Jon Altman

Jon Altman was a research professor at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University in Melbourne when this book was co-edited and is an emeritus professor at The Australian National University affiliated with the School of Regulation and Global Governance in Canberra. Since 1979, he has collaborated with Kuninjku-speaking people in western Arnhem Land, analysing economic transformations in a situation where formal labour markets are absent.

Labour Lines and Colonial Power »

Indigenous and Pacific Islander Labour Mobility in Australia

Today, increases of so-called ‘low-skilled’ and temporary labour migrations of Pacific Islanders to Australia occur alongside calls for Indigenous people to ‘orbit’ from remote communities in search of employment opportunities. These trends reflect the persistent neoliberalism within contemporary Australia, as well as the effects of structural dynamics within the global agriculture and resource extractive industries. They also unfold within the context of long and troubled histories of Australian colonialism, and of complexes of race, labour and mobility that reverberate through that history and into the present. The contemporary labour of Pacific Islanders in the horticultural industry has sinister historical echoes in the ‘blackbirding’ of South Sea Islanders to work on sugar plantations in New South Wales and Queensland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as in wider patterns of labour, trade and colonisation across the Pacific region. The antecedents of contemporary Indigenous labour mobility, meanwhile, include forms of unwaged and highly exploitative labouring on government settlements, missions, pastoral stations and in the pearling industry. For both Pacific Islanders and Indigenous people, though, labour mobilities past and present also include agentive and purposeful migrations, reflective of rich cultures and histories of mobility, as well as of forces that compel both movement and immobility. Drawing together historians, anthropologists, sociologists and geographers, this book critically explores experiences of labour mobility by Indigenous peoples and Pacific Islanders, including Māori, within Australia. Locating these new expressions of labour mobility within historical patterns of movement, contributors interrogate the contours and continuities of Australian coloniality in its diverse and interconnected expressions.

The Quest for the Good Life in Precarious Times »

Ethnographic Perspectives on the Domestic Moral Economy

The study of the quest for the good life and the morality and value it presupposes is not new. To the contrary, this is an ancient issue; its intellectual history can be traced back to Aristotle. In anthropology, the study of morality and value has always been a central concern, despite the claim of some scholars that the recent upsurge of interest in these issues is new. What is novel is how scholars in many disciplines are posing the value question in new ways. The global economic alignments of the present pose many political, moral and theoretical questions, but the central issue the essays in this collection address is: how do relatively poor people of the Australia–Pacific region survive in current precarious times? In looking to answer this question, contributors directly engage the values and concepts of their interlocutors. At a time when understanding local implications of global processes is taking on new urgency, these essays bring finely honed anthropological perspectives to matters of universal human concern—they offer radical empirical critique based on intensive fieldwork that will be of great interest to those seeking to comprehend the bigger picture.

Power, Culture, Economy »

Indigenous Australians and Mining

Edited by: Jon Altman, David Martin
Research over the past decade in health, employment, life expectancy, child mortality, and household income has confirmed that Indigenous Australians are still Australia’s most disadvantaged group. Those residing in communities in regional and remote Australia are further disadvantaged because of the limited formal economic opportunities there. In these areas mining developments may be the major—and sometimes the only—contributors to regional economic development. However Indigenous communities have gained only relatively limited long-term economic development benefits from mining activity on land that they own or over which they have property rights of varying significance. Furthermore, while Indigenous people may place high value on realising particular non-economic benefits from mining agreements, there may be only limited capacity to deliver such benefits. This collection of papers focuses on three large, ongoing mining operations in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory under two statutory regimes—the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 and the Native Title Act 1993. The authors outline the institutional basis to greater industry involvement while describing and analysing the best practice principles that can be utilised both by companies and Indigenous community organisations. The research addresses questions such as: What factors underlie successful investment in community relations and associated agreement governance and benefit packages for Indigenous communities? How are economic and non-economic flows monitored? What are the values and aspirations which Indigenous people may bring to bear in their engagement with mining developments? What more should companies and government do to develop the capacity and sustainability of local Indigenous organisations? What mining company strategies build community capacity to deal with impacts of mining? Are these adequate? How to prepare for sustainable futures for Indigenous Australians after mine closure? This research was conducted under an Australian Research Council Linkage Project, with Rio Tinto and the Committee for Economic Development of Australia as Industry Partners.