker and his Ngurrangga Tours, which won a gold medal at this year’s WA Tourism Awards.

Bruce says major art and cultural events that involve the community will be a priority.

A Cossack website will also be created.

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