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Marcia Langton’s ‘quiet revolution’ and what you don’t hear about James Price Point

Professor Marcia Langton opened this year’s Boyer Lectures with an observation that William Stanner’s 1968 Boyer Lectures had “given credence, perhaps inadvertently” to the idea that Aboriginal people…

Successful negotiations at James Price Point have been drowned out by the voices of protest. AAP/Cortlan Bennett

Professor Marcia Langton opened this year’s Boyer Lectures with an observation that William Stanner’s 1968 Boyer Lectures had “given credence, perhaps inadvertently” to the idea that Aboriginal people could not lead a modern economic life.

Her central theme, that participation in the modern economy is essential to strong Indigenous communities, and that Indigenous people are riding the resource boom to the middle classes, is probably news to many people used to tales of multinational resource companies running roughshod over Indigenous groups. Langton calls it the “quiet revolution”.

I believe that an example of this quiet revolution can be seen taking place in northern Western Australia. But it is barely registering a whisper in the national press, drowned out by two deafening and opposing voices: the chants of a national environmental campaign versus the siren call of resource development.

I speak of the three agreements reached between the Goolarabooloo Jabirr Jabirr registered native title claimants, the state of Western Australia and Woodside Petroleum to process gas from the Browse Basin at an LNG Precinct at James Price Point.

The contents of these agreements have been largely unnoticed amid the clamour of the anti-gas campaign, and the intra-Indigenous dispute about whether or not to sign them. But these agreements are far better than those most Traditional Owners are negotiating in Australia, and contain better compensation than Traditional Owners are entitled to under compulsory acquisition provisions. It’s therefore worth examining them and asking how they came to be.

A starting point is the law governing negotiations between Traditional Owners and resource companies, widely acknowledged to create an uneven playing field.

First, almost no land owners in Australia own the minerals that are beneath the surface of their land, including native title holders, whose ownership of minerals was extinguished by legislation vesting mineral ownership in the Crown. In addition, no individual or community group, with perhaps the exception of those holding Aboriginal Land Rights Act land, have the legal right to stop mining activities going ahead on their land.

When mining or petroleum companies want to access native title land, they must follow the procedures set out in the Native Title Act. This says that the native title party has the “right to negotiate” an agreement with the resource company. That’s not a right to stop the development, nor the right to reach an agreement, just the right to negotiate. It is better than what was there previously – limited rights under Aboriginal heritage legislation – but there is still plenty that is disempowering about these “right to negotiate” provisions.

So, with this legislative backdrop, how do native title parties ever get a good deal? Langton gave us some answers to this question in her lectures, including the advent of the requirement that mining companies obtain a “social licence to operate”. And yet, Traditional Owner groups all around Australia still get steamrolled, and are still forced to accept inadequate compensation.

As the former ATSIC deputy chair Ray Robinson said, Indigenous landowners are sometimes still “ripped off by mining companies … [who] are getting billions and billions of dollars and they are offering Indigenous people a pittance”.

In contrast, and whatever you might think of the proposed LNG Precinct, the agreements are worth a lot of money. They are also comprehensive agreements, and include significant grants of freehold land, as well as employment, training, environmental and cultural protections. They contain very substantial regional benefits for all Kimberley Aboriginal people in areas such as education, health and housing.

Most intriguingly, they bind the state, through an Act of Parliament, not to process LNG anywhere else on the Kimberley coastline. How did this come to pass, given the sometimes skewed results of the Native Title Act, as well as the threat of compulsory acquisition?

Certainly, the project lent itself to a good deal: it is the first large industrial project proposed for the Kimberley coastline, and was a priority for successive state governments. It was also a project swamped in rhetorical goodwill towards Traditional Owners – for example, Don Voelte, the former CEO of Woodside, said that for him: “It’s not about the dollars … the point is what are you doing to the community?”

But I would like to suggest another reason behind the success of the Goolarabooloo Jabirr Jabirr, and detour to Stanner’s 1968 Boyer Lectures to provide an explanation. He spoke of the effects of European colonisation on the Indigenous psyche, saying that “a long humiliation can dull the vision, narrow the spirit, and contract the heart towards new things".

