October 1943

Don McLeod begins working on Bonney Downs Station, applies for a permit to employ Kitchener. Strike discussions begin.


In discussions with McLeod and among themselves, marrngu explore options for improving their lives. McLeod outlines these plans to A.P. Elkin.

July 1945

Constable Fletcher's Report on Race-Time Meetings

Source Thumbnail: 
Exhibit Analysis: 

Ideas discussed included a scheme to obtain land of their own and set up economic enterprises so they would no longer be dependent on station employment. In 1945 marrngu from across the region held meetings to discuss these ideas when they converged on Port Hedland for the annual horse races. Constable Les Fletcher of the Port Hedland police was invited to attend. This is his report of the meeting.

Race-time meetings in Port Hedland.

August 1945

DNA attempts to stop McLeod associating with marrngu.

September 1945

WWII ends.

July-December 1945

Marrngu organisers, Clancy McKenna, Kitchener, Roy McKay, Ron Captain and Dougall Cornish, moving around stations talking about the strike.

Late 1945

Dooley Binbin begins working with McLeod and Kitchener.

March 1946

Dooley and McKenna make final arrangements for a strike on 1 May.

March 1946

McLeod visits Perth to garner support.

April 1946

Workers on De Grey station strike for higher wages. Awarded 5/- increase for the duration of the shearing.

30 April 1946

McLeod alerts the government to the impending strike. Some early strikers granted temporary wage rises.

1 May 1946

Aboriginal people in the Port Hedland and Marble Bar region strike. Constable Gordon Marshall pressures most in the Marble Bar District to return to work.

3 May 1946

Seven domestic workers evicted from Marble Bar for striking. McKenna and McLeod meet secretly in Port Hedland.

7 May 1946

McKenna arrested and charged under section 47 Native Administration Act 1936.

8 May 1946

Native Affairs Inspector Laurie O’Neill and Constable Les Fletcher begin travelling through district warning workers to stay at their jobs.

9 May 1946

Dooley arrested by Marshall at Moolyella.

17 May 1946

Dooley convicted for ‘enticing’ workers from employment, and McLeod arrested.

19 May 1946

200 people on the Perth Esplanade call for the release of Clancy, Dooley and McLeod.

20 May 1946

‘An Appeal to Democratic Citizens’ printed and distributed in Perth.

21 May 1946

Provisional Committee for Defence of Native Rights formed at meeting convened by Alec Jolly.

25 May 1946

McLeod remanded on bail until 21 June.

28 May 1946

Protest meeting held in the Perth Town Hall. Committee for Defence of Native Rights (CDNR) formed.

13 June 1946

CDNR appeals to the United Nations for the right of Aboriginal workers to strike.

13-14 June 1946

McLeod addresses meetings in Perth and Fremantle.

21 June 1946

McLeod’s trial in Port Hedland.

25 June 1946

McKenna and Dooley released before serving their full sentences.

July 1946

Marrngu defy a police order to camp out of town during Port Hedland horse-race carnival. Refuse to return to workplaces.

2 August 1946

Marrngu demonstrate over ration coupons. McLeod arrested but released on good behaviour bond. Strikers march into Port Hedland in protest.

5 August 1946

Strikers set up camp at the Twelve Mile and Moolyella.

13 August 1946

Hedland Court Has Strange Procedure

Source Thumbnail: 
Exhibit Analysis: 

The arrest of CDNR secretary Rev. Peter Hodge, when he visited strikers at the Twelve Mile in August 1946, drew public attention to the oppressive nature of Western Australia’s Aboriginal legislation. His conviction was overturned on appeal to the High Court of Australia, which led to the overturning of a three-month jail sentence imposed on McLeod for the same offence.

Hodge flies to Port Hedland and is arrested, along with McLeod.

14 August 1946

Hodge fined, addresses public meeting in Port Hedland.

15 August 1946

McKenna, Dooley and McLeod granted leave to appeal convictions.

October 1946

CDNR appeals to Western Australian Department of Education for assistance for the Twelve Mile School.

