The townsite of Roebourne is located in the Pilbara region, 1563 kilometres north of Perth and 40 kilometres east of Karratha. The Pilbara region was first explored by F T Gregory in 1861, the area being regarded by Gregory as highly suitable for pastoral settlement. The first settlers arrived in the Roebourne area in 1863, and in 1866 the townsite of Roebourne was gazetted. The name of the townsite honours John Septimus Roe, Western Australia's first Surveyor General.
John Septimus Roe(1797-1878) was a naval officer, surveyor and explorer. He was born on 8 May 1797 in Berkshire, England, becoming a midshipman in the Royal Navy in 1813. In 1817 Roe was posted as a Master's Mate to the surveying service in NSW and took part in numerous coastal surveys. He became a Lieutenant in 1823. In June 1829 he arrived in WA to take up the position of Surveyor General (which he held for the next 40 years). Roe was influential in WA's development. Records of 16 journeys of exploration by Roe exist. He was responsible for inspiring the likes of John and Alexander Forrest and the Gregory brothers. He retired in 1870 and died on 28 May 1878.