Certainly the history of the Kimberley is full of humiliation, and much worse, for Aboriginal people. But the Kimberley is also full of humiliation’s opposites – pride, success and dignity – and I believe that they have empowered and invigorated Kimberley Traditional Owners.

Kimberley successes include the fact that large areas of the Kimberley are now back in Indigenous hands. The first successful native title claim over a town – Broome – was made in the Kimberley.

Culture, language and leadership are strong, held up by what are said to be the three pillars of Kimberley Indigenous life: the Kimberley Land Council, the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre and the Language Resource Centre.

The Kimberley Land Council, formed during the Noonkanbah dispute (also a dispute about resource extraction on Indigenous land) has been negotiating these sorts of agreements for a long time. Wayne Bergmann, its former CEO, told the National Press Club this year that he believes they are negotiating better agreements in the Kimberley than elsewhere, even without the Native Title Act’s right to negotiate.

Why is this so important? I turn to Stanner again, who noted “the rapidity with which peoples who but a short time ago were powerless, dependent and voiceless found power, independence and voice”.

I believe that the power and voice of Traditional Owners is the “quiet revolution” of the James Price Point controversy. Stanner may have wrongly implied that Indigenous people could not live a modern economic life, but the words of his Boyer Lectures, and Marcia Langton’s, are reflected in the Kimberley today. It’s time we heard more about it.

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60 Comments sorted by

  1. Michael Lenehan

    retired

    No doubt "whatever you might think of the proposed LNG Precinct, the agreements are worth a lot of money. They are also comprehensive agreements, and include significant grants of freehold land, as well as employment, training, environmental and cultural protections. They contain very substantial regional benefits for all Kimberley Aboriginal people in areas such as education, health and housing." Even is we presume this is true the point about any funds from any source is how they are re-distributed…

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  2. Peter Brennan

    Academic Director

    Lilly: You seem to be suggesting that the traditional owners should be happy with the agreement because they, like all other Australians, don't own the minerals beneath their land. This is irrelevant here because the proposed development doesn't involve mining on the site, it is taking over the surface of the land for a processing plant.

    I would dispute your argument that this "agreement" is a good deal for the traditional owners; its akin to the government coming and taking your prime piece…

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  3. John Newton

    Author Journalist

    My question is this. Why do we need to endanger the environment, to stamp down footprints that make those of the dinosaurs look like budgerigar's to enrich the lives of the indigenous owners? Whatever Don Voelte said, it is only about dollars because that is the only reason to mine LNG.

    It's not for our use, it's for sale. and it has nothing to do with cleaner energy. The cleanest energy source is beating down on us every day. The problem is that the Don Voeltes of the world can't own it.

    If you read Bill Gammage's book The Biggest Estate on Earth you learn, as i did, how the original Australians carved out, over 50,000 years, a way of living here tht did not disturb but re-shaped the environment.

    Why can't we take a leaf out of that book? We can't as Gammage says, go back to 1788, but we can learn lessons from how it was done. And that would not include mining for LNG.

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    1. John Harland

      bicycle technician

      In reply to John Newton

      It is sentimental and quite misleading to talk of 50,000 years of not disturbing the environment.

      There certainly is evidence of major disruption of the Australian environment from the start of human habitation.

      However, there is the reality of 50,000 years of learning how to live in balance with the environment. By the time of the British invasion, that learning was at a very high level.

      Fifty thousand years is roughly ten times longer than the history of civilization and around one hundred times longer than the history of modern capitalism, colonialism and industrial development.

      Fifty thousand years of learning deserves respect, not the condescension of being treated as the natural state of noble savages. Nor should the entire time be judged in terms of early mistakes. Mistakes are inherent to all learning.

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  4. alexander j watt

    logged in via Twitter

    I must admit I am cynically inclined to view the WA government's fairplay with the Indigenous community as a way of driving a wedge through the middle of the opposition to the LNG project. There is another article on the conversation about the modern phenomena of 'green' and 'black' movements being at odds over matters relating to the environment, where money is to be made. In this instance it has given legitimacy to the LNG proposal and isolated the environmental movement and made it seem like a lefty white person's argument which is out of touch with local sentiment (which it really isn't).