October 1946

Appeal against Hodge’s conviction dismissed by the full court of the Western Australian Supreme Court.

November 1946

Appeals by McLeod, McKenna and Dooley against their convictions fail in the Western Australian Supreme Court.

December 1946

Dorothy Hewett and Lloyd Davies visit the strikers.

December 1946

Gordon Mackay leads a break-away group from the Moolyella strike camp to negotiate reemployment with improved wage and conditions.

January 1947

McKenna and other strikers take Mackay’s breakaway group from Marble Bar to the Twelve Mile to prevent them returning to station employment and weakening the strike.

January 1947

McKenna sentenced to two months imprisonment, and nine other strikers sentenced to fourteen days for taking dissident strikers to the Twelve Mile.

February 1947

Meeting in Perth protests against the imprisonment of McKenna and other strikers.

March 1947

Hodge’s appeal against his conviction upheld by the High Court of Australia. McLeod’s appeal accordingly upheld by the Western Australian Supreme Court.

April 1947

The Department of Native Affairs attempts for the first time to negotiate with strikers, but these attempts are unsuccessful.

September 1947

Jack Gribble appointed by the Western Australian Department of Native Affairs as special officer at the Twelve Mile to exercise a controlling influence over strikers.

September 1947

Ernie Mitchell sentenced to 7 days imprisonment for threatening to escalate the strike.

December 1947

Jack Gribble’s appointment as inspector terminated.

April 1948

Twelve Mile strike camp declining in numbers. Moolyella becomes the main strike camp.

July 1948

McLeod becomes more directly involved in finding new sources of income for the strikers. The idea of their obtaining land is again raised with the Western Australian government.

October 1948

Port Hedland Catholic priest, Edward Bryan, proposes establishing a mission on the abandoned White Springs Station.

November 1948

McLeod argues against Western Australian Department of Education proposal for a school at Moolyella in favour a school on an Aboriginal owned and operated station.

December 1948

Department of Native Affairs declares the Twelve Mile a ‘forbidden settlement’ for Aboriginal people.

January 1949

Twelve Mile strikers are given one month to dismantle their buildings and leave. This order retracted under threat of further strike action.

March 1949

Thirteen men given 2- and 3-month jail sentences for entering Corunna Downs to remove workers. Strikers promise to fill the jails in protest.

14 April 1949

Thirty-three men arrested and transported in chains for removing workers from Warrawagine Station.

28 April 1949

Fremantle Branch of the Seamen’s Union threatens to ban wool shipments from the Pilbara if men are not released.

June 1949

Under threat of a wool ban, Department of Native Affairs undertakes to prevent further convictions when ten more strikers arrested.

July 1949

Native Affairs Officer Sydney Elliott-Smith reaches an agreement with the strikers, granting concessions in return for an undertaking to cease protest action.

July 1949

Seamen on the S.S. Kybra refuse to load wool in Port Hedland. Ban is lifted when Elliott-Smith agrees to a wage scale.

August 1949

Western Australian government backs away from Elliott-Smith’s concessions.

September 1949

Marrngu debate whether to adhere to their agreement with Elliott-Smith or to continue the strike.

November 1949

Some marrngu return to employment while others begin prospecting.

December 1949

McLeod applies for columbite, tantelite and tin claims at Pilgangoora.

March 1950

Marrngu collect funds to establish a hostel in Marble Bar so their children can attend school.

April 1950

Labour situation on Pilbara stations has largely returned to normal.

Mid 1950

Marrngu who have not taken employment decide to join the mining operation on a trial basis and begin mining in the Cooglegong mining area.

February 1951

Two marrngu arrested for trying to stop police killing their dogs in a dawn raid.

circa April 1951

Marrngu begin working significant wolfram deposit at Cooke’s Creek. Arrangements made with South Australian interests to form a syndicate.

May 1951

Six more Four Mile miners sentenced for intervening in police dawn dog cull. The practice is stopped as a result.

June 1951

The cooperative is making large profits from mining.

