chapter  8
64 Pages

Recognition, respect and reconciliation

Changing relations between Aborigines and mining interests in Australia

Since the early 1990s, Australia has confronted several nasty legacies of its colonial heritage in a rather blunt form. Overtly racist politicians, including the ‘Independent’ federal politician Pauline Hanson,1 have peddled a ‘no natives, no exotics’ approach to defining Australian cultural identity. A great deal of media attention and public debate throughout this period focused on issues of indigenous rights and Australian identity that came to prominence in the wake of the High Court’s 1992 decision in Mabo and its 1996 decision in Wik.2 Community polarisation over indigenous rights has overlapped with divisions over questions about Australia’s constitutional monarchy, multiculturalism as a policy framework, migration and industrial reform. Ten years earlier, when the West Australian and Federal Labor Party governments backed away from a policy that committed the ALP to a national framework to grant Aboriginal land rights (Libby 1989), the mining industry was united in its vehement opposition to such recognition. Indigenous Australians faced a reprehensible campaign of misinformation, misrepresentation and scaremongering, from which there was no public dissent among mining and mineral exploration companies.