Introduction

The Australian pearling industry has survived by adapting to new conditions, embracing tourism and exploring new markets for pearls and shell.

In the face of change and concerns about the preservation, relevance and vibrancy of pearling’s history, today Aboriginal elders, current pearl farmers and old pearling families all share a desire to preserve, retell and reaffirm their pearling heritage.

In this way, we, the Yawuru people, hope that the stories of harvest and many uses of pearlshell will remain strong.

James Brown, Pearl farmer:

“Every pearl farmer has to think five to ten years down the track, but we’d like to probably think more than that.

Look, the industry, providing we can all look after those shell beds and the state of the Kimberly environment, that’s what will underpin the future of the pearling industry. All those other challenges that we spend our day-to-day worrying about, there not really that important. What is important is that as long as there is pearlshell out there, as long as the Kimberly environment is pristine, then, there’ll always be an opportunity for the pearling industry to exist.”

Russell ‘Wossy’ Davey Jooda, Pearlshell carver:

“To me, personally, being a Bardi dancer, and I think it’s all about the culture. Part of the culture, who I am, and I think to keep it alive as well. That’s one of the main things is to keep it alive, yeah. And it’s the feeling that you get when you, when you’re performing. You’re dancing with somebody’s that’s singing in language and using a boomerang, you know. An old instrument. Gives you an identity too as well.”

Aubrey Tigan Galiwa, Mayala elder:

“I had a dream when I seen the so many boats in Yalun, Cone Bay. I had another dream, new buildings, skyscrapers. Why’s this dream come to me? The world is forgetting the lifestyle of Aborigine people. That’s why I’m putting all the story out. I’ve got to put them out in the open. You know all my young grandkids, my young nephew, nieces, must get away from that other life and think about their country, because I might go, and they are the responsible people to look after the country.

From where I grew up, in those time and beyond that, our life is check the noomoor [signs in the landscape that tell you when to travel]. Noomoor is a starting point for travelling. Spiritual feelings. This is our country, and the way to go noomoor is the main thing to think about. You believe in your culture, you believe in your country, and noomoor will save you.”