Saturday, February 2, 2013

There is a ticking time bomb in the remote economic heart of the nation

On a visit to Broome (and south of Broome) I witnessed first hand the kinds of inequities that Marcia Langton discusses in her Griffith review essay The Resource Curse (Edition 28, Still the Lucky Country). I was shocked to see the rapacious 'resort tourist' development in Broome, the fast escalating rents and house prices and the seeming marginalisation of many Aboriginal people from access to any social or economic benefits from the 'boom'. The issues are systemic and huge. I don't always agree with what I perceive as Langton's sometimes 'pro-mining' stance, but in this essay she gets to the heart of the many contradictions in the continuing colonisation of Aboriginal lands.

"The effects of the current resource curse in the Pilbara are reminiscent of the mining boom in the 1960s. Aborigines were the intended losers then; now all locals, regardless of background, are losers if they do not work in the industry. My question is this: are there any policies to counter the growing disparities in income, living conditions and opportunity in the mining provinces?....The mining regions are the source of enormous revenue, yet their residents are disadvantaged and deprived of services...the traditional owners of the land are the most disadvantaged living upon it....many Aboriginal groups were not opposed to mining but concerned about racist and inequitable practices being replicated in new ventures. What the groups wanted was guaranteed recognition of their inherent rights and interests, and acceptable terms for cultural, social and economic futures".

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