Jon Altman

Jon Altman is currently a research professor at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University and emeritus professor with the School of Regulation and Global Governance at The Australian National University, where he was the foundation director of the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) 1990–2010. He has a disciplinary background in economics and anthropology and has worked with Kuninjku-speaking people in West Arnhem Land, north Australia, since 1979.

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.