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  5. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    Thanks for this article, Ms O'Neill, which presents an optimistic perspective on Indigenous empowerment with respect to James Price Point.

    My understanding is that the world must cease using all fossil fuels sooner rather than later, including LNG. If I am correct, then the gas processing plant and James Price Point will be mothballed sooner rather than later - particularly as smaller, mobile modular Floating LNG plants may soon enable LNG processing to occur at the production rig itself, rather than needing to be piped onshore.

    Could you comment on the effects that such mothballing may have on Indigenous empowerment?

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    1. Michael Lenehan

      retired

      In reply to David Arthur

      A very good point. If the 'win' for Aboriginal people is to be lots of money - for how long will it keep flowing?

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  6. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    I've been listening to Marcia's lectures with very ambivalent ears.

    All over the world, wherever there are indigenous legal rights over land, mining companies are offering a "good price" for taking their minerals. But they also take more. Much more.

    The deal is generally not just about minerals - but about culture and heritage. The shale oil operations in Canada for example see a totally reshaped and artificial landscape left after "rehabilitation". The latest venture in the Kimberly will…

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    1. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I do not think it is a question of moral compass because I could not say I would not have taken a greater student allowance had it been available. But how for forty five years could he have boasted or identified with indigenous issues ( I am not sure Kuri is politically correct now there was some talk that it only referred to coastal dwellers, that is why I think it might have been me who introduced the word indigenous which I brought back from Central America where indio is considered offensive…

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  7. Cameron Wheatley

    Student

    Surely the question is not whether Indigenous Australians are capable of living a 'modern economic life', of course they are! The real question is whether they would want to be absorbed into our culturally impoverished hedonistic treadmill running middle classes?

    They may be riding the resources boom to the middle classes, but do they have the choice to do anything else? Obviously they lack the power to actually stop these projects from going ahead, so they do what anyone would naturally do, and…

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    1. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Cameron Wheatley

      Cameron, firstly it is unlikely that all the indigenous community will be turned into gas plant workers, nor even with the income derived from the gas deal will they adopt a modern economic life. Some might but the majority won't based on the available evidence.

      It's time the alleged "genuine culture and connection to the land" was also exposed for what it is, more wishful thinking by whites than reality. Sure there is some semblance of the old culture still in existence but it's hardly completely…

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  8. Fran Westmore

    Student

    2 points I would like to make:
    - The WA Government process has not been fair or equitable to the various Traditional owner groups, many of whom are vehemently opposed to this project. On the contrary, it has been arrogant, dishonest and bullying and there is no way Indigenous stakeholders can be assumed to be happy with the plans or empowered to have practical influence on them. Many Traditional Owners value country health above economic wealth and are surely entitled to be respected for this view…

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  9. John Coochey

    Mr

    "First, almost no land owners in Australia own the minerals that are beneath the surface of their land, including native title holders, whose ownership of minerals was extinguished by legislation vesting mineral ownership in the Crown. In addition, no individual or community group, with perhaps the exception of those holding Aboriginal Land Rights Act land, have the legal right to stop mining activities going ahead on their land"

    That just about says it all. Why should one group of Australians…

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to John Coochey

      One quarter Aboriginal ... that'd be a leg and maybe a forearm I guess. Must look funny at the beach.

      Seriously John, we let any blow-in turn up and call themselves Australians after a bit... give them a piece of the action. Like it's our's to give away. Because Cook had a flag and the locals didn't. Flags are very important apparently in deciding who owns what. No flag - not really here.

      I think it is unfortunate that some folks who have some Aboriginal ancestry are able to access the…

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  10. Bernie Masters

    environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

    Thanks for a positive and useful article, but the overwhelming negativity of the 9 comments says a lot more about the state of Aboriginal affairs in Australia than the article.
    Some of the comments are simply not accurate. For example: "the original Australians carved out, over 50,000 years, a way of living here that did not disturb but re-shaped the environment". There is now strong evidence to show that Aboriginal people directly or indirectly caused the extinction of the early mega-fauna when…

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    1. Cameron Wheatley

      Student

      In reply to Bernie Masters

      Bernie, I wasn't trying to suggest that indigenous people anywhere should reject a higher standard of living, of course everyone has the right to a long healthy life.

