• Image of workers at a mine (Getty)Source: Getty
While some have argued Adani's potential to bring economy into Aboriginal communities, writer Bruce Pascoe says we shouldn't have to accept token jobs to keep the capitalists happy.
By
Bruce Pascoe

4 Dec 2017 - 3:10 PM  UPDATED 4 Dec 2017 - 3:12 PM

Warren Mundine has always been about economic development and taking economic opportunities when they arise to enrich communities. While I don’t like arguing with my own people and I respect Warren’s opinion, I do disagree with some of the ways that we end up taking such 'opportunities'.

Wearing a fluro vest in someone else's mine is not always the best economic result for us. Nor is it the best cultural one, especially when it’s colonised. We have to be hard aligned with people like Twiggy Forrest and the Adani group and we shouldn't have to accept token jobs to keep the capitalists happy.

Instead, we should be much more culturally insistant and have long term aims. I want Aboriginal people to be actually creating industries, and instead of giving us money, I want the government to give us opportunity. If we’re going to go mining we've got to have some investment in it, not just take wages or a bit of ‘cultural money’ every now and then.

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If the government was fair dinkum about Aboriginal employment, Aboriginal investment, Aboriginal enterprise we would be seeing less red tape every time we want to do something and more of an inside run so that we can establish an industry. By saying, 'we’re going to make it really easy and convenient for you mob. We’re not going to give you any money, we’re going make sure though that the products that you offer are given opportunity to prosper'. That way we could be in charge of the industry and an active part of the economy - not just slaves to it. While I appreciate that people like Warren want the best for communities to have incoming wages, I want us to be the drivers of our own cultural product economy, not just slaves in someone else's mine.

Let’s just face facts, Adani is a bad mine. The only way it can be successful is if they turn around Australian opinion and one of the ways they can do that is to look like they’re being generous to Aboriginal people.

Let’s just face facts, Adani is a bad mine. The only way it can be successful is if they turn around Australian opinion. And one of the ways they can do that is to look like they’re being generous to Aboriginal people and generous to Australian workers. However, mining is not the best option for our people because the Earth is our Mother. So what are we doing, considering destroying huge parts of the Earth; the Mother?

There's some mining that sustainable and there’s some that’s unsustainable and frankly, coal mining is unsustainable. The rest of the world is turning away from coal and Adani will be one of the last coal mines operating in the western world, which is very telling. It's a bad mine and Australia just has to get over it. We’ve got sunshine and that should be our economy. 

We should be investing in alternative power, it's where the future is and it's where the future for our people is. Communities ought to be solar powered not diesel generated as many currently are. I’ve always wanted our people to be making and installing solar panels in all our communities across Australia. It's relatively easy to do - just get half a dozen lads and girls in trucks installing solar panels in communities. They don't have to be electricians either. All they need is to be trained to install panels and have the work signed off by an electrician. There'd be work there for at least thirty-odd years and for hundreds of our people.  

I’ve always wanted our people to be making and installing solar panels in all our communities across Australia.

This is something I tried to do about three years ago, but every government department that I got into got in my way. In my experience, they didn’t try and help me, they just got in my way. All we needed was cooperation and instead got confusion and inability to appreciate that this was a considered way to employ Aboriginal people.

As Adani's finacial viability has been disputed by experts, one also questions the postive impact that said wages could bring? Rather, this mine has just become a neo-right ideal whereby it can't have Greens have Liberal Nationals (and Labor to that extent) telling them what to do, and we need to drop the discussion as a country - it's just a bad idea. Let's get into renewables. Let's get Aboriginal people involved in financially sustainable work, as well as environmentally sustainable work, and let's make it easy for our people to do that.  

Bruce Pascoe is an award-winning writer, author and anthologist and a Boon Wurrung, Tasmanian, Yuin man. His book, Dark Emu: Black Seeds - Agriculture or Accident? was awarded the 2016 NSW Premiers' Literary Book of the Year Prize and the Indigenous Writer's Prize.   

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