The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is proud to announce a new international project in collaboration with scholars in Australia, The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike website. Working with Bain Attwood, a scholar of Australian history and settler colonialism at Monash University, and Anne Scrimgeour, a scholar of Aboriginal history, this digital project will be part of the first major scholarly study to examine one of the most important events in Australia’s post-war history: the Pilbara Aboriginal strike of 1946.

Mustering in the Pilbara.

Mustering in the Pilbara. Image credit: Anne Scrimgeour.

In 1946, Aboriginal stockworkers led a strike in the Pilbara region of Western Australia against harsh working conditions and meager pay by walking off their pastoral stations. Though police and the government tried different repressive strategies to stop the strike, the Communist Party, trade unions, women’s organizations, and churches came together to help the strikers. Ultimately, the strikers were successful as they gained better pay and working conditions, but many Aboriginal workers then formed mining co-operatives, forging their own economic, social, and cultural space. Amidst the backdrop of settler colonialism and World War II, the strike resulted in changes in public policy and influenced nationwide advocacy for Aboriginal rights. The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike website will detail the events of the strike and historical context, the co-operative movement, and the commemoration of the strike through today.

The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike aims to highlight Aboriginal communities’ roles in this event. It will feature oral histories of Aboriginal people from the Pilbara region, foregrounding their voices in this history. The project also strives to show the multiplicity of voices and perspectives involved in the strike and beyond.

Geared toward Aboriginal communities, scholars, and post-secondary students, the site will include multiple exhibits of narrative content, as well as an interactive timeline, a primary source archive, and a section that spotlights the individuals and organizations who played integral roles in the strike and its aftermath.

Launching later this year, The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike digital project is an exciting transnational collaboration that will showcase the actions of the Aboriginal people who fought for their rights and for Aboriginal rights across Australia.