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Broome, Western Australia

From Academic Kids

For other places and usages, see Broome.

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Broome (Template:Coor dm) is a pearling town in the Kimberley region in the far North of Western Australia. The population is approx 14,000 but that grows to around 30,000 in the tourist season.

It's famous for its beautiful Indian Ocean beaches and wonderful dry season climate. Being in the tropics it has two seasons. The wet season extends from October to March and has hot humid weather with tropical downpours, floods, insects and is generally unpleasant. The early pearl masters used to send their families to Perth to escape the wet season and beached their luggers to avoid the cyclones that are prevalent in the wet.

Broome was first visited by European William Dampier in 1688 and again in 1699. Many of the coastal features of the area are named by him. In 1879, Charles Harper suggested that the pearling industry could be served by a port closer to the pearling grounds, and that Roebuck Bay would be suitable. In 1883, John Forrest selected the site for the town, and it was named after the Governor of Western Australia, Sir Frederick Broome.

In 1889, a telegraph undersea cable was laid from Broome to Singapore, connecting to England.

Headstones in the Japanese Cemetery
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Headstones in the Japanese Cemetery

The town has an interesting history based around the exploits of the men and women who developed the pearling industry, starting with the harvesting of oysters for mother of pearl in the 1880s to the current major cultured pearl farming enterprises. The riches from the pearl beds did not come cheap and the town's Japanese cemetery is the resting place of more than 900 Japanese divers who lost their lives working in the industry. Many were lost at sea and the exact number of deaths is unknown.

The Japanese were only one of the major ethnic groups who flocked to Broome to work on the luggers or the shore based activities supporting the harvesting of oysters from the waters around Broome. They were specialist divers and despite political pressure to expel them in support of the White Australia Policy became an indispensable part of the industry until World War II.

Reference

John Bailey, The White Divers of Broome, Sydney, MacMillan, 2001. ISBN 0-7329-1078-1

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