      I am however, concerned about the limited paths that are offered to indigenous people in achieving that. It is a false dichotomy to suggest that they should have to choose between being impoverished or living a 'modern economic life' by e.g. accepting industrial development of their land and working in gas plants. (a dichotomy that…

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    2. Fran Westmore

      Student

      In reply to Bernie Masters

      "As for the claim that James Price Point is some pristine environmental sanctuary, it isn't. It's significantly degraded throughout most of the proposed development area "

      As someone who lived there until very recently, I can tell you categorically that your statement is simply not true. It is that kind of untruth that lies at the heart of the "negotiations" to date. Unless, of course, you are referring to the degradation currently being inflicted by the mining company that the local community (white and Indigenous) is trying to stop?

      If the kimberley can be retained as the wilderness it currently is, I will see the glass as overflowing!

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    3. Malcolm Lindsay

      PhD Candidate at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Bernie Masters

      Hi Bernie,

      You may see it as a glass half full, but with this project there is the option for a full glass. There are cheaper and less culturally/ecologically impacting alternatives to James Price Point which would cause little impact, yet provide royalties and jobs for the state and profits for the companies, seems like a no-brainer to me. Give the full glass.

      In regards to your ecological assessment, as an ecologist who has worked extensively in the area i can inform you that your opinion…

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  11. Tony P Grant

    Neo-Mort

    My understanding of (W Stanner's work) in the Daly river area was that the indigenous people he observed were being dis-coupled from their environment via the "food chain"... their food chain! It has been many years since reading Stanner but I remember his forecast; that "white flour/sugar and tea" would assist in the destruction (long term) of native people.

    This may seem a little off topic but the "long term effects" have been seen regularly in ABS analysis! Indigenous people were used to their…

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    1. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to Tony P Grant

      Tony - it was more than lose their food source, in imposing our own form of agriculture we changed the entire ecology of the contient -for the worse. Read Bill Gammage's The Biggest Estate on Earth for the complete story. Book of the year.

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  12. John R. Sabine

    Scholar-at-Large

    A pertinent and eminently sensible comment, John Coochey.
    I should be interested in making direct contact with you for further discussion on this and related matters - if you would care to.
    (jsabine@iimetro.com.au)

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  13. Peter Boyd Lane

    geologist

    An aspect not addressed in this article is that this was a very rare instance in Australia where a community (Aboriginal or not) did have a say. In almost all other instances the only protection a community has against mining or associated development is that of the risk to the environment (which I believe is reason enough why this LNG should be processed offshore), and if the environmental argument fails the community has NO right at law to stop something it does not want. The answer? Change the laws.

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  14. Comment removed by moderator.

  15. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    @ John Coochey

    OK we'll leave the morality aside -obviously not much common ground there. Other than to say that people who take stuff just because they can are, to me, well, rather colonial.. you know, graspers.

    And we'll leave the "political correctness" aside as well because, as you can tell from my appalling comments on repatriating the English by force suggest I'm not particularly concerned with "political correctness". But correctness pure and simple is another matter.

    You ask…

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    1. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Well, it is a sad fact of life that we all had ancestors and they all lived somewhere so we are all entitled to rent from someone according to your position. Now let us think of the Cocos Keeling Islands when they were discovered by the Clunies Ross family they were uninhabited and then populated by that family with contract laborers. Should the descendants of these laborers pay rent land taxes etc to the descendants of the Clunies Ross family and if not why not according to your position? Should…

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    2. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, how long are you going to milk this idea of collective white guilt? Please dont talk about 'we' did this or that to the indigenous folks because I wasnt alive when the suff you are talking about happened. I didnt perpetuate it or participate in it. I pay my taxes and the government uses that money to help right some of the wrongs that were committed in the past. What moredo I owe? I was born here so please explain the difference between me and some one who's 'indigenous'?

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  16. Aden Date

    Service Learning Coordinator at University of Western Australia

    Access to good health, education, employment, and economic prosperity are what Aboriginal Australians are entitled to as citizens of this country. Basic dignities should not be contingent on private investment, however lucrative.

