Sisters, Pearls and Mission Girls


In 1907, Mother Antonio O'Brien and nine young Sisters of St John of God set sail from Perth on a journey to Broome on the remote Kimberley coast, in the far north west of Australia.

This epic story of Irish and Australian nuns is set against the rich and tragic history of the Kimberley region and the government policies of the day. Using rare archival material, re-enactments and contemporary anecdotes the shared experiences of the Aboriginal people and the Sisters create a compelling story of loss, determination and survival.

Thee Sisters of St John of God were barely of adult age when they set out on their quest to "civilise" and evangelise the "natives" of the North West. Like many 20th century tales, theirs is a story of religious faith, cultural imperialism, commercial exploitation and political incompetence.

This one-hour documentary tells the story through the eyes of the Sisters - what they encountered on their mission in Beagle Bay, what they achieved and their attempts today to reconcile the part they played in the troubled and complex history of the region.


Release dates
2003 - Australia
G - general
Rebel Films

Sisters, Pearls and Mission Girls was produced by Western Australian Producer Jeni McMahon (Rebel Films).

Since the film was made, producer Jeni McMahon said, at least three of the sisters in the Kimberley have died. There was a sense that it was important to tell their story now, before that generation of nuns had gone for good. "I don't think that we're going to see that kind of dedication to humanity again," she says.

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Harvard citation

Korff, J 2018, Sisters, Pearls and Mission Girls, <>, retrieved 16 August 2020

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