The Pearl Frontier
In 2010, while presenting a Broome public seminar, the authors were privileged to meet Aboriginal elder, Susan Edgar, and the remarkable community of Indonesian-Aboriginal people who shared their stories of the men who came to north Australia for the pearl-shell industry. The history of pearl-shell began at the time of high imperialism when this rich source of maritime wealth was discovered in the seas of the Pearl Frontier that lay between tropical north Australia and the islands of eastern Indonesia. The industry helped establish the new ports of Broome, Darwin and Thursday Island, which flourished with their polyethnic Indigenous, European and Asian populations. For one hundred years the trade in men and shell continued, and what commenced as a colonial industry evolved into a subaltern movement of peoples across the pearl frontier. In postwar Australia that mobility came to constitute a serious and successful challenge to the White Australia policy.
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