TRaCK: Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge

Science and knowledge that governments, communities, industries for sustainable use of Australia's tropical rivers and estuaries

TRaCK's focus research catchments

TRaCK's focus research catchments

Research catchments

The TRaCK program encompasses the region between the tip of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland and Broome in Western Australia. The region comprises 55 catchments as defined by Geoscience Australia.

While studying the whole region in detail would be ideal, it is not feasible. TRaCK consulted communities and interest groups in the north to decide upon a set of relevant focus catchments. These four catchments are the Fitzroy in Western Australia, the Daly in the Northern Territory, and the Mitchell and Flinders catchments in Queensland. The majority of our field-based research is occurring in these catchments. We also have a number of projects operating across the entire northern Australia, tropical rivers area.

Please navigate to individual catchment pages to find out more.



TRaCK research relates to an area that stretches from Broome in Western Australia to Cape York in Queensland.
This is approximately 1.2 million square kilometres in extent. The region is characterised by highly seasonal rainfall patterns which result in rivers with highly seasonal flows.

Socio-economic profile: tropical rivers of north Australia

Although the tropical rivers (TR) region represents around a quarter of the Australian land mass, it contains just 2% of the population. The region is characterised by disperse human settlement, with the only significant populations (more than 10,000 people) located in and around Darwin in the NT, Broome in WA, and Mount Isa in Qld. The Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA) indicates that large tracts of the TR region fall within the "very remote" category. This means people must travel further than most, to access a full range of goods and services.

The percentage of people speaking a language other than English at home is relatively high in the TR region. The percentage of the population speaking non-Indigenous languages at home is proportionally smaller (up to 15% per catchment) than populations speaking Indigenous languages at home (up to 80% per catchment).

About 42% of all homes in TR region have an internet connection, while 65% of all homes have a motor vehicle. Catchments closer to urban regions tend to have higher rates of internet connection and registered motor vehicles than more remote catchments. More remote locations also score lower in levels of education.

Combined government-provided services such as health, education, defence and public services were identified as the largest employer in the region (average 25% of persons over 15 years of age), the second largest was agriculture and forestry (average of 11.5%), followed by mining, retail and construction (each employing around 4%).

Median weekly income per person varied greatly between catchments from around $150 per person per week in the Blyth and Koolatong catchments, to around $700 per person per in mining-dominated catchments like the Leichhardt and Embley. The majority of the labour force in the catchments across the TR region was concentrated in the Darwin region and the few other catchments with larger settlements. Lack of a local labour force may therefore be a limiting factor for potential developments in the future.

Basic infrastructure in the north is also limited. Transport infrastructure is limited to a weak network of all-weather sealed roads and airports, and very few ports. Services are also limited to a few larger rural centres. For example, one third of 54 northern catchments profiled did not have any educational facilities.

Most land use falls within the categories of "land under conservation","traditional Indigenous use" and "land under production from a relatively natural environment" (such as grazing of natural vegetation). Other land uses, such as land under dryland agriculture, irrigated land and land under intensive uses, are minimal across the region. Great differences in land use do exist between the catchments.