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Kempsey, New South Wales facts for kids

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New South Wales
Kempsey Hotel, Kempsey, NSW..jpg
Kempsey Town Centre
Kempsey is located in New South Wales
Location in New South Wales
Population 15,309 (2018)
Established 1836
Postcode(s) 2440
Elevation 2.3 m (8 ft)
LGA(s) Kempsey Shire
Region Mid North Coast
State electorate(s) Oxley
Federal Division(s) Cowper
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
25.1 °C
77 °F
11.7 °C
53 °F
1,220.5 mm
48.1 in

Kempsey is a town in the Mid North Coast region of New South Wales, Australia and is the council seat for Kempsey Shire. It is located roughly 16.5 kilometres inland from the coast of the Pacific Ocean, on the Macleay Valley Way near where the Pacific Highway and the North Coast railway line cross the Macleay River. It is roughly 430 kilometres north of Sydney. As of June 2018 Kempsey had a population of 15,309 (2018).

Kempsey history

European settlement

Enoch William Rudder is credited with founding the settlement. He arrived from Birmingham in 1834 and bought land on the southern bank of the river in 1836, at what was then the limit of authorized settlement (the boundary of County Macquarie). He was initially attracted by red cedar cutting opportunities but planned also to profit by selling parts of his land. He had riverside blocks surveyed and established a private town, with the first blocks sold in November 1836. He called it Kempsey because the surrounding areas reminded him of the Kempsey Valley in Worcestershire. The collapse in red cedar prices in the early 1840s nearly led to the failure of the town.

The main (and most flood-prone) part of Kempsey was founded by John Verge, sub-dividing a grant on the flood-plain opposite Rudder's settlement. In 1854, a government town was surveyed at West Kempsey and government facilities moved there when it became clear that no town would form around the police station and courthouse at Belgrave Falls. Rudder's settlement was renamed East Kempsey.

Kempsey initially flourished as a centre for logging and sawmilling. Large reserves of Australian red cedar Toona australis, sold in Britain and the USA (as 'Indian mahogany') were extracted down until the 1920s, and with greater difficulty until the 1960s, by which time the resource was effectively exhausted. Dairying was the major industry in the area until the 1960s, with a Nestlé Milo factory at nearby Smithtown, and several cheese and butter factories.


Climate data for Kempsey (Kempsey Wide Street, 1882–2013)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 43.0
Average high °C (°F) 29.2
Average low °C (°F) 17.7
Record low °C (°F) 8.3
Rainfall mm (inches) 133.1
Humidity 60 62 62 60 58 56 53 49 53 55 59 59 57
Avg. precipitation days 11.0 11.6 12.8 10.1 8.8 7.7 6.7 6.5 6.7 8.7 9.8 10.8 111.2
Source: Bureau of Meteorology


Geographically, Kempsey stretches out around a long loop of the Macleay River at the top of the flood-plain. It is famous for its floods. The 1949 flood was particularly destructive, having washed a large part of the town centre away when the railway viaduct which was acting as a dam-wall due to a build-up of debris against the railway bridge gave way. The area most affected by this flood is now the site of playing fields. The shire council has a policy of buying up land in areas designated as flood plains and many houses have been transported to higher ground in recent years. Other major floods occurred in 1949, 1950, 1963, 2001, 2009, 2013.


Government buildings such as the council chambers, library and several offices - are located west of the North Coast Railway line in West Kempsey. This area is not subject to the flooding that the CBD occasionally sees and is seen as a second business district with a variety of businesses and banking facilities. Opened in July 2004, the Mid North Coast Correctional Centre, a minimum to medium prison for 500 male and female inmates, is located in Aldavilla, approximately 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) west of Kempsey. There is plans to add extra housing for more inmates by 2020.


Until a new 14.5 kilometre bypass opened on 27 March 2013, the Pacific Highway passed through Kempsey. The former alignment is now known as the Macleay Valley Way. The new bypass included a 3.2 kilometre Macleay River Bridge, the longest bridge in Australia.

Kempsey railway station is located on the North Coast line providing a connection to Sydney and Brisbane.


Kempsey has a history of economic problems and disadvantage. Of the 10,374 residents in the area 1,573 worked full-time and 1,105 worked part-time. The area has an unemployment rate significantly higher than the national average. A plurality (35.1) of children live in families in which no member works. The median weekly household income is $691, nearly half the national average.

