Bart Pigram sees a real connection between people, place and history. “Just look around. The mix of people here – Asians, Aborigines and Europeans – they all brought their culture and their languages to Broome. But they also brought their nature. The place changed with the people, so we have our beautiful red cliffs and creeks and beaches, and next to them are mangoes and palm trees and frangipanis. You can actually see the history all around you.”
Bart is the owner and Curator of Narlijia Tours, a local company which runs walking tours to share the Indigenous and multicultural history of Broome in today’s context. He is taking precious time away from breakfast with his partner and their daughter – faintly audible behind him – to talk about why he sees this work as so important for the town.
“We bring together the old stories and the new ones, and even a few Dreamtime ones, to show sides of Broome that don’t make the newspapers or the billboards. I’ve had the privilege of learning off some of the old people and the respected cultural leaders and it’s important to bring that knowledge to people, obviously with the appropriate approval. It’s all these stories, the old and the new, which make the whole picture of Broome – and it’s a beautiful whole.”
After nearly two years running the business on his own, Bart has met a lot of visitors. “Everyone has a different view on history, and I try to bring a new perspective to the way people see the past of Broome and WA. If they leave feeling a bit differently about things, then I’ve done my job.” His enthusiasm for the business is clear as he talks about the future. “I want to support my family to stay and grow here in Broome. I want to build my profile and customer demand enough to train up some young people as tour guides. I want to become the go-to business for cultural advice or direction in Broome.”
And he sees a lot of opportunities in the town.
“We definitely need to be looking at the people. At the place and the mix. It’s always been a beautiful place with a unique multicultural mix and we haven’t brought that to its full potential. I think there’s been a lot of focus on one or two industries and we haven’t even started to see what we can achieve when we bring together everything that makes Broome, Broome.”
Bart is one of the local Yawuru people, and after our conversation he’ll be heading to the Yawuru Community Meeting. He sees working respectfully with local Indigenous groups and businesses as a crucial part of Broome’s future. “The town is really supportive of Indigenous business. I think there’s still a lot of stigma, and a lot of people are scared to come forward and state their business as Indigenous people. But Broome is the place to do it. So many local people and local businesses have made a point of coming up to say ‘we really like what you’re doing’ – and they want to see more of it.”