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SSJG Heritage Centre Broome

SSJG Heritage Centre Broome

Sisters of St John of God Ministries logo


The Sisters of St John of God (SSJG) Heritage Centre Broome is a place for the sharing of the social history related to the Sisters of St John of God and Aboriginal people of the Kimberley. The Heritage Centre incorporates the Relationships Exhibition in the Old Convent, the Archive and Research Centre, the Garden of Healing and Pomegranate House, which is used for temporary exhibitions and educational programs. The Sisters of St John of God finance the running, maintenance and staffing of the Heritage Centre with no government funding.


The Mission statement for the SSJG Heritage Centre Broome is:

Our purpose is to journey forward as a new generation drawing on the faith, traditions and values of the Sisters of St John of God (SSJG) in the Kimberley. We will:

  • Continue to make known the pioneer work of the SSJG
  • Continue to gather, preserve and make available material relating to those who have shared in the story of the SSJG in the Kimberley
  • Create opportunities for education and faith development
  • Encourage gatherings and storytelling to expand understanding and foster relationships between generations
  • Offer facilities for providing guidance, support and care

The SSJG Heritage Centre Broome has four fulltime staff, with one part time staff member, and they work with around 60 active volunteers on average per year. The Centre has a newsletter circulation list of approximately 1,200.

Community Engagement and Partnerships

The SSJG Heritage Centre Broome offers a permanent exhibition, the Relationships Exhibition, which was opened in 2007 to celebrate the Centenary of the work of the Sisters of St John of God in the Kimberley. The exhibition is open to the public Monday to Friday 9am-1pm, and on Saturdays 10am-1pm from early February to early November (9 months of the year). The exhibition consists of selected archive items, predominantly photographs, which are supplemented by touchscreens for documents and videos, scale models, a projector video, outdoor exhibits with audio, and objects in display cases. There are selected items for sale in the onsite shop.

The Relationships Exhibition Education Package (REEP) is available online, and is based on the Australian Curriculum/Western Australian Curriculum for Years 3, 4, 6 & 7. It offers a customised program of pre-visit, onsite & post-visit activities.

The SSJG Heritage Centre Broome is a participant annually in the celebrations of NAIDOC Week, WA Heritage Week, and Volunteers appreciation week with events held onsite. The Local Heritage Film Series and Shinju Matsuri events are also held onsite. The repository of Bungarun family records (Leprosarium / Hanson’s Disease) helps to connect previously disjointed families, and the SSJG Heritage Centre Broome also assists Stolen Generation members to find family connections and history.


The collection of the Heritage Centre consists of photographs, objects, documents and audio-visual resources. The collection is largely digitised with approximately 66,700 photographs digitised, 1,825 digitised images of about 700 objects, 8,500 documents digitised with over 32,000 pages, and roughly 500 video and 275 audio digital files. There is still around 20% of the photographic, object and document collections not yet digitised, while only 5% of the audio-visual collection still needs digitisation. Digital scanning of photographs commenced in 1993 in the Old Laundry building with volunteers, and has been ongoing ever since with a hiatus from 2004 to 2006.

A purpose-built Archive and Research Centre was completed in 2010 fully funded by the SSJG. The Archive and Research Centre incorporates a temperature and humidity-controlled repository, along with digital workstations. A Lotteries West grant was received to furnish the building. Staff were employed at this time to increase cataloguing and digitisation.


The Heritage Centre uses the Keeping Culture Knowledge Management System (KMS), which is the successor to the Ara Irititja Project KMS, which they started using in 1998. The software is highly customisable and supports multiple languages, with advanced searching abilities. The KMS easily supports adding text, audio or video stories and annotations to any database item. The system also offers the ability to provide customised access.


Digitisation at the Heritage Centre involves the use of an Epson Perfection V800 Photo scanner (dual lens) for photographs, slides, negatives and documents. A Nikon D610 camera plus professional lighting and staging is use for capturing objects. The centre uses Churchill Colour Laboratories in Perth for >A4 scanning and advanced digital restoration as well as replica production of documents.

Digital Access

The SSJG Heritage Centre Broome houses a private collection which is not available online. The digital collection can be accessed only from the permanent Relationships Exhibition, housed in the Old Convent.


The SSJG Heritage Centre Broome has faced a number of challenges in continuing its digitisation work. The database software was kept onsite prior to 2016 and required maintenance. The database has now been shifted off-site and the maintenance is managed by external parties professionally and has minimal issues.

The collection involves a lot of genealogy with multiple generations with the same names, and there is a vital need to have the dates and information to distinguish between people. It is also challenging to keep the database information current, particularly regarding the people profiles with births, deaths, and sacramental events etc. There is limited repository space, which has put pressure on the Heritage Centre to deaccession items.

While the Heritage Centre has a strong focus on digitisation, there is still a need for the prioritisation of items. An example of this is that only the first page of a document is scanned to upload to database, with the remainder available in hardcopy for research purposes if required.

The cost of maintaining the archive, personnel, the state heritage listed building and the permanent exhibition at the current level for a non-profit organisation is very high. The Heritage Centre’s current offer is likely to be reduced due to budgetary constraints going forward, and may possibly reduce the number of public access hours. It is difficult to attract private donations and derive income from a community service. It is also very difficult to attract and retain volunteers.


The SSJG Heritage Centre Broome is able to easily develop online exhibitions from the digitised collection items, and staff find it easy to update the website with news and newsletters with digital content.

The digitised collection allows the Heritage Centre to provide the public with images for personal use. Staff are able to connect families by the ability to link people, images, documents, objects, and stories in the database, to help them to find information.

Contact details

If you would like more information on the work SSJG Heritage Centre Broome is undertaking, please contact Helen Dorsett-Bain or telephone 08 9192 3950.