Strikers were increasingly able to negotiate individual agreements with pastoralists to return to station work on increased wages and with improved living conditions, while the Department of Native Affairs found itself unable to reimpose control over marrngu because of fear that those now in employment would re-join the strike. This letter, written by Tommy Sampie in response to a government decision to declare the Twelve Mile a prohibited area for Aboriginal people to camp, caused the prohibition to be quickly reversed and illustrates the considerable political power that marrngu were gaining through their actions.
Aboriginal People Gain Political Power
On the 23 inst. Sergeant came out to our camp & made inquiries of all the natives here, when all gathered around or near Sergeant, he signed our names there in. When completed that part he told us to pull down all our houses & humpies.
Will you please explain. I always thought the native affairs would protect us in every way and give us a home in 12 mile after so many of our boys went back to the squatter to work for them, but now you are going to stir the whole thing up over again so dont blame us, because we are fighting for our Rights & our childrens, we must defend our personal rights ourselfs, if not our protectors wont do it for us, we only want our rights & freedom with liberty in our own country.
Now since we were born I can almost say the natives never had a home to live & enjoy himself, never, but since we went on strike, we walked into 12 mile & remained her till last Sunday we heard you our protector was closing our camp. I dont think its fair on your side to do that.
and most of our boys & girls have went back to work for the squatters but now you are causing us more trouble instead of helping us.
five station got working, both men & women working today, and other stations will be notified in time as they are from 12 mile camp went out there, to do some work.
I thought we’d be friend with Government & squatters, but now, we got no one to help us to see we get home for our young children & ourselfs. So we might as well gave all the natives together till you find a way to protect us in a manner that will please every natives of Pilbarra district, our own Government, the Native Affairs never helped us, when we asked them to give us a home, but just went against us & fought for the squatters rights.
If we are going to be shifted by you, where will the squatters get their cheap labors, & another thing, where can we find a home from stations if this camp is closed, so I beg you on behalf of all the Stn boys, guarantee this 12 mile camp to remain intact.
Tommy Sampie, incomplete letter to Department of Native Affairs, 26 January 1949, SROWA, 1948/0732/86-87.