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Saturday, April 18, 2009

SAVE THE KIMBERLEY - article by Rod Hartvigsen

Broome was settled in the mid to late 1800’s as a pearling centre after the pirate William Dampier’s log books inspired pearlers to investigate the area. It is fitting that a pirates' log books would start the town of Broome because it continues it’s debonair spirit to this day. Broome is an inspiring town. It attracts people from all walks of life. From your average backpacker in his/her ‘wicked’ van looking for adventure to the most well-healed investor who wishes to make a pearl ear-ring or a 5 star resort. It is the flavour of the town and its cosmopolitan atmosphere that attracts tourists and residents alike.

Broome was the only town in Australia that was exempt from the White Australia Policy that was established in 1901 and continued until 1973. It excluded Japanese and Chinese immigration to Australia. Broome was exempt because of the requirement for Japanese pearl divers. This exception enhanced Broome’s multi cultural population over and above the rest of Australia during those 70 years. Today, the mix of Aboriginal, Japanese, Chinese, Malay, Koepang , Indonesian and Caucasian blood is a thing to be celebrated.

Broome is a town where the Indigenous population has self respect and thus the respect of others. It has its problems but less than many towns. The Indigenous population is strong in culture and it is this strength that has, in the past, stopped many undesirable developments (a large resort on Gantheaume Point as an example).

The current decision by a few to accept money in lieu of use of country I think is due to misrepresentation by the government and a feeling that if they didn’t accept the offer their country would be taken from them anyway. A pressure situation no-one would welcome.

Broome has a flavour that can be tasted in the air, this, mixed with the colours of its red/orange ‘Pindan’ earth against the turquoise waters of the northern Indian ocean, gives it the essence that attract many people. It is also one of the many things that endears it to its faithful residents, who love it with a passion.

Yes, Broome is a service town. It services the pearling industry, it services the Kimberley cattle industry and it services the off-shore oil and gas industry. These services have little impact on it’s beautiful beaches, its five star resorts and its cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Premier Colin Barnett wishes to establish heavy industry only 30 kilometres north of Willie Creek which is situated at the northern end of the world famous Cable Beach. This industry will pollute with atmospheric discharges of CO2 equivalent to putting 2 million cars onto Australian roads. It will emit cancer causing gases such as benzene, cyclohexane, toluene and ethylbenzine. This is assuming that no other industry springs up adjacent to the gas precinct. It is well known that once an energy source such as the gas precinct is established, it will open the way for other industries such as chemical manufacturers, aluminium refineries and fertilizer plants to establish.

Do we want this to happen? Do we want the essence of Broome to move from a service and tourism town to a mining town with pollution, astronomic house rentals, fly-in fly-out workers who give nothing to the town except more drugs, more violence, more demands for brothels and more anti-social behaviour, as has been seen in other towns that have had their social fabric sucked dry by the mining industry (ie. Port Hedland)?

Broome has a healthy, wealthy future with clean beaches, clear skies and fun loving people. This is how we sell the place now. How would we sell it with heavy industry just up the beach?

Seriously question those business people who promote heavy industry and the bolt-on services. Do they have the future of Broome or their own future at heart?
How long will the gas provide employment and income compared to a clean beach, a beautiful sunset or a bush tucka tour?

No, Broome deserves better than this. The people who call Broome home, deserve better than this. This gas precinct is not a fait accompli. We need to stop it from destroying our town.

Article by Rod Hartvigsen, Broome photographer

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