Deaths in Broome, Western Australia, 1883 to 1994

Aust N Z J Public Health. 1996 Oct;20(5):505-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-842x.1996.tb01630.x.


We examined all records of deaths held in the Derby Courthouse (1883 to 1895) and the Broome Courthouse (from 1896). Records of 3409 deaths (2659 males, 750 females) were analysed. Race of origin was ascertained from > 99 per cent of records: 35.9 per cent of deaths were of Aboriginals, 42.8 per cent of Asians and 21.3 per cent were among other races. In the early decades (1880s to 1920s) most deaths were of young Asian males and related to deep-sea diving in the pearling industry; many other deaths were caused by homicide and suicide. Pearling deaths declined after World War I and the number of Aboriginal deaths increased. The 80 to 100 deaths caused by the Japanese air raid in March 1942 were not entered into the Broome register. After World War II deaths among young males and Asians decreased and reported Aboriginal deaths increased; many were of malnourished infants and young children with infections. In the 1970s and 1980s deaths of young adults in motor vehicle accidents and of young adults from homicide and suicide increased; some occurred in custody. The pearling industry caused hundreds of deaths in the late nineteenth century and in the first two decades of this century, particularly among young Asian divers. Many were recorded in the Derby and Broome Death Registries but others were not recorded. These official records show changing patterns of mortality, for example, mortality associated with violence, infection and undernutrition (in young Aboriginal children), and more recently, motor vehicle accidents.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / mortality
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / mortality
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infections / mortality
  • Male
  • Mortality* / trends
  • Nutrition Disorders / mortality
  • Public Health / history
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Western Australia / epidemiology