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  17. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    I wish you all the luck in the world in pursuing a land-claim against the brutish Norman invaders John... might have left your run a bit late but it's never too late to do the right thing. Of course this would require the English Law Lords to recognise debt and make reparations. Most most unlikely innit?

    As to the Clunies-Ross mob - they made themselves rich on those indentured laborers they imported. They were lucky weren't they? Imagine finding your own uninhabited island to take. All they…

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    1. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      So now answer the questions, why should I feel obliged to urban dwellers with nominal aboriginal ancestry who have never missed a meal in their lives? Why should I feel obliged to help people who live in remote areas with no serious chance of gainful employment? I remember a Masters student who spoke with great venom about being told by Centrelink that she would not get money until she left the farm she was renting and went were there was work. Ironically she went to work for ATSIC once she graduated. Parallels obvious.

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    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I'll subvert the new order (or disorder) by answering you here John.

      I don't think you would feel obliged to anyone or anything John. That much remains obvious. As you said, if you could get a boosted student grant to which you were not entitled, you'd be grabbing it. See it's a moral question John and I don't think you or your mate would understand the basic issues.

      That's would. Should you feel obligated? You bet. England and the English ruling class have been sucking and grabbing…

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  18. Malcolm Lindsay

    PhD Candidate at University of Melbourne

    Hi Lily,

    I think 'silent coercion' is a much more appropriate title.

    I agree that the package signed for JPP is better than those signed with traditional owners in past resource projects. But it is not really much of a yard stick is it? Some deals struck between traditional owners and resource companies are goodwill stories of economic potential, this is not one of them.

    You speak of traditional owners getting steam rolled in the past, in this case only some of the traditional owners did…

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  19. John Coochey

    Mr

    I would suggest Peter Ormond not reply when he is drunk but perhaps when sober might like to actually address the issues.

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to John Coochey

      Now John I think we've already been through this elsewhere when you've asserted I'm turpsed. Don't touch a drop. Don't like it. It doesn't like me.

      Now you asked why YOU should feel obliged ... I explained that you probably never would. Because it's essentially a moral issue - about pinching other peoples' stuff - and you've already admitted to having dilemmas in this area. It's those itchy fingers and the presence of opportunity. Irresistible. Always was.

      So no you personally never…

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    2. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to John Coochey

      Does anyone find any coherence in Peter's ravings? If so can they please explain it.

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  20. Deb Foskey

    logged in via Facebook

    As a Green I am uncomfortable with Marcia Langton's assumptions about my views. Like Indigenous peoples, there is great diversity among the many people she lumps together and disparages in her lectures. Neither Marcia nor Lily in this article consider the global economic and ecological context in which the future of the Kimberley and elsewhere is being traded.

    It is sad and disappointing that traditional owners are at last being offered a share in the profits from Australia's resources at the…

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  21. Peter Boyd Lane

    geologist

    Thanks Michael Lindsay, a very informative contribution.

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  22. Jean-Paul Gagnon

    University Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Australian Catholic University

    Hi Lily,

    My many thanks for this important article. I was invited by the Sustainable Minerals Institute at the University of Queensland to give a public lecture on the topic of indigenous ownership of sub-surface minerals. It should be on YouTube in the coming weeks.

    A question from the audience on the nuances within industry-to-indigenous mining contracts reminded me of some evidence from the Latin American region but certainly not from Australia (aside from limited cases in the Northern Territories). You are, I think, completely right that this is a quiet revolution. Indigenous voices are strengthening and we truly need to hear more from them.

    Thanks again to you for this,

    Jean-Paul

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  23. Adso Sharah

    logged in via Facebook

    Hi,

    I cannot speak about the potential long term environmental effects of the James Price Point development, I don’t have a degree, though being an adopted Australian Indigenous man, I have for many years sought to understand Aboriginal people and the complex issues that we collectively face.


    There are quite a few pertinent facts missing from this debate.
    It is important to take into account that it is due to the failure of the government to invest in infrastructure in Australia’s remote…

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    1. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Adso Sharah

      Adso Sharah, I agree with you on everything but uranium. It turns out that uranium provides, if you use the nuclear breeder reactor technology, about a million times more energy per ton of fuel than does coal. Or of course there is the LFTR, which does the same with thorium. China is looking at both, and if Europe, the USA, and the provinces of the former British Empire ignore these facts, and China succeeds, world civilization will return to where it was in the Chin dynasty. We can then totally forget about democracy, or even our present slight approximations thereto..

