For Bart Pigram, Founder of Narlijia Tours in Rubibi/Broome, his hope is for those who take his tour to feel that they have made a ‘true’ connection to Broome.
‘Narli’ means ‘true, proper, authentic’ and ‘jia’ means ‘true authentic for you’. I called the company Narlijia because I don’t focus on the glossy side of the pearling industry in WA. Truth-telling is a major part of reconciliation and I cut deep with some tragic stories that no other operator dares to tell. I have been running tours for seven years and I don’t shy away from anything. It’s a revelation. I want to change the narrative. If I wasn’t so committed to continuing our traditional knowledge and practice I would not be in a position to absorb the true living spirituality of the landscape, its beauty and environmental and cultural significance. It is my responsibility to communicate to others the truth about Western Australia’s colonial history and how that impacted our ancestors and the ripple effect that has had on our circumstances today.
I learned about my culture from my grandmother, through music and heritage, and how that glues people together. What I am most proud of as a Yawuru man is speaking the language, practising the culture and being connected to the Country of my paternal grandmother, who passed away a few years ago. I am a saltwater man and I belong to the Pigram-Puertollano family, who have a long tradition of pearling and performing. I have two Filipino great-great-grandfathers who arrived here due to the pearling industry and married Aboriginal women. That is a common social history in Broome and acknowledging that is a great way to connect visitors with Broome’s history.
My hope is that anyone who takes my tour feels they have made a ‘true’ connection to Broome. I’m not talking about lapping up the great weather and beaches, I’m talking about sponging up its fascinating social, political, industrial, cultural and environmental history, which is pretty unique. I have a very strong spiritual connection to this land. I feel the country. When I take visitors on my Mangrove Discovery Experience tour we walk on Country through Roebuck Bay, which is significant both culturally and historically for Broome. We also trek through jabalbal (mudflats) where I talk about the cultural significance of mangroves, and visit the site where first contact happened between pearlers and Aboriginal people. This historic site is a place I’m rooted to both as an Australian and Indigenous person. I also guide groups to a site in Broome that, apart from the dinosaur footprints on the western side of the town, is a very important cultural site with artefacts and Dreamtime stories.
I grew up in Broome and I love living here, but if I do have time off I go to Lake Eda because that is my great-great-great grandmother’s Country. It’s a beautiful lake on the north-eastern side of Roebuck Plains and the largest lake in Yawuru Country. It is full of birdlife and attracts goannas, kangaroos and turkeys so it’s a great hunting ground. When I’m there I whisper, wish and pray for our ancestors to look after us and to provide us with food and fish. It’s off the beaten track for sure. You won’t find busloads of tourists, just the odd birdwatcher.