July 1951

Western Wolfram formed in Adelaide to work wolfram with the Aboriginal mining group.

August 1951

Native-Labour Drift Worries Pastoralists

Source Thumbnail: 
Exhibit Analysis: 

A cooperative mining company, Northern Development and Mining (or NODOM) was established at the end of 1951. The success of the mining venture led the government to withdraw its opposition to the movement. By 1952, upward of 700 people were involved in the independent mining community, and the local pastoral industry was facing even greater labour shortage than during the strike. As a result, a Committee of Inquiry was appointed by the government to investigate the circumstances in which marrngu were leaving the stations.

Many marrngu leave station and other employment to join the mining cooperative. DNA withdraws its opposition to the movement.

August 1951

School commences at White Springs Mission, developed as a counter to the cooperative movement.

September 1951

Large meetings held in Marble Bar to invite more marrngu to join the cooperative. Daisy Bindi attends but returns to Roy Hill.

October 1951

Yandeyarra station purchased by the group, now numbering 500. Their success worries Australia’s security services.

November 1951

Northern Development and Mining established, a development applauded by the Department of Native Affairs.

December 1951

The Western Australian Deputy Commissioner of Native Affairs calls the establishment of NODOM ‘the greatest advance in native history in Australia’.

January 1952

Daisy Bindi and other marrngu leave Roy Hill and surrounding stations and set up their own mining cooperative under Daisy’s leadership.

January 1952

Committee of Inquiry into the movement established by the Western Australian Department of Mines.

February 1952

The Council for Aboriginal Rights makes contact with McLeod.

March 1952

Commissioner of Native Affairs Middleton strongly supports the group’s application to the WA Department of Education for a school at Yandeyarra.

April 1952

From March to May Sir Ross McDonald and Magistrate F.E.A. Bateman conduct inquiry into the movement.

May 1952

Headmaster of Marble Bar school recommends a school at Yandeyarra, but decision delayed awaiting outcome of McDonald-Bateman enquiry.

May 1952

White Springs Mission closes.

August 1952

McDonald-Bateman report tabled.

August 1952

NODOM’s business arrangements with Western Wolfram break down.

Late 1952

Dessie and Donald Stuart join the group. Donald has been visiting throughout 1952.

January 1953

Litigation against Western Wolfram sees NODOM lose its valuable wolfram deposits.

February 1953

As a result of the loss of their wolfram deposits, NODOM shift focus from wolfram in the Blue Bar-Cooke’s Creek area to mining tanto-columbite in the Pilgangoora mining area.

April 1953

Esther and Joseph Birdsell, Dorothy and Norman Tindale, and Phillip Jud Epling, of the University of Adelaide and University of California Anthropological Expedition 1952-54, arrive in Marble Bar and spend three months in the cooperative camps.

May 1953

With cyclonic rains making roads impassable to vehicles, many marrngu shifted from the Blue Bar area on foot through heavy rains.

June 1953

Middleton withdraws his support for the establishment of a Department of Education school at Yandeyarra.

September 1953

Kathleen and Max Brown join the group. Kathleen begins teaching a school in the Yandeyarra shearing shed.

October 1953

Bill Rourke, District Superintendent of North-West Schools, visits Yandeyarra and strongly recommends a school there, in the light of which Middleton withdraws his opposition.

November 1953

Columbite ore produced by the cooperative found to be contaminated with iron and practically worthless.

December 1953

As the group’s economic situation deteriorates, McLeod attempts to organise meetings between government representatives and the group.

December 1953

Non-Aboriginal participants Max and Kathy Brown, Donald Stuart and Victor Proudfoot leave. Des Stuart remains.

January 1954

Commissioner Middleton again opposes the establishment of a school at Yandeyarra, probably in response to negative reports from Donald Stuart.

January 1954

The group attempts to present a submission to Queen Elizabeth during her visit to Australia.

June 1954

The cooperative enters hard times. 364 people remain.

July 1954

Government representatives cease corresponding with McLeod.

August 1954

With stores severely depleted, NODOM members spread out in small camps living off the land.

