Broome, Western Australia

Broome is a coastal, pearling and tourist town in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, 1,681 km (1,045 mi) north of Perth. The urban population was 14,445 in June 2018[1] growing to over 45,000 per month during the peak tourist season (June to August).[2]

Western Australia
Broome jetty
Coordinates17°57′43″S 122°14′10″E
Population14,445 (2018)[1]
Elevation19 m (62 ft)
Time zoneAWST (UTC+08:00)
Location1,681 km (1,045 mi) NNE of Perth
LGA(s)Shire of Broome
State electorate(s)Kimberley
Federal Division(s)Durack
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
32.2 °C
90 °F
21.2 °C
70 °F
615.1 mm
24.2 in


Broome is located in the tropical north of Western Australia's Kimberley coast on the east coast of the Indian Ocean and easterly adjacent of Gantheaume Point.

Cable Beach

Named in honour of the Java-to-Australia undersea telegraph cable which reaches shore there, Cable Beach is situated 7 km (4.3 mi) from town along a bitumen road. The beach itself is 22.5 km (14.0 mi) long with white sand, washed by tides that can reach over 9 m (30 ft).[3] The beach is almost perfectly flat. Located directly east of Cable Beach over the dunes is Minyirr Park, a coastal reserve administered by a collaboration of the Shire of Broome and the Yawuru people.

Roebuck Bay

Being situated on a north/south peninsula, Broome has water on both sides of the town. On the eastern shore are the waters of Roebuck Bay extending from the main jetty at Port Drive to Sandy Point, west of Thangoo station. Town Beach is part of the shoreline and is popular with visitors on the eastern end of the town. It is also the site of the famous 'Staircase to the Moon', where a receding tide and a rising moon combine to create a stunning natural phenomenon. On 'Staircase to the Moon' nights, a food and craft market is operated on Town Beach.

Roebuck Bay is of international importance for the millions of migrating waders or shorebirds that use it seasonally on migration through the East Asian – Australasian Flyway from their breeding grounds in northern Asia. They feed on the extensive intertidal mudflats and roost at high tide on the red sand beaches of the bay. They can be seen in the largest numbers in summer, but many of the younger birds remain throughout the first and second years of their lives. The Broome Bird Observatory, sited in pindan woodland close to the northern shore of Roebuck Bay, was established by Birds Australia in 1988, and formally opened in 1990. The purpose of the observatory is to study the birds, learn how to protect them and educate the public about them.

A mixed black flying fox and little red flying fox colony of around 50,000 megabats lives all year in mangroves next to Broome township's small Streeter's Jetty. They chatter and socialise loudly before flying out at dusk each evening. The bats are key pollinators and seed dispersers for native trees and plants.


Yawuru people

Broome is situated on the traditional lands of the Yawuru people.[4]

European settlement

It is often mistakenly thought that the first European to visit Broome was William Dampier in 1688, but he only visited the north of what was later named the Dampier Peninsula. In 1699 he explored the coast from Shark Bay to La Grange Bay, from where he headed north leaving the Australian coast. Many of the coastal features of the area were later named for 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 chose the site for the town, and it was named after Sir Frederick Broome, the Governor of Western Australia from 1883 to 1889.[5]

The 1880s saw the commencement of Broome's pearling industry, which initially involved slavery[6] and indentured labour,[7] pearl diving being an occupation reserved for specific ethnic groups. This led to numerous racistly motivated conflicts.[8] The Broome community came to "reflect the hierarchy of the pearling industry, which was based on occupation and ethnicity".[9] White collar occupations and positions of power were exclusively held by Europeans. As a consequence, racial segregation was common in Broome until the 1970s.[9]

In 1889, a telegraph undersea cable was laid from Broome to Banjuwangi, East Java, connecting to England. Hence the name Cable Beach given to the landfall site.[5]

1942 air attacks

Broome was attacked at least four times by Japanese aircraft during World War II. The worst attack in terms of loss of life was an air raid on 3 March 1942 in which at least 86 people (mostly civilian refugees from the Dutch East Indies) were killed. Twenty-two aircraft were destroyed, most of them flying boats, the remains of which can still be seen in the harbour at low tide.

1950s to 2000s

In 1950, Broome was the setting for Arthur Upfield's novel The Widows of Broome, his 12th novel featuring Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte ("Bony").

The West Australian mining boom of the 1960s, as well as the growth of the tourism industry, also helped Broome develop and diversify.

