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White Divers of Broome: The True Story/Bailey, John/Paper/0330363387/S009-D
Pan Macmillan Australia
In 1912 Broome was as much Asian as Australian. The town thrived on the hugely profitable, and extremely dangerous pearl-shell industry, using Asian labour that was cheap to hire and easy to replace. It was a frontier town, where racial tensions simmered uneasily between whites, Asians and Aborigines.
In that year, twelve British Royal Navy-trained divers and their tenders were sent to Broome to take part in the White Experiment. Their task was to master the perilous art of pearl-shell diving and overcome the Asian stranglehold on the pearling industry, proving once and for all the supremacy of the white man over the coloured. Urging them on was a Commonwealth Government deep in the grip of the White Australia Policy and anxious to rid the country of the last remaining Asian "taint".
The White Divers of Broome tells the extraordinary, true story of this experiment and its fatal aftermath. Set against the backdrop of Broome, it vividly conjures up a world in which lanes lined with noodle stalls and opium dens, and the slum dwellings of hawkers and prostitutes were more redolent of Asia than Australia; and where pearl shell mattered more than human life.
Meticulously researched and written with gripping narrative drive, The White Divers of Broome is both a powerful piece of storytelling and a fascinating insight into Australia's hidden past.