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Built in 1895, the Old Broome lockup was mainly used to hold prisoners awaiting trial, deportation or disorderly behaviour. The most common offences for aboriginal prisoners were the killing of livestock or absconding from so-called ‘work contracts’ on pastoral stations and Pearling Boats. Being found guilty of serious offences or short term sentences could have seen prisoners in chains and tied up to the closest tree. Unfortunately for prisoners taken from the Kimberley area, if found not guilty they faced a long walk of hundreds of miles to return to their land and people.
The Old Broome Lockup was particularly busy in 1907, 1914 and 1920 when large scale riots broke out between Asiatic groups that were heavily involved in the Pearling industry. The riots virtually shut the town down with people taking refuge in their homes and shelters.
The Lockup was still in use until the 1950’s.