Dinosaur footprints dated as Early Cretaceous in age (approximately 130 million years ago) were discovered 30 m (98 ft) out to sea at Gantheaume Point in the 1960s. The tracks can be seen only during very low tide. In 1996 some of the prints were cut from the ground and stolen, but have since been recovered.[10]

Broome entered into a sister city agreement with Taiji, Japan in 1981 as historic ties between the two towns date back to the early 1900s, when Japan became instrumental in laying the groundwork of Broome's pearling industry. The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji was the subject of the 2009 documentary The Cove, and sparked a unanimous decision by Broome's council, headed by Graeme Campbell, to end the relationship with Taiji if the dolphin hunt were to continue. The decision was reversed in October 2009.[11]

2012 Save the Kimberley campaign

The Broome community led a campaign to protest against a proposal to industrialise the James Price Point outside Broome. The campaign has received ardent support from public figures such as John Butler, Missy Higgins, Clare Bowditch and former leader of the Australian Greens, Dr Bob Brown. A concert for the campaign was held on 5 October 2012 at Federation Square in Melbourne and was attended by approximately 6,000 people.[12] A long term protest camp operated at James Price Point. One of the campaign points was to protect the significant 'dinosaur highway' of dinosaur tracks that are found in the intertidal zone outside Broome. The campaign has since remained a divisive topic amongst locals, with many blaming the 'no' decision for the slow economic growth that characterises the region.

Paleontological significance

Fossilised Megalosauropus broomensis dinosaur footprints dated as early Cretaceous in age are 30 m (98 ft) out to sea at Gantheaume Point. The fossil trackway can be viewed during very low tide. Plant fossils are also preserved extensively in the Broome Sandstone at Gantheaume Point and in coastal exposures further north.[13][14]

The fossil trackways at Broome include possibly the largest known dinosaur footprints, sauropod tracks upwards of 1.7 m long. It is suspected that the sauropod that made these tracks might have been 7–8 m tall at the hip.[15][16]

Pearling industry

The town has a deep 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 large present-day cultured pearl farming enterprises.[17]

At first, Indigenous people were enslaved and forced to dive for pearls, especially women and girls. In 2010 the Shire of Broome and Kimberley commissioned a Memorial to the Indigenous Female Pearl Divers.[18] In April 2019, the skeletons of 14 Yawuru and Karajarri people which had been sold by a wealthy Broome pearler to a museum in Dresden in 1894 were brought home. The remains, which had been stored in the Grassi Museum of Ethnology in Leipzig, showed signs of head wounds and malnutrition, a reflection of the poor conditions endured by Aboriginal people forced to work on the pearling boats. As of May 2019, the remains are being stored in Perth until facilities have been built to accommodate them in Broome.[19]

After slavery was abolished in the British Empire (in 1883) and diving suits were needed for deeper diving, Asians, especially Japanese, and Pacific Islanders were given the dangerous job instead.[9] The riches from the pearl beds did not come cheaply, however, and the town's Japanese cemetery is the resting place of 919 Japanese divers who lost their lives working in the industry.[20]

Each year Broome celebrates the fusion of different cultures brought about by the pearling industry in an annual cultural festival called Shinju Matsuri (Japanese for "festival of the pearl").[21]


According to the 2016 census, there were 13,984 people in Broome.

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 21.4% of the population.
  • 70.6% of people were born in Australia. The next most common countries of birth were England 3.7%, New Zealand 2.4% and Philippines 1.6%.
  • 78.0% of people only spoke English at home.
  • The most common responses for religion were No Religion 38.5% and Catholic 24.9%,.[22]


Under the Köppen climate classification, Broome has a semi-arid climate (BSwhg);[23] like most parts of the Australian tropics, it has two seasons: a dry season and a wet season.[24] The dry season is from April to November with nearly every day clear and maximum temperatures around 30 °C (86 °F). The wet season extends from December to March, with maximum temperatures of around 35 °C (95 °F), rather erratic tropical downpours and high humidity. Broome's annual rainfall average is 615.1 mm (24.22 in), 75% of which falls from January to March.[25] Broome observes an average of 48.4 days a year that record measurable precipitation.[25]

Broome is susceptible to tropical cyclones and these, along with the equally unpredictable nature of summer thunderstorms, play a large part in the erratic nature of the rainfall. For instance, in January 1922, Broome Post Office recorded just 2.8 mm (0.11 in) of rainfall[26] while in the same month of 2018, the airport received 945.4 mm (37.22 in).[27] Dewpoint averages at 24 °C or 75.2 °F in the wet season but is as low as 8.4 °C or 47.1 °F in the dry season.[25]

Frost is unknown; however, temperatures during the cooler months have dropped to as low as 3.3 °C (37.9 °F).[25]

The average temperature of the sea ranges from 24.7 °C (76.5 °F) in July and August to 30.2 °C (86.4 °F) in March.[28]

Climate data for Broome Airport
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 44.1
Average high °C (°F) 33.3
Daily mean °C (°F) 29.8
Average low °C (°F) 26.3
Record low °C (°F) 19.0
Average rainfall mm (inches) 191.5
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm) 11.7 11.5 7.9 2.6 2.4 1.8 1.3 1.0 0.9 0.6 1.3 5.5 48.5
Average afternoon relative humidity (%) 65 67 60 45 38 36 33 35 45 54 57 61 50
Mean monthly sunshine hours 257.3 212.8 263.5 294.0 291.4 282.0 306.9 325.5 312.0 337.9 336.0 291.4 3,510.7
Source: [25]

Sport and recreation

Broome hosts a lawn bowling club and a golf club . The town also has four Australian rules football clubs; Broome Bulls Football Club (established 1949) the Broome Saints, Towns and Cable Beach all competing in the West Kimberley Football Association with games played at Haynes Oval.