Despite a period of economic stagnation in past decades compared to nearby coastal centres of growth, Kempsey has a growing local economy based on tourism, farming and service industries. As a local centre it has many shops and services including three major supermarkets and fast food chain stores such as Subway, McDonald's and KFC.

In 2014, the Australian Bureau of Statistics ranked Kempsey as one of the poorest Local Government areas in New South Wales.

A Coles supermarket development (known as the "Kempsey Central Shopping Centre") has been built and is situated where the Tattersalls Hotel and various small businesses were in Little Belgrave Street. This shopping centre opened on 6 December 2008. Target Country closed their department store on 9 June 2018 - this ends a 33 year connection to the Macleay Valley (Fosseys was formerly in town before being rebranded as Target Country).

Growing industries include wineries and nut production. Kempsey is a service center for the nearby coastal resorts of South West Rocks, Arakoon, Hat Head, and Crescent Head, which are popular places for retirees and holiday-makers alike.


According to the 2016 Australian Census the median age in the Kempsey area is 42. 16.7% of residents are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, with the median age of that group being 23. 84.2% of people were born in Australia. compared with the national average of 66.7%. The next most common country of birth was England at 1.6%. 72.8% reported having both parents born in Australia; this is significantly higher than the national average of 47.3%. 84.9% of Kempsey residents spoke only English at home.

The most common responses for religion were Catholic 23.5%, No Religion 23.1% and Anglican 20.8%.


The most popular sport in Kempsey is Rugby league. The town has produced many NRL stars including Amos Roberts, Aiden Tolman, Albert Kelly, James Roberts and former Australian centre and Indigenous All Stars captain Greg Inglis, the latter 3 of whom are cousins. A local team, the Macleay Valley Mustangs, play in the Group 3 Rugby League competition, with their home ground being Verge St Oval. Kempsey have a junior team in the Group 2 Rugby League competition, the Kempsey Dragons.

Kempsey Rugby League teams:

  • North Queensland colours.svg Macleay Valley Mustangs

Kempsey used to have an Australian rules team called the Macleay Valley Eagles, who folded in 2016.


Primary schools

  • Kempsey East Public School
  • Kempsey South Public School
  • Kempsey West Public School
  • Kempsey Adventist School
  • Green Hill Public School
  • St Joseph's Primary School

High schools

  • Kempsey High School in West Kempsey largely servicing students living north of the Macleay.
  • Melville High School in South Kempsey servicing students living south of the river and in the beachside communities.
  • St Paul's College
  • Kempsey Adventist School in South Kempsey servicing students all around the Macleay.
  • Macleay Vocational College
  • Mid North Coast Correctional Centre provides education equivalent to high school level as a means of rehabilitation and reintegration

Notable people

  • Richard James Allen, Australian poet, dancer, filmmaker
  • Jolene Anderson, actress and It Takes Two Series 2 winner
  • Joseph Donovan, Olympic boxer
  • Slim Dusty (David Gordon Kirkpatrick), singer
  • Charles Louis Gabriel, Medical practitioner
  • Silas Gill, Methodist preacher
  • Terry Giddy, Australian Paralympic athlete
  • David Griffin, Paralympic swimmer & gold medallist
  • Greg Inglis, professional rugby league player
  • Albert Kelly, professional rugby league player
  • Thomas Keneally, novelist
  • Robin Klein, Australian author
  • Henry Tasman Lovell, Psychologist and educator
  • Amos Morris, singer
  • Andy Patmore, professional rugby league player.
  • Penelope Plummer, Miss World 1968
  • Dennis Richardson, Officer of the Order of Australia, former Director-General of Security of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and former Australian ambassador to the United States
  • Amos Roberts, former professional rugby league footballer
  • James Roberts, professional rugby league player.
  • Joe Robinson, guitarist and winner of Australia's Got Talent, Season 2
  • Dave Sands, Indigenous Australian boxer
  • Hector Thompson, boxer of the 1970s and 1980s
  • Aiden Tolman, professional rugby league player.
  • Jack Verge, Australian rugby union player
  • Amy Winters, Paralympic gold medallist
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