Saturday, November 27, 2010

The silences in WA history: Shane Howard's song about 1946 Pilbara strike " Clancey, Dooley and Don McLeod"

In a recent piece I cited Dorothy Hewett's remarkable poem Clancey Dooley and Don McLeod about the 1946 Pilbara strike by Aboriginal Pastoral workers in the Pilbara region of Western Australia for fair pay and better working conditions.

At the time Aboriginal workers were paid for their work with supplies such as tobacco and flour instead of cash. The situation in the Pilbara was akin to slavery: if Aboriginal people left a job they could be pursued by the police and forcibly brought back.

The strike was a historic event in Australian history. It was the first major strike by Aboriginal people and one of the longest strikes in Australian history

Sadly, the Pilbara strike is largely a footnote in the broad sweep of Western history. A recent history of WA since 1826 gave the strike scant attention. The documentary How the West was Lost by David Noakes and Don Mcleod's book of the same name are excellent historical records about the strike.

In his latest CD Goanna Dreaming Australian musician Shane Howard has recognised the significance of the 1946 strike by writing and recording a song about the historic events. You can read about the song and the CD here, here and here.

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