Abstract: Karratha and Roeburne are neighbouring settlements, one a port and mining dormitory town on the coast of the southern Pilbara region of Western Australia; the other an old town, half an hour inland, where most people are Aboriginal. Karratha has new brick houses, tree-lined streets, substantial amenities, a motel, shopping centre, restaurants and tennis courts. Roeburne is old, dusty, and showing signs of years of neglect: broken fences, potholes, weeds and flaking paint. Here and there a well-kept house and garden appear incongruously among the other homes. A TAFE college, a few offices and a basketball court signal that someone decided to spend some state money in Roeburne, rather than concentrating all new investment in Karratha. The disparity between these towns is accelerating, and it is driven by the mining boom. In Karratha, everyone who wants to work has a job. In Roeburne, few people have the skills and education to join the fast-paced industries transforming the area. It is not just Aboriginal people or the residents of Roeburne who are falling behind. Anyone who lives in a mining province but does not work for a mining company is disadvantaged in important ways: their income is much lower, yet they must pay the same exorbitant housing, food and services costs, thanks to the localised inflation brought about by the boom. Not for the first time in Australian history, Aboriginal people and disadvantaged settlers are sharing the pain of the city–bush divide. Now, however, their shared disadvantage is a looming economic and national social policy problem that cuts across the conventional accounts of the ‘tyranny of distance’ and, in increasingly complex ways, the effects of the mining boom.