Skip to main content

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware this website contains images, voices and names of people who have died.

Pearl divers off the coast of Broome

Extract from The Pearlers (1949)

Documentary made in 1949 by the Australian National Film Board about pearl diving off the coast of Broome, West Australia. Divers are shown on the deck of a pearl lugger preparing for a dive, diving, being tended by a tender who watches their air supply line, and resurfacing for a break between dives. A supply ship visits the luggers to collect shells and pearls and leave rations. Back at Broome the mother-of-pearl is graded and packed for dispatch to countries including the United States.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have harvested oyster shell to use as tools and ornaments for thousands of years. In the late 1800s oyster shell became fashionable in Europe and North America, and by the summer of 1888–89, Broome had become the centre of the pearling industry in the colony of Western Australia. The most successful divers were Malays, Timorese and, especially, Japanese.

Film Australia Collection NFSA: 4389 Documentary courtesy National Film and Sound Archive


1. What does this short film clip show? Summarise what you see and hear.

2. Does the film appear to have a main purpose or message? If so, what do you think it is?

3. Who made the film clip and when was it made? Use this information to try to work out why the film was made. Does this change what you think about the purpose of the film?

Download transcript
button Download