Indigenous communities grapple with end of the mining boom
Written on the 30 June 2017As Australia's resources boom wanes, several Indigenous communities that were once promised prosperity have been left grappling with a legacy of endemic poverty and questions about how mining money has been spent.
For the traditional land owners around the township of Kununurra in the remote north of Western Australia, diamonds have not been their best friends.The nearby Argyle diamond mine is three years from closure, and a royalties fund designed to ensure the community's future is severely depleted.
Nestled among the scenic ranges of the Kimberley, Kununurra is blessed by an abundance of fresh water, the arable plains of the Ord River to the north-west and the Rio Tinto diamond mine to the south.The Indigenous Land Use Agreement that traditional owners negotiated with Argyle between 2003 and 2005 was held up as an example of best practice across the country.
Now, however, with revenue from the mine running dry and Rio facing the impending high costs of closing the mine, the outlook is bleak.Where once the Argyle deals had led to a dramatic increase in Indigenous employment, opportunity, and a sense of self-determination for the people of the north-east Kimberley, now there is despair.
Despite millions of dollars a year from Argyle diamonds flowing to seven local family groups, or Dawangs, via a complex web of companies and trusts, the community is riven by poverty, poor education, alcoholism and one of the highest teen suicide rates in the country.
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