Abstract: Much has been written about the ‘pioneering’ movement of white Australians and the aviation industry. This article aims to give a different account of the aviation industry by showing how Aboriginal Australians provided essential infrastructure: as available labour, and also importantly for their specific expertise about the terrain and knowledge of weather patterns. The article focuses on the period from the 1930s to the 1940s and the small aviation outpost of Daly Waters in the Northern Territory. It outlines how Aboriginal labour was used to prepare and maintain airstrips and provide crucial support for the aviation industry. It was through local knowledge and the labour of the Aboriginal people that the aviation industry in Australia could operate and expand, and in many instances, ensure the safety of those flying.

Keywords: Australian Aboriginals; aviation; Daly Waters; Indigenous knowledge; labour