Posted: September 8th, 2015
In a recent article by ABC Northwest WA, the 1946 Pilbara Strike was featured. Aboriginal pastoral workers in the Pilbara walked off their jobs against the oppressive work conditions they were facing.
In our Celebrating 20 Years of YMAC, the story of the 1946 strike was shared in the Aboriginal Leadership chapter. The 1946 strike was the first strike by the Aboriginal People and the longest in Australian History.
The reason behind the strike was in protest to the low pay, or in some instances rations instead of pay. The strike was planned by about 200 elders from 23 different groups and more than 800 workers left stations. Some were forced to return to work while others formed new occupations. Many of them formed strike camps and gathered bush tucker, skins and engaged in mining activities to provide food and money for the people there.
Two of the key leaders in the movement were Ernie Mitchell and Peter Coppin. During the course of the strike, they re-gained the lease of the Yandeyarra Station in 1967 and set up an Aboriginal-run community and a community and pastoral enterprise.
YMAC’s Co-Chair Doris Eaton and Deputy Regional Manager Nyaparu Rose are the daughters of Ernie Mitchell and Peter Coppin. This tangible connection provides YMAC with a strong connection to the history of social justice and leadership.