Our History

Pre 1863
1863
1863 – 1910
1900 – 1970
1946 – 1949
1935 – 1954
1954
1956 – 1965
1965 – 1974
1964
1967
1967 – 1974
1969
1974
1975-1976
1977-1978
1981
1982
1983
1984
1985
1988 – 1993
1993
1996
2005
2007
2009
2010

Pre 1863

The Pilbara has been home to Ngaardangarli since the beginning of time Ngurra Nyjunggamu: the time when the world was soft.
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1863

The first white colonists arrive at the mouth of the Harding River
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1863 – 1910

1866 – establishment of Cossack and Roebourne as colonists quickly take up land for pastoral stations across the West Pilbara, Within a short time, most Ngaardangarli land & water resources were taken up by pastoralists. The loss of traditional hunting and gathering grounds, access to water, and liberty to move freely across ancestral lands caused great stress upon all Ngaarda. This led to the killing of sheep and skirmishes between…
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1900 – 1970

Most Yindjibarndi families continued to work as stockmen and house servants in order to stay on their traditional lands. This enabled Yindjibarndi to sustain their language, families, and their cultural and spiritual obligations to care for their country, and maintain their ceremonial Law practices. Their stock working skills were highly prized by pastoralists.
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1946 – 1949

Supported by Don McLeod, 800 Pilbara Aboriginal Stockmen Strike for wage parity and conditions. “ (Under Section 26 of the Native Administration Act, a native could not quit his employment without committing a criminal offence: the native was bound by a contract even though he did not sign it.”
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1935 – 1954

In the 1930s, and increasingly after the Second World War, old people and those unable to work were forced to moveto government ration stations and then to the old Roebourne Reserve. After the 1950s fall in wool prices, many had no work and were put off the stations. Because few of those living on the Reserve were able to find work, Reserve life was marked by desperate poverty, illness, and…
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1954

The Roebourne Reserve begins to be home to Ngaardas from across the Western Pilbara. By the late 1950s, Roebourne Aboriginal Reserve is the largest in Western Australia. Most families, without work or possibilities of work, were forced to live in humpies on meager rations in extreme destitution. Seeking to make a difference for Ngaarda children, Ngaarda Elder, Old Tumbler insisted education be made available for Aboriginal children living on the…
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1956 – 1965

Many Ngaardas worked in the asbestos industry – as truck drivers, wharf laborers, and mine workers. Many later died of asbestos related diseases. When the Wittenoom mine closed, many Ngaardas remained unemployed, there being no other work available in the region.
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1965 – 1974

By 1965, some 300 Ngaardas from different language groups and traditional countries across the PIlbara were living on the old Roebourne Reserve, many in extreme poverty, yet Elders and Custodians maintained Ngaarda Laws,  memories, culture, languages and ceremonies.
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1964

Beginning of the first Pilbara Mining Boom. Government, mining & resource companies began extensive infrastructure development and construction across the west Pilbara, investing some $2,200 million in iron ore production facilities, roads, railways, ports and new towns. Many thousands of hard living construction workers arrived to live in camps in Dampier and Roebourne, yet very few Ngaardas got any kind of employment.
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1967

Australia granted Aboriginal people citizenship. Local Ngaarda recall that citizenship did not improve their employment opportunities and that the introduction of equal pay for Aboriginal stockmen resulted in those still working in the pastoral industry losing their jobs. With no employment elsewhere, and no way of staying on their traditional lands, more were forced to live on welfare rations on the Roebourne Reserve.
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1967 – 1974

Without work, no longer able to access their country, and forced to live in continuing poverty in the midst of the riches of first mining boom, many adults took up alcohol. This had a terrible effect on families and culture, until the emergence of the Pilbara Aboriginal Church, with its focus on two way culture and giving up alcohol, helped Elders to restore people’s confidence in Cultural Law. Three new…
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1969

To provide water for towns & industry, Pilbara Water Supply Scheme began piping water from Millstream National Park (in Yindjibarndi country).
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1974

Assimilation – After many years of reports decrying the terrible living conditions on the Old Reserve, the state government removed most residents from the Old Reserve to the newly built Roebourne Aboriginal Village. No consultation was undertaken about placement of families or the positioning of the Village around the cemetery. A Shortfall in the provision of accommodation meant some 40 families could not be placed in housing. Shire of Roebourne…
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1975-1976

The first Pilbara Aboriginal Bush Meeting considers the cultural heritage of the Fortescue site, and rejects the PWD. Proposal to dam the Fortescue. Further Bush Meetings also continue to reject the Proposal.  
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1977-1978

Several other Dam sites are proposed. A three month-long survey of other options preferred by PWSS is carried out by Aboriginal Cultural Heritage consultants. Their recommendations are rejected by Government. Yindjibarndi Elders are unable to rally other Pilbara Bush Meeting delegates to support their need to reject PWSS proposal to Dam the Harding River at Cooya Pooya / Lockyer’s Gorge.  
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1981

The Registrar of Aboriginal Sites undertakes investigation and assessment of cultural sites in the proposed Dam and catchment area, and clears the way for the Dam to proceed. This was done after a brief two day visit to Roebourne and without consultation with senior Yindjibarndi knowledge holders. May – Harding River announced as PWSS preferred Dam site. June – Initial design & construction investigations undertaken. July – First public reports…
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1982

February – Harding Dam construction contract signed. March – Construction begins on Harding Dam. April/May – Public comment period regarding the Harding Dam Environmental Impact Report. April – Petition tabled in Parliament requesting further investigation regarding proposed Dam. The Public Works Department claimed decision for Dam on Harding River was only taken after 8 years of consultation with Aboriginal people. July – Long Mack writes to the Minister for Water…
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1983

Yindjibarndi leader, Long Mack passes away February – WA State elections bring Labor Party to power, leading to hopes that plans to build Harding Dam will be set aside. Nothing changes. April – Ngaarda hold a meeting at the Dam site to survey and mourn for what will be lost. September – 18 year old, John Pat’s Death in Custody in Roebourne Gaol. His death, which led to the Commonwealth…
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1984

June – Western Australia’s Land Rights Inquiry Commissioner, Paul Seaman meets with Roebourne people July – Yindjibarndi Elders request Federal High Court to stop the construction of the Harding Dam August – Federal High Court rejects Ngaarda application to stop the building of Harding Dam
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1985

May 28 – Official Opening of Harding Dam  
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1988 – 1993

Frank Rejavic & Noelene Harrison film Exile & the Kingdom documenting Ngaarda cultural heritage & history  
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1993

Roger Solomon,Yindjibarndi/Ngarluma Elder, narrator of Exile & the Kingdom passes away.  
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1996

Start of the joint Ngarluma Yindjibarndi Land Rights Claim    
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2005

First Ngarluma Yindjibarndi Native Title Decision (appealed) Intensive new developments in the mining & resource industries lead to the pegging of mining leases over most of the Pilbara. Pressure on Native Title holders to provide Heritage Clearances in return for limited royalties grows.  
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2007

Yindjibarndi people granted Native Title and limited access to 30% of their ancestral country.    
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2009

New discussions about the need for substantially increased reliable West Pilbara water supply due to exponential and continuing growth in iron ore mining, and a 33% increase in town populations between 1996-2009  
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2010

Pressure on Ngaardangali to provide Heritage Clearances and allow mining on their land continues. Karratha plans population expansion from 20,000 to 50,000 people between 2010-2020. New ports, rail and mining Infrastructure planned – yet most Ngaarda live in very impoverished conditions, with few opportunities for improving their economic or social well-being.  
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Gifts of the Maarga from Juluwarlu on Vimeo.