View Comments
Deciding to go as tough as teak
Gareth McKnight Broome’s Java Teak owner Rob Carrie is leaving the place he has called home for about 36 years.

All good things come to an end.

For Broome’s Java Teak owner Rob Carrie, a huge part of his life is culminating, with a new adventure awaiting him.

The daybed and furniture specialist will leave the town in a few weeks for Kangaroo Valley in New South Wales to be closer to family.

It will be an emotional goodbye for Rob.

“I took an opportunity to do a five-month work stint in Broome in late 1977, and the town has had a hold on me ever since,” he said.

“I am certainly sad to leave and it was not a decision I took lightly.”

Born in Albany and brought up in Esperance and Perth, Rob scored a seasonal job working in Demco Meatworks in Broome packing meat.

He hoped the money would allow him to study at university in Perth, but instead it funded the purchase of a Z1000 Kawasaki motorcycle and a trip around Australia.

“I saw the sights that Australia had to offer, but always had the intention to come back to Broome,” he said.

“Back in those days there were only about 4000 people living here and the community feel of the town captivated me.”

After studying Indonesian at school, a fascination with Asian language, culture and craftsmanship resulted in Rob travelling to Java with childhood friend Hans Beutenmuller.

“The attention to detail of the Indonesian craftsmen beggars belief,” Rob said.

“The ability of the wood carvers, jewellery makers and silversmiths is incredible. I have always had a fascination with their ability to create something amazing with teak.”

Rob had the idea to bring the Asian wonders he saw back to Australia and shipped his first container of teak furniture from Java to Perth in 1996.

He loaded it onto a truck and drove to Broome to sell his payload.

Seventeen years and 220-odd containers later, Java Teak has an Australia-wide appeal.

“With Broome’s history and Asian heritage, setting up Java Teak seemed like a natural and logical progression,” Rob said.

Java Teak’s impressive range is evident all over Broome. Its furniture sits proudly in resorts such as Bali Hai, Blue Seas and the Habitat Resort, in McAlpine House, bed and breakfasts and residential properties.

Today Java Teak supplies furniture all over Australia. With a factory in Solo, Java, and a warehouse in his soon-to-be new home Kangaroo Valley, Rob has made a lasting impression since his experience as a travelling salesman back in the early days.

While his work has played a big part in his experience of Broome, he has countless memories away from Java Teak.

“One of my earliest memories of Broome is spearing huge queenfish at the jetty with a spear in shallow tides,” he said. “I have played football for Meatworks FC, lived on a yacht for five months in the waters of Cable Beach, built houses here and boxed at the Roebuck Hotel.

“My father is buried here and my two daughters were born here. Broome will always have a very special place in my heart.”

Rob’s relationship with Broome has been positive for both, with the departing man giving his fair share back to the community in his time in the Kimberley town.

Rob has had a focus on local charities and has donated to the RSPCA, cancer research, the Kimberley Training Institute, local high schools and many other causes.

Living a quiet life these days, you could be forgiven for thinking his generosity might be overlooked, but the reaction of the community to his departure has been substantial.

“It has taken me by surprise how many people have come in to say farewell, bringing bottles of wine and gifts to see me off — it warms my heart,” Rob said

Rob and wife Suellen’s new home is very different from Broome — green, hilly and lush with forests. He said it was one of only seven land-locked valleys in the world.

Despite the advantage of living closer to east coast-based daughters Tahnee and Raine, he will miss the ambience of Broome.

“I have a lot of friends here and with Broome clients for Java Teak still to service, I can’t imagine it will be too long until I am back for a visit,” he said.