Fly-in Fly out workers to sites in Western Australia and Queensland are ruining country towns close by their camps and are increasing the crime rate according to reports on WAToday.com.au (here and here.
The study by Queensland University of Technology’s Professor Kerry Carrington was published in the British Journal of Criminology. Here’s the abstract:
Over the last two decades, two new trajectories have taken hold in criminology—the study of masculinity and crime, after a century of neglect, and the geography of crime. This article brings both those fields together to analyse the impact of globalization in the resources sector on frontier cultures of violence.
This paper approaches this issue through a case study of frontier masculinities and violence in communities at the forefront of generating resource extraction for global economies.
This paper argues that the high rates of violence among men living in work camps in these socio-spatial contexts cannot simply be understood as individualized expressions of psycho-pathological deficit or social disorganization. Explanations for these patterns of violence must also consider a number of key subterranean convergences between globalizing processes and the social dynamics of male-on-male violence in such settings.
Only two remote mining towns in western Australia were visited (unsure of how many in Queensland) but the results of the study seem to reflect (actually seem worse than) previous posts I have written on this topic (Remote Mining – check links in article).
If the abstract is a bit dry here are some quotes from Professor Kerry Carrington:
These (communities) are in a David and Goliath struggle, these are little people in a community that have very little voice, that are watching these massive, powerful, big mining companies build these work camps on their door steps
In one Western Australian mining community, which was surrounded by work camps housing about 8000 mostly male workers, the rate of violence was 2.3 times the state average.
The workers then get bussed to these pubs that are surrounded by wire mesh, they drink hard and get plastered, get into fights, sleep it off and go again.
One quote in the articles reflect my own views.
Queensland is regulating these social impacts somewhat by forcing mines to plan for them but WA does not have the same policy
The big problem we had in the WA mining industry was that (mining executives) refused to talk to us and didn’t see it as their problem. That’s because they sub-contract out their workforce.
Until mining companies are forced to improve local communities near their mines and to spend the time to train up and mentor the local population (in many cases poor with significant indigenous residents) to improve the community and reduce the fly in fly out workforce these problems will only get worse.
Welcome to a new, hopefully weekly post. I’ll show you the remains after our bush mechanics have finished with a vehicle or perhaps wrecked whitefella vehicles on holidays. I even have some pics of an old Jag on a disused hunting track.
Let’s start with a bang.
A squillion dollar piece of exploration equipment burns down on a major road and it would make the news. Not out here. Earlier this year on one of only a few East West crossings connecting Western Australia with the rest of the country this little beauty burnt to the ground.
It proved one thing. Three fire extinguishers on the truck just don’t make a difference. I also like the touch of the little safety triangles.
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In 2003 a Western Australian commissioned panel looked at the long working hours in the mining industry. A lot of the focus was on the Fly In Fly Out (FIFO) workforce suggesting they suffered from higher levels of drug abuse, depression and family breakdowns. It didn’t seem to stop the increasing numbers of FIFO workers.
However the mining companies continued to produce reports that purportedly showed that FIFO workers benefited communities. With the economic turn-down mining companies seem to be moving opposite ways. A contractor at the Argyle diamond mine will give preference to local workers over FIFO workers as they start laying off staff. Unfortunately the larger mining companies who are the major employers seem to have other ideas.
Port Hedland still wants a rethink on the use of FIFO workers
The Member for the Pilbara, Tom Stephens, has criticised the mining company over its plans to increase its work force by 20 per cent over the next three years without building new houses in Port Hedland and Newman.
ABC TV recently reported on a Western Australia study that showed the health and social effects supposedly suffered by a FIFO workforce (talked about in the opening paragraph) was not correct and there was no more hardship than local workers. This led to one company to say they would increase the FIFO workforce (supposedly to the detriment of local workers, community infrastructure etc as cost is always the driving factor).
When mines are opened on land owned by indigenous people under Native Title, Native Title Agreements are entered into with the land holders. Sometimes this leads to increased local indigenous employment. However some companies quote the indigenous employment at various mine sites with out disclosing many of them are FIFO workers.
Most importantly, research from Griffith University has shown that these agreements between mining companies and native land owners has NOT led to any benefits for the local people.
results show the Tribunal, which administers the Native Title Act (NTA), seriously disadvantages Indigenous groups when negotiating with mining companies. ……..
“In all 17 cases taken to the Tribunal in the last decade, the Tribunal has granted the mining leases and been unwilling to impose conditions that might prove onerous for the miner…..
“Research shows the Tribunal demands more stringent standards of proof from Indigenous groups than from companies, and tends to accept particular types of evidence when this favours companies but reject the same sort of evidence when it favours Indigenous groups.”
Native Title should provide Indigenous people with the opportunity to benefit from Australia’s resources boom, to reduce their dependence on welfare and increase their presence in the ‘real economy
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in an article titled Housing and Infrastructure states:
Housing has been identified as a major factor affecting the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Adequate housing provides protection from the elements, minimises the risk of disease and injury, and contributes to the physical, mental and social wellbeing of the occupants. Inadequate or poorly maintained housing and the absence of essential infrastructure, such as a supply of safe drinking water and effective sewerage systems, can pose serious health risks.
One hundred and fifty five million dollars is about to be spent in the Northern Territory on indigenous housing as part of a five year, $672 million dollar program. (A list of the involved communities is here). I find it difficult to understand comments made by intelligent men such as those by Gary Johns of The Bennelong Society, who has stated:
“housing should not be provided to remote Aboriginal communities where there are no jobs and people are unable to pay rent or service a mortgage”
and that they should move to where there are jobs.
The earlier part of my post talked about the major companies flying in and out workers rather than increasing local infrastructure and employing locally. So where do we build these indigenous houses so they are closer to work? Do we have them move to towns first and live in overcrowded conditions if in a house at all or do we build a house first and try and reduce overcrowding and the diseases that I am sure the members of the Bennelong Society have never suffered from.
Why don’t we look at ensuring the agreements signed between mining companies and native title holders provide real benefits, including jobs, are delivered to the local indigenous population.
Perhaps in their effort to find 50 000 jobs for indigenous Australians rather than fly people from Queensland to Western Australia they could fly remote indigenous Australians from their larger communities to the nearest mine site, provide proper training, assist with schooling and negotiate to improve indigenous communities.
I am sure we as a country and the members of The Bennelong Society if they could bury their ideology for a while) can come up with innovative and workable proposals that benefits as well as respects indigenous Australians and their culture.
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