Broome story 13/12/11
Mon 19 Dec 2011 05:01
While in Broome we swam in the pool, bought a nice dinner, went for a drive and went to a shopping mall – all of which involved staying cool, in 43 deg and 90% humidity. But we did find out a lot. The town started as a centre for pearl diving. Broome thrived due to the world’s demand for nacre (mother of pearl) for cutlery handles and buttons. By the 1880s the local aboriginals had been persuaded to work for the immigrants, collecting pearl shell from 80 mile beach. Over the years, collection had to take place further out to sea, and Japanese, Malay, Filipino and Chinese arrived to work on the luggers for the predominantly Japanese divers. The death toll from bends was high, as the large Japanese cemetery illustrates.
At the start of WW2 the entire Japanese population was interned, and later the Japanese bombed Broome. All this, coupled with the advent of plastics, killed the nacre industry. But postwar, joint Australian/Japanese cultured pearl operations began, and still thrive.
Broome has a prison, a camp school, an aboriginal outreach centre, and many art galleries. Margie from the campsite (delightful and very enthusiastic lady) told us the camp school is for outback aboriginal children who board there, many of whom have never seen the sea before. The picture theatre is in the middle of Chinatown – nice old board and tin buildings, but not your typical Chinatown. By 7pm there was no noise, no red lights, lanterns, street stalls or music, just darkness and shutters. There can’t be many Chinese in this town. All in all the town was quite depressing at night, and we saw no social interaction whatever between aboriginal and white Australians.
On a happier note, Father Christmas came to our campsite. We know he was the real one, you could tell from his big white beard and sunglasses, and the sweat running down his face (it must be hard in 43 deg in that getup, when you come from Lappland). He had his sleigh disguised as a fire dept truck but it didn’t fool us. He gave us 3 pressies which we are saving, and we gave him a Japanese stuffed lizard toy, he was vey pleased.