The history of Broome and the Kimberley region dates long before the arrival of Europeans. Indigenous persons have inhabited the region for at least 27 thousand years.
Language is very significant to Aboriginal culture and social structure. Five family language groups comprise the Kimberley Region. Within each group several languages are spoken. Aboriginal culture is survived through oral traditions, which promote the heritage, culture and learning of the region’s indigenous inhabitants.
Sadly, since the arrival of Europeans there has been a breakdown in this traditional structure. Language skills among the region’s indigenous inhabitants have diminished significantly, leaving the bulk of the region’s indigenous culture and history knowledge in the hands of a few remaining elders.
Before the arrival of Europeans, Aboriginal people had developed a complex social structure, which included strict law and culture traditions. Among the language groups on the Dampier Peninsular there was extensive trading, which also extended to local island groups. Moreover, there were trade routes between the east and west Kimberley, which were known as ‘winan’. Family groups would move around on a semi-nomadic basis.
Traditionally, the Yawuru language group inhabited the Broome area. In 2006 The Yawuru people were awarded Native Title over an area in excess of 5000sq km around the Broome area, giving them greater access rights and land management control.
The Yawuru people are closely connected to country. This is perhaps best illustrated by their seasonal calendar. They recognize six climactic seasons throughout the year. The seasons are broken down according to prevailing winds, ecological cycles (such as when certain fruits are prevalent or when the dugong and kangaroo are fat) and temperature. The Yawuru people would undertake different practices relative to the season’s riches.
The connection to the landscape is as much practical as it is spiritual. For those of us that regard Cable Beach as a sacred place for its white sands and sun, some thought should go to the local indigenous people who believe that Minyirr Park (Minyirr meaning ‘birthplace’), which is located behind the Cable Beach dunes, is the site where Aboriginal people were created. It is their traditional belief that three groups of people formed by spirits came from the sea and moved inland, singing life into existence and creating language groups, tribes and sacred law and culture.
The history of indigenous people in the region is long and complex. It cannot be done justice here.