Old pearler and Broome champion dives back in

Headshot of Jakeb Waddell
Jakeb WaddellBroome Advertiser
Former pearl diver Kunihiko Kaino in Broome.
Camera IconFormer pearl diver Kunihiko Kaino in Broome. Credit: Broome Advertiser/Waddell, Jakeb Waddell.

A former pearl diver who was a driving force behind Broome’s sister city ties with the Japanese town of Taiji made an emotional return to the Kimberley earlier this month, exactly 50 years after leaving.

Kunihiko Kaino worked for Streeter and Male in the North West town between 1962-69, a period he described as the most important and blessed years of his life.

The 81-year-old felt such a connection with Broome that he worked tirelessly to help establish a sister city link between it and his hometown of Taiji.

Although the two communities had ties dating back to the early pearling days more than a century ago, the link was formalised in 1981 after years of campaigning by Mr Kaino.

And earlier this month, Mr Kaino returned to his beloved former home of Broome to meet with old friends and share stories with Taiji visitors on exchange with St Mary’s College, all while shedding a few tears along the way.

An old image of Kunihiko Kaino during his days as a pearl diver in Broome.
Camera IconAn old image of Kunihiko Kaino during his days as a pearl diver in Broome. Credit: Supplied/Supplied

Mr Kaino, who now lives in Fremantle, was also presented with a plaque from the Shire of Broome in honour of his contributions to the town’s history.

He said it was a privilege to be back in the town that he loved so much.

“My younger days in Broome gave me so much—it was and still is a multicultural society and it helped me to grow and to learn,” he said.

“That is why I knew I wanted to give back and the way I did that was the link with Taiji.

“I had the idea in my mind to do something with the two towns and I had the responsibility of helping to make it happen on the Taiji side.

“But yes, very emotional for me to be in Broome again.”

Mr Kaino said a highlight of his visit to the town was being recognised at the A Taste of Broome event, a culture and arts show held a number of times each year by Goolarri Media.

“They called my name on the night and straight away I was in tears,” he said.

“Then Baamba (Stephen Albert) played a song and said to the audience that the song was for me and again more tears.”

It was Mr Kaino’s first visit to the town in 11 years, but he said he hopes to make the trip annually going forward.

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