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    2. Simon Batterbury

      Associate Professor at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Adso Sharah

      What Australia lacks is something you see in New Caledonia, a near-neighbour in the Pacific that has a massive nickel mining and processing industry and an island (Grande Terre) divided between European settlers and a large Kanak indigenous population. Remember that these groups were basically at war with each other in the 1980s over French imperialism. But now, after peace accords, in the Northern Province, you have an almost wholly Melanesian regional government, committed to the economic development…

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  24. Bernie Masters

    environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

    Cameron, thanks for the comment which I largely agree with. We should be able to offer Aboriginal people a range of options from which they can choose an acceptable life path. The problem as I see it is that Australians are generally unhappy when they see people being offered more than they consider to be fair or reasonable. Most Australians also believe that people should be required by government to work for a living (as difficult that may be to apply in places where there is little meaningful…

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  25. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    @ John Phillip

    And isn't Australia a good place to be born? Imagine having the luck to be born in Pakistan or the Congo.

    Now I wonder why that is. Where does our standard of living come from? Where did we get all this coal and iron ore and farming country? All our own work? Oh that's right it was just sitting here, down at the bottom of the world, gift-wrapped and empty.

    It's not about guilt John - it's about acknowledging debts, paying the rent. We didn't own this place John, we…

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    1. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, I agree with much of what you say but whether you like it or not, we cannot undo history and indigenous communities, ultimately, must decide whether they want to become part of the 21st-century or try and live according to selected notions of their idealised past.

      By the way, pilfering the natural resources of this country came after the Brits decided to use this place to dump their unwanted surplus population, the dregs of society and misfits overflowing their jails and river hulks. It's…

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    2. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, I agree with a few of your sentiments but I think continuing to distinguish between 'us' and 'them' is only going to perpetuate the differences. If assistance - both financial and social - was offered on the basis of need rather than some notion of ancestry or past wrongs, 'we' as a whole nation could move forward. To link aboriginal death rates to the past colonialisation or some notion of present systemic racism is a very suspect argument - to make such a link valid, you'd have to compare…

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  26. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    Couldn't agree more re early settlement here Blair.

    It would be no exaggeration to say that many if not the overwhelming majority of the first arrivals were rather impressed by the locals. Very subversive this "noble savage" notion - no kings, no police, no heirarchy. And don't think the Admiralty didn't notice.

    Folks like Watkin Tench and William Dawes give ample evidence of the respect and deference paid by those interested in such things. Same with little mentions like "Manly" named…

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      PS...

      Here's a 50 second crash course in applied colonialism.

      au.youtube.com/watch?v=hYeFcSq7Mxg

      At last a practical use for Lego!

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  27. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    Do we help people better by making them all middleclass consumers, or by learning with them how to look after our country?

    The primary need of people anywhere, beyond basic shelter and nutrition, is a sense of meaning and worth in their lives. That has almost nothing to do with levels of consumption.

    That is not to condone in any way disparity of resource allocation between indigenous and "mainstream" Australia, but mining has no relationship to fair distribution or justice.

    "Wealth" from…

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  28. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    John P,

    This is the problem right here: "I believe that this country belongs to those that live in it now."

    There's a difference between living somewhere and owning it I reckon. The only basis on which "we" can claim to "own" this place is because of that curious flag planting business. And, as the Mabo decision made abundantly clear, that action was in fact far from from legal even by English law. By pretending the place was empty and unowned we denied basic common law rights to a section…

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  29. John Coochey

    Mr

    Peter I will let you into a secret, the reason aboriginals are n jail is because they committed crimes! Far from children being kidnapped I know of a prominent aboriginal who complained there were not enough foster homes for them. I have a friend of thirty years or more who found out in middle age that he had been removed as a child into a loving and supportive family. By the time he found this out he had more than one degree lived in a large house and was married to a lawyer. Non of he aborigines…

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  30. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    Accusations of "political correctness" invariably come from those with a strong sense of their own political rectitude. It really is a silly description.

