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Broome Walking Tours

Episode: 1
Broadcast: 23rd October 2015
Presenter: Eamon Sullivan

Broome may be small, but it has some big history. It’s well known for its pearling industry, its involvement in World War 2 and its multicultural heritage.  History is all around you here in Broome and what better way to find out more, than a walking tour!

  • Doug Fong, local historian and former teacher is the guide of the Broome Walking Tours that operates throughout the dry season from April to October. The tour starts at the Broome Visitors Centre and leads to Sheba Lane, an area with many former Chinese gambling dens and the old jail all the way to Sun Pictures - the world's oldest outdoor picture theatre.
  • Along with the history of this fascinating town, Doug also shares his own story. His family has lived in Broome for generations and during that time they have seen the town go through war, internment, boom and bust.
  • Doug’s grandfather arrived in 1918 and was set up as a pearl dealer in 1919 and because he was Australian born he was exempt from the infamous dictation test. The only place in Australia where the White Australia did not apply was Broome because they needed the Asians to work in the pearling industry as no one else would work in those sort of conditions.
  • The first divers were aboriginal women who had been black bearded by pearling lugger owners and forced to free dive for pearl shells in relatively shallow water and in later years they used Asian divers, particularly Japanese who were excellent at their job.
  • The diver would be in that suit from sunrise to sunset. It is made out of heavy canvas; the helmet, collar and boots weigh about 15 to 20 kilos.
  • The dark history of the pearling industry has left its mark on Broome. Throughout the town there are memorials for those lost during that time.  A striking tribute is the statue that commemorates the Aboriginal women who were integral to developing the Kimberley region's pearling industry.

Broome Visitor Centre: Contact – 08 9195 2200
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