Bogus outback development

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By ERWIN CHLANDA

After a night when every single dwelling in Yuendumu was broken into, and when one business there received a half million dollar quote for looking after the security of their premises for the year, the Alice Springs News tried to rattle the cage.

On top of previous stonewalling came this:

“The Emergency Operations Centre has many plans in place, outlining how we will respond in a variety of situations. These whole of government response plans are exercised, revised and updated regularly to ensure they can be enacted quickly and efficiently when needed.”

It took the police three days to provide this patronising non-answer in reply to precise questions.

Turning our enquiry on its head may be an interesting strategy.

Yuendumu is just down the road from what is likely to be the world’s biggest gold mine, Newmont. It has 1,200 direct and indirect employees, on a fly-in and fly-out roster at a massive cost from all over Australia.

Yet there is plenty local labor.

Given the incessant blathering about developing the outback, how come just a handful of workers at the historic Granites mine come from Yuendumu?

How come people in Yuendumu live in decrepit dwellings when it could be a modern outback town with full employment like the mining camp (pictured)?

What exactly is meant by Developing the North? How is it going to work when one considers Newmont as an example?

The mining agreement with the US company, responding to one of the principles of land rights, is based in part on offers of employment to be readily available.

Why they remain largely without take-up is the question that needs to be asked.

12 COMMENTS

  1. FACT CHECK: “After a night when every single dwelling in Yuendumu was broken into.”
    NOT TRUE. Take only my dwelling which hasn’t been broken into in years. We don’t even bother to lock our doors during the day.
    Without counting I am confident that the number of dwellings that have NOT been broken into far exceeds those that have.
    [ED – The information came from another long time resident.]

  2. FACT CHECK: “What is likely to be the world’s biggest gold mine, Newmont.”
    True, Newmont is probable the biggest gold producer in the world, but their Tanami operations mine at the Granites isn’t even their biggest producer in Australia, which is the Boddington mine in Western Australia.

  3. “Largely without take up” is indeed a very pertinent quotation.
    In my experience the mine isn’t all that keen on local participation. Most of their glossy PR is tokenism. The News quoted from their web-site in a previous article.
    As far as I know there isn’t a single Yuendumu Warlpiri employed at the mine. There is a silver lining, when there was a Covid-19 outrbreak at the mine, this didn’t affect Yuendumu in the least.
    Newmont boast a significant number of Indigenous employees, which range from as far away as Torres Strait. I don’t deny these people the opportunity to get these jobs, but to count them as local Indigenous participation under the Granites agreement is a bit precious.
    You only need to look at the treatment of that TI descendant qualified electrician who wrote to the News
    , to read between the lines. Any Indigenous person who stands up for their rights is avoided.
    Then there is the other side of the take-up equation. Why would a Warlpiri person sacrifice their world view for the sake of a well paid job in a to them entirely foreign environment?

  4. Thanks Frank. It is your last sentence that is most difficult for politicians, bureaucrats, do-gooders and critics to accept.
    I well recall an Aboriginal health worker in a Centralian community.
    A senior woman, intelligent, reliable, very well paid, the ideal person.
    After a few years she resigned, much to the puzzlement and distress of the doctors and nurses.
    In her world view, being involved with her children, grandchildren and community in a traditional way was more important.

  5. The contributions from Frank Baarda are welcome but is needs to be taken into account that:
    • Neither Minister Paech nor Minister Worden agreed to an interview with the News.
    • The response from the police is without substance and was three days late.
    • The publicly funded NGO we contacted provided no substantial responses.
    • The News is continuing to pursue the story.
    Erwin Chlanda, Editor

  6. @ Frank Baarda
    Any Indigenous person who stands up for their rights is avoided?
    No!
    More like any person who expects favourable treatment because they claim to be Indigenous is avoided.
    The salaries are high ($100K plus), the work conditions are good, the training excellent.
    There is very little if any racism.
    But whinging and whining about small things or expecting shortcuts “because I’m Indigenous” is not tolerated.
    Nor is calling out racism when treated the same as everyone else.
    That’s the rule throughout the mining industry, all over Australia.

  7. All the comments above show once more that the two world views (colonised vs colonisers) will never meet.
    Even with a proper reconciliation process or perhaps a treaty the two will remain two in fact it may enforce the fact that there are two sides. All we can wish for is to take advantage of the two sides for the good of all. Therefore accept the Uluru statement.
    (Inshallah! A little multicultural personal addition.)

  8. In my experience, when the business is in service delivery or production, we have had little success with indigenous people. The cultures of modern businesses are generally not geared up for the cultural divides.
    When people don’t show up for work, it can and does costs huge amounts of money.
    The governments have circumvented their accountability by “forcing” private business to employ Indigenous people. In many cases it is written into various contracts.
    What needs to happen is the education system needs to educate everybody in the needs of business.
    Any business should be entitled to employ whom they like. I am often challenged by people because I recruit 457s.
    They fail to realise that it costs anywhere between 10k to 50k to recruit these people, so as a business it very much makes sense that if you didn’t have to pay that, you would simply employ locals. Perhaps those who criticise, need to look a bit deeper.
    It’s fine when you are an government or NGO, money doesn’t really matter, but think about the realities of private business.

  9. About 0.5% of Australians work in the mining industry, one of Australia’s biggest producing industries, and most of them live in actual towns or regional cities.
    While a lot of them fly in and fly out from big cities, very few fly to remote locations to live in complete isolation from their family and friends.
    So it takes a special kind of person willing to do that kind of work and live under complete control of the mining company and government rules and regulations. There have been some local workers from Yuendumu who’ve spent long periods working in the mines, but staff turnover is very high, and as soon as you leave, you are replaced.
    For most people who have worked in remote company owned mining camps, the money is gone and it is just a distant memory.

  10. Absolutely agree with Surprised. I too own a small business and as it is quiet due to being off season coupled with Covid and the government’s terrible handling of it with regards to chopping and changing rules.
    I currently have about eight people with one of those being a local Indigenous person who took a day off work to get his tooth fixed, haven’t seen him for about a month now so everybody else has to do extra hours to cover his job.
    And it is not the first time or first person I have had this issue with so why bother?

  11. I want to return to Frank’s last paragraph: “Why would a Warlpiri person sacrifice their world view for the sake of a well paid job …”
    Is it reasonable to expect working people to pay taxes to support others who elect not to work?
    If Warlpiri continue to hold such a “world view”, does it follow that they accept their kids’ lives will develop much the same as their own? And the same for the next generation?

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