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to John Harland

      Not so much rectitude John, I think they are actually convinced of their own wrongheadedness and don't care, certainly they have run out of arguments to defend their "politically incorrect" viewpoint. It is the absence of argument. They insist on some "democratic" right to be wrong.

      It isn't an argument - it's a curmudgeon defence.

      History and society and the law is moving on past them and they don't like it at all.

      I'd imagine that the old slave traders, watching the law closing in, would have spent many hours sitting together raging about "political correctness" gone mad. India's child traffickers would share the same sense of outrage today.

      I'd imagine that the triceratops in the tar pit felt exactly the same way.

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  31. Gerald Officer

    Lab rat

    Did Lily O'Neill write a few words as an addendum to someones book in here?

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  32. Albert Rogers

    logged in via Facebook

    There is no excuse for any country as large as Australia, or any country to windward of such a world treasure as the Great Barrier Reef, to build any new coal burning anywhere.
    Even the primitive, wasteful nuclear power Light Wtare Reactors are thousands of times less carcinogen-producing, per unit of energy, than coal, For as much energy as requires one ton of nuclear so-called waste, i.e. spent unprocessed fuel, coal burns to produce thousands of tons of toxic acid gases, and millions of tons…

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  33. Carsten Wergin

    logged in via Facebook

    Dear Lily

    thank you for your thought-provoking article. Much discussion in social media voices against the development at JPP/Walmadany and I appreciate your perspective.

    I would like to add a comment and pose a couple of questions as an anthropologist from Germany who fairly recently (Oct 2011) arrived in Australia for a two-year research project on tourism, development and Indigenous culture (1).

    Having worked and lived in Broome since March 2012 means that I could not ignore the community…

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  34. Bernie Masters

    environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

    Carsten, you state that Indigenous people do not have a power of veto over mining and that government can compulsory acquire land from them. In fact, at least in WA where I live, all land is subject to the same provisions of the Public Works Act, allowing any form of land (regardless of ownership) to be acquired by the state government for a public benefit purpose subject only to the payment of compensation. In this respect, Aboriginal people are treated exactly the same as all other West Australians. Your comment could be interpreted by some readers to suggest that Indigenous people are somehow being treated differently and more harshly than others with respect to compulsory land acquisition when in fact this is not the case.

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    1. Carsten Wergin

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Bernie Masters

      Dear Bernie

      Absolutely. Thank you for this clarification! I see this as an addition to my argument: The paper and parts of the discussion that has unfolded suggest a division between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous treatment. But participants in the revolution I think is happening (which actually is not quiet but rather not acknowledged properly yet) are likely to locate themselves beyond such dichotomies.

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Brian Boss

      Thanks Brian ... isn't this a sad sorry business?

      I know we are looking to miners to provide employment in the bush but I didn't think it would run to buying academics and ABC airtime to campaign against greenies and others critical of their interests.

      Compromised to the point of corruption.

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  35. Jim Latta

    music therapist

    Turning the country into a moons surface is surely no answer. Do intelligent people think minerals are finite?
    Fracking for profits .... water contamination ... what message does this send our children and their children?
    I think there are more important issues to discuss first, and re-establishing ATSIC is one of them ....

    I became an activist at the same time actress Justine Saunders did .... and for the same reason.
    I picked up a newspaper one day to read that half of my life was a myth.
    How can we possibly go forward when authority figures and politicians are re-writing our history as we speak?

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    1. Bernie Masters

      environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

      In reply to Jim Latta

      Er, pardon? Turning the country into a moons surface? Mining occupies less than 0.1% of the Australian land surface, far less than roads and urban areas. Of course, the real evil group is farmers who have cleared something like 20% of the continent and the grazing activities of their stock are changing the environment over another 30%. But, hey, it's really hard attacking the farming family for battling to earn a living from the land so let's pick on the big corporate mining companies which do far less environmental damage but which we can make look even more evil.
      A more important question is: are activists intelligent when they choose to ignore the truth and use the environment as an expendible political tool in their efforts to change the world?

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