Sustainable Aboriginal livelihoods and the Pilbara mining boom

Sustainable Aboriginal livelihoods and the Pilbara mining boom Book Section

Indigenous Participation in Australian Economies: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives

  • Author(s): Holcombe, S
  • Secondary Author(s): Ian Keen
  • Published: 2010
  • Publisher: ANU ePress

Abstract: Recently referred to as ‘recreational lifestyles’ (Johns 2009:22), the various socioeconomic choices that some Aboriginal people make, in remote areas especially, are often contrasted with how these same people should be operating in the ‘real economy’. There is considerable debate about the value of the ‘real economy’ as a term, given that neo-liberalism tends to be the reference point (Altman 2009; Pholi et al. 2009). Nevertheless, if we think in terms of the ‘mainstream’—as this term tends to be understood—the mining industry can readily be typified as the ‘real’ economy. Pilbara Iron, a business arm of Rio Tinto, has had mixed success in engaging Aboriginal people in this economy. Through a range of strategies, however, such as pre-employment programs, 11 per cent of their workforce is now Aboriginal (Rio Tinto 2007:90), though not necessarily all are local native titleholders from the region of the mine.2 The focus in this chapter is on the Pilbara Iron Ore operations generally and the activities of Gumala Aboriginal Corporation (Gumala) more specifically.

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Suggested Citation
Holcombe, S, 2010, Sustainable Aboriginal livelihoods and the Pilbara mining boom, Book Section, viewed 05 December 2023,

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