While the cultural diversity in Broome has always created a vibrant community, at times it has also caused tensions. In 1920, racially motivated riots broke out which shocked the locals and the nation.
After years of tension between Japanese and Koepanger (Timorese) pearl shell workers, several days of rioting began on 20 December 1920.
The exact cause of the unrest is unknown, but many Koepangers claimed to have been mistreated by the more dominant and well paid Japanese workers.
This image captures armed men being escorted by special constables during the riots.
During the riots at least two Japanese and three Koepangers were killed, and many others were injured.
More than 1000 rioters armed themselves with handmade clubs, knives and bottles.
This weapon made from the steel toe of a diving boot was used by a Koepanger during the riots.
Realising the seriousness of the riots, the authorities quickly moved to appoint European residents as ‘special constables’.
Just under 200 men – nearly every white man in Broome – joined this force.
The group was organised by some of Broome’s returned soldiers and armed with guns and police batons, including this one.
At the height of the riots Acting Magistrate Grey read the Riot Act, demanding the two groups down weapons and move to different areas.
In this image taken while the Act was being read, a line of mounted special constables face a 1000-strong group of Japanese rioters.
Much of the special constables’ work was protecting the significantly outnumbered Koepangers.
The riots were not just a concern for Broome residents.
This message was sent by the Western Australian Premier to the Prime Minister, advising him of events and requesting support from the Navy.
The Prime Minister agreed to send a ship, but it was cancelled after a peace deal was negotiated between the rioting groups on 26 December.