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Howard’s colourful life | The West Australian

A lot has changed in the nearly 60 years since Kununurra formally became a township, but the efforts of many community minded residents are still felt in the infrastructure and traditions enjoyed today.

In our fifth instalment of The Kimberley Echo’s Local Legend’s series, we celebrate the life of one of these people, Howard Young, who passed away on November 5, 2019.

Mr Young was born in 1930 and enjoyed a full life in his younger years which included growing up on a dairy farm and competing in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

Howard Young in his twenties.Howard Young in his twenties.
Camera IconHoward Young in his twenties.

In 1964 he and his wife Beryl, with their friend Bill Withers and his family, packed up their children and a couple of chickens into a caravan, a four-wheel-drive, a station wagon, a three-ton truck with a trailer and a Sydney double decker bus and made the long trip to Kununurra.

The two men had planned grow cotton on the then newly-created Ord River Irrigation Scheme.

Mr Young had previously flown to Perth then to Kununurra to scout the opportunity and, despite missing out on a farm land allocation lottery, saw the potential in the region and decided to establish the first shop in town.

Two of the Young’s children, Grant, then 3, and Narelle, six months, don’t remember much of the arduous journey on unsealed roads where food was tight – they even shot galahs for stew near Winton.

Mr Young and Mr Whithers built their shop on Cotton Tree Avenue by hand and sold everything they could stock while still leaving enough time to host mechanical car racing nights in a purpose-built shed.

Howard Young and Bill Whithers built the first shop on Cotton Tree Avenue, Kununurra.Howard Young and Bill Whithers built the first shop on Cotton Tree Avenue, Kununurra.
Camera IconHoward Young and Bill Whithers built the first shop on Cotton Tree Avenue, Kununurra.

The Youngs welcomed two more children in the region, Ken born in Wyndham in 1966 and Jill in Kununurra in 1968.

They then went on to establish an earthmoving business and a local caravan park while still finding time to establish a fleet of school buses, many of which he drove, and a hobby store selling camping and camera supplies.

Narelle, who still lives in Kununurra and teaches sewing classes at Kununurra Neighbourhood House, said she has fond memories of her creative and intelligent father.

“I remember a life of political and intelligent discussions around our table,” she said.

“Dad was a most useful and creative thinker, he had many bright ideas and created many new business opportunities.”

Beryl and Howard Young out the front of their hobby shop in Kununurra.Beryl and Howard Young out the front of their hobby shop in Kununurra.
Camera IconBeryl and Howard Young out the front of their hobby shop in Kununurra.

Mr Young and his sons completed many earthworks including an airstrip for offshore oil rigs at Truscott near Kalumburu and the cofferdam for stage two of the hydro power scheme at Lake Argyle.

But Ms Young said her father would want his legacy to be for ANZAC Hill, where he made his vision of picturesque dawn services on the hill just outside of town a reality.

He and his sons cleared the area to re-locate a small boab tree from the gully below which they nurtured into the grand tree it is now.

In 2003 The Kimberley Echo reported on Mr Young’s foray into novel authorship, describing him as an “often-controversial” man who wrote many letters to the editor, columns and correspondence to the publication.

The article described his first novel Crocodile Coast Crash, which started the series, as a fast moving narrative set in the East Kimberley involving the crash of a jumbo jet on the coast north-east of Wyndham. Mr Young went on to write another three more books.

Clippings of newspaper articles about author Howard Young's Crocodile Coast Crash novel.Clippings of newspaper articles about author Howard Young's Crocodile Coast Crash novel.
Camera IconClippings of newspaper articles about author Howard Young’s Crocodile Coast Crash novel.

Mr Young was also a locomotive and military enthusiast and founded the Truscott Base Tribute Committee after he had visited and explored the history of the abandoned airbase in the North-West Kimberley, an army secret used during World War Two.

Mr Young slowed down in his later years, but never lost the spark that made him who he was which now lives on in his children, grandchildren and the Kununurra community.

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