September 1954

NODOM goes into voluntary liquidation. McLeod moves down to Perth at about this time.

September 1954

Department of Native Welfare begins fortnightly rationing of children of the group.

January 1955

Mitchell appeals to Middleton for assistance, and asks that Riverdale, one of NODOM’s stations, be kept for the group as the base for a school.

January 1955

Des Stuart leaves the group for Darwin and later London, suffering tuberculosis.

January 1955

McLeod, in Perth, hopes to organise Aboriginal people in the southern part of the state.

February 1955

The Department of Native Welfare arranges for the sale of mineral won by the group, now mostly living at Pilgangoora.

March 1955

Middleton contacts ASIO about McLeod’s activities and provides a statement.

April 1955

Middleton visits Pilbara and establishes the Pilbara Native Society.

May 1955

McLeod returns to the Pilbara to establish Pindan. Middleton unsuccessfully tries to prevent this at a meeting at the Bore.

June - July 1955

McLeod conducts a lecture tour of Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.

June 1955

Liquidators call for tenders for NODOM equipment and properties. Department of Native Welfare decides to acquire Yandeyarra as a native reserve.

August 1955

Department begins establishing a hostel at Riverdale Station near Nullagine, previously owned by NODOM.

September 1955

Department stops rationing children of the group, having done so for a year.

September 1955

Cooperative shifts from Pilgangoora to camps along the coast and start working on grass seed and pearl shell collection.

November 1955

Donald Stuart begins working as a Native Welfare Officer at Riverdale, with the job of undermining McLeod.

December 1955

Sound recordings of McLeod are sent to Jessie Street in London.

July 1956

The Riverdale hostel project is abandoned as ‘an abject failure’. Stuart leaves.

November 1956

Department attempts unsuccessfully to amend the Native Welfare Act to give Commissioner greater control over the assets of Aboriginal people.

April 1957

McLeod attends Aboriginal-Australian Fellowship meeting in Sydney and has other speaking engagements.

May - October 1957

Pindan challenges Western Australia’s ‘leper line’ legislation by travelling back and forth across the twentieth parallel and bringing new members into the cooperative from northern stations.

25 May 1957

McLeod, Mitchell and Peter Coppin address meeting in Perth Town Hall.

June 1957

Mitchell and Coppin return to Port Hedland with Jessie Street. Street spends four days visiting the cooperative camps.

August 1957

People who joined Pindan from stations north of the leper line are arrested and forcibly sent to Broome.

October 1957

Dooley found guilty of leper line offences, fined £1 with £32.7.0 costs. Conviction is unsuccessfully appealed in Western Australian Supreme Court in December.

October 1957

As a result of Pindan’s civil disobedience action, Middleton recommends that leper line legislation be repealed or amended.

December 1957

Pindan begins prospecting for manganese.

December 1957

Artist James Vandeleur (Jim) Wigley joins the group, initially helping to construct boats for pearl shelling operations.

January 1958

Pindan finds manganese deposit at Nimingarra and begins preparing to work it as a joint enterprise with Albert G. Sims Ltd.

Mid 1958

Syndicate company, Simdan, works to establish Nimingarra manganese mine.

February 1959

In Perth, Jessie Street holds meetings with McLeod, the lawyer T.J. Hughes and Sims representative Jim Hallam, attempting to resolve disputes.

March 1959

While McLeod is in Perth, rank and file Pindan members protest that they are receiving too little reward for their labour.

May 1959

Dissatisfaction continues over issues including the lack of schooling. McLeod, removed as leader, is to work on projects with a team of young men.

June 1959

In opposition to a community decision to retain lawyer Hughes, McLeod resigns as director of Pindan.

June 1959

Splinter group, called Nomads, forms and grows in size throughout 1959.

December 1959

Pindan continues working with A.G. Sims on the Nimingarra manganese mine.


Nomads Pty Ltd incorporated. Nomads move to Roebourne area during 1960.


Pindan establishes bridging school in Port Hedland and children begin attending local school.