There have been many strikes, protests and marches organised by our people throughout history. One of the most dramatic and significant strikes however, was the Pilbara Strike.
On May 1st 1946, around 800 Aboriginal pastoral workers across 25 different stations in north-west Western Australia went on strike. They walked off their stations in act of defiance against the Aborigines Act 1905 (WA), protesting the horrible treatment and demanding better wages, living conditions and freedom.
The strike began at the beginning of shearing season meaning that the stations were hit hard by the lack of workers. Mob set up camps that many lived in throughout the strike, and they hunted and collected for food to keep themselves going.
Multiple people were arrested in May 1946, however on May 19, around 200 people gathered to call for their release. The mob who had been arrested were released due to the pressure that was being put on them.
Image: Men marching into Port Hedland on 1 August 1946 to release McLeod from the lock-up. Source: The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike (Workers’ Star, 30 April 1948, p. 4.)
The Pilbara Strike is the longest strike in Australian history lasting 3 years, ending in 1949 after many of the strikers gained better rights – some returned to the stations but many went off and earned their own money. While their initial demands were not fully met it was a historical moment that helped to inspire many other communities to fight for their rights.
You can learn more about the strike and the people who were apart of it on the Pilbara Strike website, www.pilbarastrike.org