Dianne Sharma-Winter writes about her stay in Broome, Western Australia
I haven’t really had much of an exploration of town and around Broome since I arrived here. I have seen the iconic sunsets and the camel trains along Cable Beach, I have witnessed the high speed jaw snapping tail whipping woman eating crocodiles from a safe distance and generally pondered the seemingly infinity of red earth space between here and anywhere else.
Last year in India, I met a woman who worked and lived and loved the Kimberleys. “Broome is my shopping town,” she said when I remarked that a family member had moved there. “It’s only three hundred kilometers down the road.”
Only. Three hundred kilometers of red earth with nothing in between here and there. No petrol stops, no chai stalls, no clusters of villages. Just that wide brown land, an artists palette of gorgeous blues and reds and pink and orange with the odd kangaroo leaping across the road.
I have to admit that it unsettles me. That kind of land could just swallow you up!
But people have sprung from this red earth since centuries, they say that the land owns them and I understand that philosophy. If man wants to pit himself against nature here, he better have a mining company to back him up or at least be as well resourced as the ‘colonising pioneers’ of old.
I had a day off work yesterday so I busted the kid out of daycare and took her to have a look at the local museum to get an understanding of the history and stories of the township.
In terms of white man’s history there is an abundance of information. Broome was and is about the pearls.
Pearling began here back in the 1860’s, when the Pinctada Maxima shell was discovered. Like throwing the baby out with the bathwater and other oddities, the pearls were pretty much discarded while the shells were used for the craze for Mother of Pearl buttons and cutlery handles. Trouble began for the ancient people of the land then. Rounding up the ancients, the indigenous people of Australia, lashing them into chain gangs and forcing them to dive for pearls for the white man became known as “Blackbirding” a sign on the wall informed me. I guess in more modern days this is known as slavery but that word is a sensitive one in Australia anyway with their history of convict ships.