Four Association Football clubs compete in the local Broome Soccer Association's BLiga competition each dry season. FC Meatworks, Pearlers, Racing G and Broome Town field sides across men's and women's divisions.

Broome is also home to the Sun Picture Garden, the oldest operating open-air cinema in the world.[29]

Broome is considered to be one of the best places in the world to catch Sailfish.[30]


Broome International Airport is the regional air hub of northwestern Western Australia and is considered the tourism gateway to the Kimberley region.

The Broome Tramway was an industrial tramway used to convey goods between Mangrove Point and the town centre from 1898 until the 1960s.


Number one media platform is the Broome Advertiser, the local newspaper.

Localised television stations available include GWN7, WIN, Nine, ABC, SBS and Goolarri media. GWN7 broadcasts a half-hour news program for regional WA, GWN7 News, at 5:30pm weeknights; GWN7 has a district newsroom covering Broome and surrounding areas based in the town.


  1. "3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2017-18: Population Estimates by Significant Urban Area, 2008 to 2018". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 27 March 2019. Retrieved 22 April 2019. Estimated resident population, 30 June 2018.
  2. "Population Statistics". Broome Visitor Centre. Archived from the original on 10 April 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  3. Broome Boating Guide Archived 3 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  4. "National Native Title Tribunal: Yawuru people recognised in Broome". Archived from the original on 30 September 2009. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  5. Broome sweeps in a little luxury
  6. Ben Collins (9 September 2018). "Reconciling the dark history of slavery and murder in Australian pearling, points to a brighter future". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  7. "Stunning exhibition dives into Australia's pearling heritage". Special Broadcasting Service. 23 February 2018. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  8. Stefanie Affeldt, Wulf D. Hund, 'Conflicts in racism: Broome and White Australia' in Race & Class, Vol 61, Issue 2, 2019, pp. 43–61,
  9. "West Kimberley Place Report" (PDF). Department of Environment, Government of Australia. 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  10. "PM - Fossil thief gets two years jail". Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  11. Australian town embraces Taiji again
  12. Kristian Silva (5 October 2012). "Thousands gather for Kimberley concert". The Age. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  13. McLoughlin, S. 1996. Early Cretaceous macrofloras of Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, 18: 19-65.
  14. McLoughlin, S. & McNamara, K. 2001. Ancient Floras of Western Australia. Publication of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Western Australian Museum. 42 pp.
  15. Devlin, Hannah; agencies (28 March 2017). "World's largest dinosaur footprints discovered in Western Australia". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  16. Salisbury, Steven W.; Romilio, Anthony; Herne, Matthew C.; Tucker, Ryan T.; Nair, Jay P. (12 December 2016). "The Dinosaurian Ichnofauna of the Lower Cretaceous (Valanginian–Barremian) Broome Sandstone of the Walmadany Area (James Price Point), Dampier Peninsula, Western Australia". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 36 (sup1): 1–152. doi:10.1080/02724634.2016.1269539. ISSN 0272-4634.
  17. Wong, Robert M (1996). "Pearl diving from Broome". SPUMS Journal. 26 (1 Supplement). Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  18. staff. "Memorial to the Indigenous Female Pearl Divers Broome". Smith Sculptors. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  19. Parke, Erin (21 May 2019). "Indigenous bones returned to Australia century after black-market trade reveal cruel treatment". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  20. Broome - Things to See Archived 29 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  21. staff (7 September 2011). "Awakening Sammy the Dragon for Broome's Shinju Matsuri festival". Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  22. Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Broome". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  23. Tapper, Andrew; Tapper, Nigel (1996). Gray, Kathleen (ed.). The weather and climate of Australia and New Zealand (First ed.). Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press. p. 300. ISBN 0-19-553393-3.
  24. "Climate of Broome". Bureau of Meteorology. Archived from the original on 15 April 2009. Retrieved 19 March 2010.
  25. Climate statistics for Australian locations – Broome Airport. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  26. "Climate statistics for Australian locations". Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  27. "Broome, WA - January 2018 - Daily Weather Observations". Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  28. Ltd, Copyright Global Sea Temperatures - A-Connect. "Broome Water Temperature - Australia - Sea Temperatures". World Sea Temperatures. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  29. Matthew Bamford (2 December 2016). "Sun Pictures celebrates 100 years in the Kimberley". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  30. Olander, Doug. "The World's Best Sailfish Spots". Sport Fishing Magazine. Retrieved 21 June 2019.


  • Affeldt, Stefanie. The White Experiment. Racism and the Broome Pearling Industry, in: Anglica: An International Journal of English Studies (peer-reviewed), 28, 2019, 3, pp. 43-58;
  • Bailey, John (2001). The White Divers of Broome. Sydney: MacMillan. ISBN 0-7329-1078-1.
  • Lewis, Tom, and Peter Ingman. Zero Hour in Broome. Adelaide: Avonmore, 2010.
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