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Indigenous People and the Pilbara Mining Boom

Indigenous People and the Pilbara Mining Boom: A baseline for regional participation

J. Taylor
B. Scambary
Volume: CAEPR Monograph No. 25
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Indigenous People and the Pilbara Mining Boom
    Book Description:

    The largest escalation of mining activity in Australian history is currently underway in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Pilbara-based transnational resource companies recognise that major social and economic impacts on Indigenous communities in the region are to be expected and that sound relations with these communities and the pursuit of sustainable regional economies involving greater Indigenous participation provide the necessary foundations for a social licence to operate. This study examines the dynamics of demand for Indigenous labour in the region, and the capacity of local supply to respond. A special feature of this study is the inclusion of qualitative data reporting the views of local Indigenous people on the social and economic predicaments that face them. The basic message conveyed is that little has been achieved over the past four decades in terms of enhancing Indigenous socioeconomic status in the Pilbara. On the basis of planned economic development and corporate interest in pursuing Indigenous engagement, progress is now possible but major efforts are required from all interested stakeholders (Indigenous organisations, miners and governments) in order to ensure that this occurs.

    eISBN: 978-1-920942-54-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-x)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Jon Altman

    This is the latest in what is developing into a series of CAEPR monographs stimulated by the interest of mining companies to better understand the social and economic landscape of regions within which they operate. It stems from an approach made to the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) by Jeff Wilkie of Pilbara Iron who sought to establish a detailed profile of the Pilbara population in order to assist company and public policy discussions on Indigenous engagement in the context of rapidly expanding mining activity in the Pilbara region. We acknowledge the financial and logistical support of Pilbara...

  6. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. A note on spellings of Aboriginal words
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  8. Acronyms and abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  9. 1. Profiling outcomes
    (pp. 1-8)

    In developing the ARC linkage project Indigenous Community Organisations and Miners: Partnering Sustainable Regional Development between the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) at the Australian National University (ANU) and Rio Tinto, it was noted that the number of agreements between mining companies and Indigenous community or regional organisations had grown substantially over the past two decades. It was also noted that a degree of optimism prevailed in the early 1980s that agreements such as these, many with significant financial benefit packages, would make a difference to the marginal economic situation of Indigenous beneficiaries. However, research to date indicates...

  10. 2. Demography of the Pilbara region
    (pp. 9-26)

    A range of counts and estimates are available for the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations of the Pilbara and its constituent parts. For example, the ABS provides a de facto count of people who were deemed to be present in the region on each census night (7 August 2001 at the most recent census). Then there is a de jure count of people across Australia who indicate that the Pilbara is their usual place of residence on census night. These two counts are also available for SLAs and IAs found within the region, while de facto counts are available for ILs....

  11. 3. Indigenous participation in the regional labour market
    (pp. 27-62)

    Indigenous participation in the Pilbara labour market is long-standing and stems from the first incursion of pastoralists and miners into the region in the latter part of the nineteenth century (Holcombe 2004; Wilson 1980). Within more recent history, however, the significant development was the eviction of Indigenous labour from the pastoral industry, a process that commenced with the declaration of the equal pay award in 1968 (Edmunds 1989: 28). While this shedding of labour has yet to be replaced by any firm engagement of Indigenous people in the regional labour market, the current expansion of mining activity combined with the...

  12. 4. Income status
    (pp. 63-76)

    Indigenous people in the Pilbara have a number of potential sources of cash income. These range from wage labour in mining and other mainstream forms of work, to participation in a CDEP scheme, unemployment benefit and other payments from Centrelink, royalty or other agreed payments to traditional land owners, and private income from the sale of art works, crafts and other products. Set against these, of course, there are routine deductions from income at source, such as those for house rent and power charges.

    Accurate data on income levels, and employment and non-employment sources of income, are notoriously difficult to...

  13. 5. Education and training
    (pp. 77-96)

    There are two broad perspectives against which the purpose and performance of education in the region may be assessed. The first is culturally-grounded and considers what Indigenous people want from education. According to one analyst, many Indigenous people selectively procure aspects of Western education and ignore others that do not suit their needs and aspirations (Schwab 1998). Consequently, what is desired from education in general, and from schools in particular, can be very different to what these western institutions expect. These desires have been conceptualised in terms of the acquisition of core competencies to deal with the non-Indigenous world, the...

  14. 6. Housing and infrastructure
    (pp. 97-112)

    At the end of the 1960s, and into the 1970s, the migration of Indigenous people off pastoral properties across the Pilbara into emerging urban areas (and consequently away from the inland towards the coast) placed considerable strain on available housing stock in the region and added to the pressures for new dwelling construction (Edmunds 1989: 32). At the 1971 Census, a total of 270 Indigenous dwellings were identified across the Pilbara providing shelter for a total of 2323 residents to produce an average occupancy rate of 8.6 persons per dwelling. Since Indigenous post-censal population estimates were not available at that...

  15. 7. Health status
    (pp. 113-130)

    A primary barrier to the enhanced participation of Indigenous people in the Pilbara labour market is poor health status and associated high morbidity and mortality. According to the Epidemiology Branch of the Western Australia Department of Health, life expectancy at birth for Indigenous males is just 55 years in the East Pilbara Health District (Port Hedland and East Pilbara SLAs), and 52 years in the West Pilbara (Roebourne and Ashburton SLAs). The equivalent figures for females are 60 and 63 years respectively (Pilbara Population Health Unit 2004: 5–21). According to the same source, the Indigenous population accounted for an...

  16. 8. Crime and justice
    (pp. 131-144)

    Interaction with the police, and subsequently with the courts and various custodial institutions, is a pervasive element of Indigenous social and economic life in the Pilbara region. In the 1994 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey (NATSIS), an estimated 18 per cent of Indigenous people aged 13 years and over in the Ngarda Ngarli Yarndu ATSIC Region reported that they had been arrested by police in the previous five years (ABS 1996a: 70). This amounted to some 570 individuals. The equivalent proportion in the Warburton ATSIC Region (the northern half of which falls within the Pilbara SD) was 23...

  17. 9. Implications for regional development
    (pp. 145-156)

    The analysis in the preceding chapters details the relative social and economic status of the Pilbara Indigenous population at the commencement of major expansion in the mineral resources sector and associated regional impacts. In the immediate context, it provides an essential quantum to discussions of need, aspirations, and regional development capacities for Indigenous, corporate, and government stakeholders. In future contexts, it provides a benchmark against which the success or otherwise of intended and unforeseen impacts may be measured. Inevitably, and purposely, it constitutes a cross-sectional representation of conditions at the beginning of the twenty-first century, although, where possible, comparison is...

  18. References
    (pp. 157-166)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 167-168)