Don McLeod Rebel outsider chiselled from the Pilbara rock

The State Library has many documentary highlights in its archive. One of the highlights is a collection of letters to and from one of the major activists for Aboriginal rights in the twentieth century Don McLeod. Don is most famous for being chosen by Marrgnu people of the Pilbara to be their spokesperson during the Pilbara Strike, which lasted three years from 1946 to 1949. Later he was also involved in the Noonkanbah land rights controversy in 1980.

The letters at the State Library encompass a later period of Don’s life in the 1950s when he was a regular correspondent across Australia and the world advocating for Aboriginal human rights. In 1957 McLeod helped run the Aboriginal owned Pindan Cooperative in the Pilbara and spent a lot of time advocating for and managing their affairs.

There is a stream of correspondence with Lady Street (Jesse Street), who was the only female in the Australian delegation to the inaugural United Nations meeting in 1945. Lady Street also campaigned for Aboriginal rights and visited the Pilbara.

Another series of letters deal with the lack of free movement of Aboriginal people below the 20th parallel (Leprosy Line) that Don campaigned against.

Don McLeod died in 1999 and appropriately was buried in the Pilbara at Strelley Station.


This page last updated on
23 February 2022