This study concerns agreements made between Indigenous Australians and the mining industry, and focuses on three such agreements in three Australian states. Set in the period 2003–2007, the study examines agreement outcomes within the shifting Indigenous policy context of the time that sought to de-emphasise the cultural behaviour or imperatives of Indigenous people in undertaking economic action in favour of a mainstream approach to economic development. Key themes in this study concern concepts of value, identity and community and the tension that exists between culture and economics in the Australian Indigenous policy environment. In examining this tension, the study identifies that poor socioeconomic status precludes many Indigenous people from engaging in the formal programs associated with mining agreements, and in many cases from gaining economic benefits from the agreements. For these people, and also for many Indigenous people who do qualify to work in the industry, a tension exists between the imperative to maintain cultural identity and the potential cultural assimilation implied by their increasing integration into a market economy. Significant diversity exists within the Indigenous polity, but a key theme that emerges is that those integrally involved with the mining industry, and who participated in this study emphasise a desire for alternative forms of economic engagement that combine access to the mainstream economy with the maintenance and enhancement of Indigenous institutions. Such aspirations reflect on-going and dynamic responses to modernity. A clear tension emerges then between the construct of sustainable development futures entailed in the agreements, and the futures that Indigenous people affected by mining imagine for themselves. The value that is derived from productive action associated with a range of culturally based livelihood practices, both in economic and symbolic terms, is juxtaposed against the neo-liberal development ethos contained in the three mining agreements. Contested notions of value and productivity are illustrated throughout this study by the description of the structures of the agreements and Indigenous responses to them.
Scambary, B. (2013). My country, mine country: Indigenous people, mining and development contestation in remote Australia (Research Monograph No. 33). Australian National University E Press: Canberra, Australia.