In Western Australia in the 1930s, Don McLeod, a white man, was a prospector and miner in the remote northwest Pilbara. He worked throughout this vast region of mineral-bearing rocks that, if they could be cracked, could bring a miner great wealth. McLeod was successful, and he hoped to become a millionaire, but instead, a chance encounter with an Aboriginal pastoral worker changed his life. He became an activist for Aboriginal rights, and amongst his own people it made him the most hated man in the northwest. For the Aboriginal people it made him a key to their liberation. They had endured nearly a century of oppression under state laws that were intended, but failed, to protect them from exploitation by Western Australian settlers. McLeod was instrumental in challenging this situation, and in 1946 empowered the Aboriginal pastoral workers toorganise a strike for better wages and conditions. The strike lasted three years, by which time the workers had reframed their strike from an industrial issue to a human rights struggle. Many never returned to the pastoral stations, choosing instead to form a collective and, advised by McLeod, became financially independent through alluvial mining. Pilbara social, political and economic structures were irrevocably changed. McLeod was vilified and persecuted to prevent him empowering the Aboriginal strikers, but his philosophy and traitsmade him a man as hard as the Pilbara rocks and he could not be defeated. This article looks at McLeod’s characteristics to understand why.
|Number of pages||32|
|Publication status||Published - Dec 2018|