After Emancipation: The Pilbara, Australian Aboriginal Economic Development and the Mining Tax

To make great economic advances for Aboriginal people means making those advances in the regions that Aboriginal people live. Unlike urbanized mainstream Australians, 2/3 of Aboriginal Australians live in regional and remote areas of the country. The current mining boom in Australia is an historic opportunity because the wealth is being generated in the heartlands of where Aboriginal people live around the country...


  • One of the worrying aspects of the current debate over the mining tax is that Aboriginal people on whose land and in whose communities mining takes place may be left high and dry and even more disadvantaged from the outcomes of the negotiations. This paper was written as a reminder of the aspirations of Aboriginal people in mining communities and regions and the importance of this to the nation as a whole.
  • The irony of the current debate is that it ignores the fact that the most successful generator of Aboriginal jobs in the mining industry are Aboriginal companies and contractors. In the heartland of the mining boom, the Pilbara, one company, Ngarda Civil and Mining has generated over half of the current Aboriginal mining jobs.
  • The Federal government provided Ngarda with a piddling $1 million in January to generate more Aboriginal mining employment.
  • The main goal in the Pilbara and all other mining regions should be to bring Aboriginal ratios of employment up to the level of non-Indigenous employment. That would mean bringing the current Aboriginal mining workforce of approximately 300 up to 900. This would require a dedicated fund of $30 million to be invested into Aboriginal mining training by Aboriginal companies and contractors in the Pilbara. Aboriginal companies and contractors are the only companies that are capable of and incentivised enough to deliver the outcomes that are needed in the mining industry. The big mining companies would have to make a commitment to create mainstream jobs for the Aboriginal employees and to provide ongoing Aboriginal coaching and mentoring over a minimum five year period. This would cost a further $30 million dollars which should be funded by mining companies and the Federal government.
  • Similar goals should be set for other Aboriginal mining regions such as Arnhem Land, the Kimberley and 
    Cape York Peninsula. It is not good enough for the Federal government and the big mining companies to set up the equivalent of protected CDEP like mining enterprises that are not based in the competitive mainstream economy. Aboriginal people in the Pilbara and around the country have the capability and capacity to work in the mainstream competitive industry and to create their own wealth.
  • In addition to the employment and training subsidies and payments, there must be targeted taxation reform which directly benefits Aboriginal mining companies, contractors and employees. A 150 per cent investment incentive for investments in Aboriginal companies and contractors in the mining industry should be part of the outcome that the Federal government agrees to as part of the negotiated settlement in relation to the current mining tax debate. If this is not part of the outcome, then Aboriginal people will once again have been treated as second class citizens and their interests will once again have been sidelined.