“The most inspiring person I have ever met is my grandfather,” said KEE’s newest recruit, Kazumi Chaplin. And there’s a reason as to why the 18-year-old is so in awe. Akira Masuda is a real legend. At 85 years old, he is the oldest surviving Japanese pearl diver in Broome.
“At the age of 20, he left Wakayama Prefecture in Japan to seek work in Australia so he could send money home to his family,” she said. “The Japanese were well-regarded by the pearling masters and he took on the incredibly dangerous job of diving for pearls.” There is a powerful exhibition at the Broome Historical Museum, showing what these incredible men and women had to endure. In fact, the copper helmet the divers had to wear is displayed at the entrance of the museum.
“Many of his fellow divers died because of the poor equipment or from getting decompression sickness, known as the bends,” said Kazumi, “They dived to depths of 50m carrying equipment weighing around 130kg, and wearing a copper helmet. It was so dangerous, it is a miracle he survived”.
Mr. Masuda stayed in Broome and started a new life, marrying Evelyn, a local woman with Aboriginal heritage, and from there they started their own family.
Kazumi lived with her parents and siblings in Broome before moving to Perth to take on the role of trainee fuel driver in Perth.
Traineeship For An Indigenous Person
“It was my cousin who told me about the traineeship, she works for Rio Tinto and saw that KEE Bundu was looking for fuel drivers”. The traineeship is an initiative of NEWest Alliance. Their procurement team put a submission into the government to fund a traineeship for an indigenous person. “The fuel business is an incredibly closed industry”, said KEE Fuel Manager Leigh Haywood, “and we wanted to open it up”. With contributions from Rob Carr, Duratec, Ertec, and BMD, KEE was able to get the ball rolling.
KEE Group’s Craig “Yak” Bell has been a fuel operator for over fifteen years and, alongside Brian Richards, will help mentor Kazumi. “You never stop learning,” he said about his career, “the job is continually changing.” Yak generally starts work at 3.30am. “It’s quite an autonomous job,” he said, “the best practice is to stringently keep to the guidelines, there are no short-cuts in this game”. Yak says the only way to ensure water-tight safety is to stick to the rules, to the letter. “Safety is paramount, this is what has been drilled into us, this is what we will teach Kazumi”.
Kazumi is a very confident driver and passed her driving test the first time. She now has to complete a Heavy Goods Vehicle and a Dangerous Goods Licence before she can become a full-time fuel driver. The traineeship will take three years to complete.
Words and picture by Katharyn Quinn