Team explores reserve’s past

Nicola KalmarBroome Advertiser
Community members Sari Darcy, Josephine James, researchers Dr Kathryn Thorburn and Anna Dwyer, residents Cissy Djigaween, Mary Tarran, Judy Edgar and Denise Pungana at the November meeting.
Camera IconCommunity members Sari Darcy, Josephine James, researchers Dr Kathryn Thorburn and Anna Dwyer, residents Cissy Djigaween, Mary Tarran, Judy Edgar and Denise Pungana at the November meeting. Credit: Hannah Holzhauser

Two Kimberley researchers are delving into Broome’s past to help shed light on the forgotten history of the old Anne Street reserve.

Dr Kathryn Thorburn and Anna Dwyer, of Notre Dame University’s Nulungu Research Institute, recently teamed up to embark on a social history project focusing on the former reserve which existed from the late 1960s to the early 1980s.

Through extensive research, the women are hoping to piece together a picture of what life was like for Aboriginal families living there at that time through personal accounts, stories, recollections, photographs and archival material.

Dr Thorburn said the idea for the project was sparked six months ago after talks with Ms Dwyer, an ex-reserve resident.

“I was talking about when she grew up... and she said on the Anne Street reserve and I went ‘where’s that?’ so I went away and tried to find something out about it and I couldn’t find anything anywhere,” she said.

“We had this conversation and then we said ‘maybe we should do a project about this and see if anyone’s interested’.”

After securing some money from the university as well as the Shire of Broome, the women began interviewing former residents and perusing archives.

Dr Thorburn said the Anne Street reserve was gazetted in 1953 and was among the first in Broome to receive housing.

The reserve land was sold by the Aboriginal Lands Trust to the WA State Housing Commission, and dozens of houses were built there in the 1980s for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people who were eligible for State Housing.

Dr Thorburn said the significance of the project was to record a time period in Broome that was absent from the historical record and marked an important transitional period.

“The timeframe for the inquiry coincided with a general shift in approach to relevant Aboriginal Affairs policy frameworks, from exclusion and protection, to assimilation, to self-determination.”

She said many people who could recall what life was like as adults living on the reserve were now elderly, and there was a sense of urgency around the recording of people’s recollections from these times.

A meeting with interested community members was held in November to discuss possible ways of compiling the findings of the project and making them public.

Suggestions included an audio documentary, a dedicated website and an exhibition as part of the Shinju Matsuri Festival.

A steering committee was also formed last month, comprising some of the former reserve residents, and a meeting was held at the Nulungu Research Institute on December 12. As part of their investigations for the project, the research team will to travel to other Kimberley communities to track down more former residents.

In the meantime, Dr Thorburn said the team was trying to track down as many photos and documents from Broome from that period and was appealing to the community for help. Anyone who can assist should contact Dr Thorburn on 0428 525 261 or Ms Dwyer on 0411 858 856.

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