Some of the world’s last remaining ‘hard-hat’ pearl divers and their crews were welcomed back to Broome today by Multicultural Interests and Citizenship Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich.
The Minister was in Broome to open the internationally-renowned Shinju Matsuri Festival of the Pearl.
The festival, now in its 38th year, marks the close of the pearling season and provides an opportunity to celebrate the different cultures and people that have made Broome one of the most vibrant, cosmopolitan towns in Australia.
“The Shinju Matsuri Festival is one of the finest examples of the many benefits multicultural diversity can bring to a region from an economic, social and cultural perspective,” Ms Ravlich said.
“During the festival, we acknowledge our indigenous people along with Japanese, Malay, Chinese, Filipino and pearl divers from many different nationalities as fore-runners and pioneers who have helped shape the character, charm, prosperity and vibrancy of Broome.
“The pearl divers, their stories and their larger than life personalities have left an indelible mark in Broome’s colourful history and are integral in making Broome the fascinating multicultural town that it is today.”
The Minister said Broome’s contribution to the economic success of Western Australia through its pearling, tourism, mining and other industries was well known and valued, with approximately $200million worth of pearls and pearl shell produced each year.
In appreciation of the important contribution of the pearl divers and their crews, Ms Ravlich launched the short documentary ‘Return of the Pearling Legends’, which vividly conveys a picture of life for those who worked in the early pearling industry.
The Minister said these emotional and enriching collection of stories were now being recognised as an invaluable part of the nation’s heritage.
Ms Ravlich said that in light of the outstanding contribution of the Malay community to the development of Broome, it was most fitting that the first event of the festival coincided with ‘Merdeka’ celebrations, which this year marked the Golden Jubilee - the 50th Anniversary of Malaysia’s Independence Day.
“It is important to acknowledge that people from so many different nationalities lived, worked and thrived together, exchanging and sharing their culture in Broome,” she said.
“This serves as a reminder that pride in a distinctive cultural heritage and possession of an ethnic identity and culture is in no way a hindrance to sharing a common national identity and a commitment to being Australian.”
The 10-day festival, which concludes on September 9, features numerous events and activities, including the ‘Carnival of Nations’, with people and groups from as many as 50 nationalities represented in the Broome community.
The festival is expected to attract an estimated 30,000 visitors to Broome, as well as the 14,000 local population over the 10 days of planned events.
Minister's office - 9213 6800