Display at the museum in Kalumburu. Picture: Stephen Scourfield

Kalumburu is at the end of a long, hard road north. Travellers turn off the Gibb River Road east of Mt Elizabeth station, brace themselves and drive on up to Drysdale Station. Then on up past the Mitchell Plateau turnoff and here you are, with the continent to the south of you and the ocean north. Here on the cusp between the two.

And here is a gem of a museum that I've never visited before.

The Father Thomas Gil Museum is a mishmash treasure-trove - indigenous history of the Wunambal and Kwini language groups, World War II history, Christian embroideries and carved didgeridoos. Message sticks and sharks' teeth.

A conch shell used to carry fire, with finger-holes that show how the embers were carried.

There's a list of the produce grown in 1913 which includes haricot, lamma and Singapore beans, sorghum, celery and watermelons. During big cattle- producing years, the mission workers put in 600 miles (nearly 1000km) of fencing and 37 yards.

The Order of Saint Benedict established the Kalumburu mission, first at Pago, 20km north-east of Kalumburu, in 1908. Benedictine monks came from New Norcia and set up in tents by a creek. In 1937 they moved to this spot, having water-supply problems at Pago. The mission is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Broome and travellers can visit the Church of the Assumption.

Kalumburu Airfield was an operational airbase from 1942-1944 - three vital years of World War II. The base provided indirect support for the Allied defence of New Guinea in 1942 and the advance along its northern coast during 1943-44. It also provided garrison support for the Allied air forces in north-western Australia.

Some 250 individual bombing, long-range fighter, reconnaissance, photography and patrol sorties were flown from here, and several American bombers had to make emergency landings here.

And still today, just behind the airfield, there is the wreckage of USAAF B-24 Liberators.

Just as there is evidence of this, so too there are the old loaf tins still lined up in the famed Old Bakery that no longer bakes bread.

In 2008, after 77 years at Pago and Kalumburu, the Missionary Benedictine Sisters left the mission, and behind them a simple life dedicated to the service of the church and the local Aboriginal people.

As part of that they began the first school at Kalumburu, established a health clinic and childcare services and ran a public kitchen and the bakery.

There are campground facilities and a store at Kalumburu. As a result of their land claim settlement, traditional owners this year introduced a permit, which visitors should ask about at visitor centres before heading up the Kalumburu Road.

The West Australian

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