Appleby, Naomi; Pigram, Lloyd; Skyring, Fiona; Yu, Sarah (2020):
"The Tides are Turning: Reconciling the Hidden Pearling History of Broome." Zeitschrift für Australienstudien / Australian Studies Journal 33/34: 57-80.
Journal Article

In 2015 Yawuru people began the slow and emotional journey to repatriate their ‘Old People’ whose skeletal remains had been taken from their Country by collectors working mostly for museums. One group of ancestors were young pearlshell divers who had been sold to the Dresden Museum in Saxony, Germany, in 1895 by pearlers. Their bodily traumas revealed the brutal treatment they endured before their untimely deaths. The journey brought the Yawuru and Karajarri elders and the curators of the Ethnographic Museums of Saxony together in their quest to find out what had happened to these people and to rehumanise our ancestors who had, for so long, been treated as objects in the museum collections. This article presents our reflections on the journey back to Germany to retrieve the ancestors, the development of our ‘Wanggajarli Burugun’ (‘We are coming home’) project and the findings from our research into the slavery of the early pearling days in and around Broome, Western Australia. It also reveals the emotional journey of our community as they delved into the trauma of this formerly unknown colonial practice of ‘bone-collecting’, and how, through the spirit of mabu liyan and a process of culturally informed engagement process we were able to address the dark deeds of the past to lead the journey to healing and reconciliation.