Mr James Brown

James Brown

2021 College Recipient, College of Science and Engineering

At the tip of Western Australia's Dampier Peninsula, where the red dirt meets the pristine waters of the Kimberley coast on the lands of the Bardi and Jawi people, you’ll find one of Australia's oldest working pearl farms. Cygnet Bay is run by James Brown and his family, who have been farming south sea pearls for three generations.

James took up the helm of the family farm in 2000, and less than seven years later Cygnet Bay experienced both market and production failure due to the Global Financial Crisis and an unknown virus affecting shellfish stocks. Innovative management, diversification and a “never give up” attitude saw Cygnet Bay as one of only three pearl farms to survive the tumultuous decade.

Opening the family farm experience to visitors allowed James to build awareness around the ancient connection between Australia’s First Nation people and the pearl shell. Enabling his commitment to improve the outcomes for the Indigenous peoples of the Kimberley region.

During the turbulent decade following the Global Financial Crisis, James also established the Kimberly Marine Research Station (KMRS) at Cygnet Bay. The station has become a marine science hub for independent research in the region and James attributes his time at JCU as one of the driving forces behind creating the station.

James’s innovative approaches to farm management, diversification and sustainability saw him recently named the 2021 Australian Farmer of the Year.

James Brown graduated James Cook University in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Biological Science.