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Dooley (Winyirin) Bin Bin

Category: People
Sub Category:Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
State/Country:Western Australia, Australia
Subject Matter:Agriculture | Leadership | Pastoral Activities | Recognition of Traditional Rights and Interests | Self Government
Summary Information:

Dooley Bin Bin, or Winyirin, was a Nyangumarta man and Aboriginal community leader. He played a key role in the 1946 Pilbara Strike and was involved in other civil and political action throughout his life. 

Detailed Information:

Early life

Nyangumarta man Dooley Bin Bin was born around 1900 in the Great Sandy Desert of north-western Australia. As a young boy he worked clearing spinifex from the rabbit-proof fence and then, after initiation into manhood, moved between stations throughout the de Grey River system (Bucknall, 2007).

Involvement in the Pilbara Strike 1946 - 1949

Dooley played a key role in the Pilbara Strike of 1946. Working with Clancy McKenna, Dooley visited stations in the lead up to the strike, posing as a relative of local Aboriginal workers and families on the stations in order to distribute homemade calendars. These calendars were made from jam labels and showed the days leading up to the date of the strike, 1 May 1946. Workers were able to mark off the days so that they knew when to begin the strike (Unions Western Australia, 2016).

After the strike began, in early May, Dooley was arrested at Moolyella and sentenced to three months imprisonment for enticing Aboriginal people from lawful employment. He was ultimately released early due to public support. He remained a leader at Moolyella throughout the strike (The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike, 2018).

When the government took a hard line approach to arresting strikers, Dooley responded by mounting a campaign to 'fill the jails' with strikers. This was ultimately successful in pressuring the government to take less punitive measures (The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike, 2018).

Don McLeod, another prominent figure in the organisation of the strike, said of Dooley:

'It is difficult to exaggerate the intelligence and courage of men like Dooley. He was a highly motivated man who dedicated himself utterly to his task. What he may have lacked in knowledge of the white man's system he made up for by his absolute resolve and fearlessness' (Unions Western Australia, 2016).

Other Civil/Political Involvement

In 1957 Dooley was again important in organising civil action. This time against an amendment that had been made to the Native Administration Act 1936 (WA). The amendment in 1941 made it illegal for Aboriginal people to travel from north to south of the twentieth parallel and was enacted as a means of stopping the spread of leprosy. Dooley led parties of men across the 'leper line' to bring Aboriginal pastoral workers unhappy with conditions in the north, south. Dooley was later charged and fined for this action (The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike, 2018; Scrimgeour, 2012).

In 1963 Dooley addressed the conference of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines in Canberra (The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike, 2018). Allegedly telling participants that 'we tell the government to go to hell' (Scrimgeour, 2012).

After the strike the Northern Development and Mining Company Pty Ltd was established in 1951, the first Aboriginal-owned company in Western Australia, although going into liquidation in 1953. In 1955 Pindan Pty Ltd was established, a company in which all the shareholders were Aboriginal people. In 1959 the group split and, led by McLeod, Dooley and others established Nomads Pty Ltd a company seeking to set up residential co-operatives in the Pilbara. Nomads Pty Ltd acquired Strelley station near Port Hedland. (Bucknall, 2007 and National Museum Australia, 2021). Dooley passed away in Port Headland on 24 December 1982.

Related Entries

  • The Pilbara Strike

  • References

    General Reference
    Unions Western Australia (April 29 2016) Australia's longest strike
    National Museum Australia Pindan Group
    John Bucknall (2007) Bin Bin, Dooley (Winyirin) (1900-1982)
    The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike (2018) Dooley Binbin
    Anne Scrimgeour (2012) 'Battlin' for their rights': Aboriginal activism and the Leper Line


    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Australia)

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