RAAF Base Tindal scrambled two F-35A jets this morning to intercept an Airnorth flight after suspicions were raised about an unusual flight pattern when it departed Darwin airport on time. Airnorth has been hit with a series of cancellations following an administration oversight: the firm recently found out that they needed to pay people to fly their aircraft and maintain their fleet, which hadn’t been factored into their recruitment plans.
The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future have announced that they’re not even going to bother trying to get local real estate agent, the eternally puissant Annabelline Stealmore-Lifeblood, to mend her ways this year.
Australia’s celebrated Arnhem Land aerospace project, rather than being dedicatedly civilian as the nation was media-led to believe, will have a US military component. Can the town of Nhulunbuy be permitted to survive? Probably not. Rio Tinto’s bauxite mine will soon close and the only other functions of the town are as a servicing hub for local Aboriginal communities and as a staging post for tourism. Obviously, both roles will end. And the Indigenous population? Without access to Songline sites, morale will collapse, and Arnhem Aboriginal culture will go into terminal decline.
Local real estate agent, the eternally puissant Annabelline Stealmore-Lifeblood is set to introduce an innovative approach to the town’s perennial housing crisis – a Thunderdome in which residents do battle for an affordable home.
The Thunderdome, to be built on the outskirts of Nhulunbuy by yet another interstate construction firm promising local training and jobs, will be governed by one simple rule – ‘two enter, one leaves…with an asbestos-free* (*conditions apply), Rio-owned unit of your choice’.
It is expected that Imparja will secure the rights to broadcast live Thunderdome contests and also a lucrative Saturday night highlights package.
“There’s nothing I like more than watching impoverished plebs batter each other into submission for my personal entertainment,” said one well-to-do local who asked to remain anonymous.
Some employees from sectors other than mining and government were dubious of the plan.
“Right, so it’s not enough that I have to take out a mortgage to fly in and out of my hometown, that I have to wait 6 weeks for Winellie to regurgitate my mail or that my career prospects are dependent on my ability to look enthusiastic when I hear ‘clean-up on aisle 3′,” said young a young local who also asked to remain anonymous.
“Now the only way I can secure sensibly priced housing is through brutal voyeuristic combat.”
“The region’s decision-makers couldn’t show me any more contempt if one of them came ’round and shat on my dining room table.”
It is understood that DEAL may have once toyed with the idea of offering a small number of sensibly-priced units to local residents who expressed a desire to remain in the region post-curtailment, and continue to plow their below average wages into the local economy, but as that would likely infuriate the region’s plutocracy and particularly real estate agents and their alleged burgeoning list of businesses falling over each other to relocate to the region, it was decided that the Thunderdome plan was slightly less stupid.
Dear State Capitalism,
You are sneaky and very shit. I knew this already, of course, but have recently learned it anew in my concern for the future of a certain remote township in North East Arnhem Land. It is everywhere and always implied that the State imposes taxes on citizens so that the government might provide them with services. This is a catchy tune. The Australian constitution certainly implies this – that people pay taxes so that the government can ‘perform all of its functions’, or something to that effect. However, this is not – and has never been – the case. I want to tell you a bit about the history and import of Nhulunbuy.
The historical relationship between Yolŋu people and mining in North East Arnhem Land has been of National significance and formative in terms of the nature of such intercultural engagement, policy and legislation. It was the excision of land from the then Aboriginal Reserve for the purposes of a mining lease and the subsequent Gove Land Rights Case (Milirrpum v Nabalco Pty Ltd, (1971)), instigated by the Yirrkala Bark Petition, which eventually laid the foundation for the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976 (as a result of the Woodward Commission). More specifically, it was the Yolŋu response to the excision and the decisive action taken by Yolŋu people which forged new and innovative intercultural possibilities in their engagement with their ‘supporters’ (predominantly Methodist Missionaries), as well as the Federal Government and the Courts, in their determination to have their system of land tenure and rights over their estate recognised by the State and Federal Governments and the Australian legal system.
Despite initial opposition to the excision and the lease commitment to build a mine, a port facility and a township the presence of Rio-Alcan has become a part of everyday life in the region. Nhulunbuy township is an important hub of service provision (including local government, health, education and training) and a valued market enclave (with shopping centres, banks, taxi businesses, restaurants, bars etcetera) in one of the most remote areas or regions in Australia. Yolŋu people and communities now rely upon Nhulunbuy in many and various ways and Yolŋu residents have become accustomed to living in close proximity to an ‘around the clock’ industrial-estate-cum-township with all its conveniences and trappings. Yolŋu Traditional Owners have also actively sought to engage and negotiate with mining companies in the region.
May 2011 saw the signing of the Gove Traditional Owners Agreement between Rio Tinto Alcan [Rio-Alcan] and Yolŋu Traditional Owners. President and chief executive officer Rio Tinto Alcan bauxite and alumina Pat Fiore paid tribute to the work of Gumatj elder Galarrwuy Yunupingu and Rirratjingu elder Bakamumu Marika in securing an agreement, and said at the time: “This agreement is living proof of the great long-term benefits that can be secured when mining companies and Traditional Owners work together in good faith for a common purpose”. The deal was reputedly worth between $15 and $18 million per annum to Yolŋu Traditional Owners until 2053.
In November 2013, however, after failed negotiations with Federal and Northern Territory Government over the construction of a gas pipeline, Rio-Alcan announced that they would be closing the Gove aluminium refinery. Media coverage has focused on the loss of over 1000 jobs at the plant with only 350 left in mining, the flow-on effects on the mainly Balanda (white, European) township of Nhulunbuy, the negative impact on the regional economy and the anticipated collapsed value of the township real estate market. However, as Altman points out, there has been little discussion about how the closure will affect Yolŋu people and communities in the region. Altman suggests that the closure is ‘not necessarily a bad outcome for the Yolŋu people’, but I would hesitate to suggest otherwise. Census data may show that ‘there have been few employment benefits to the region, [with] only a handful of Yolŋu from the townships of Yirrkala and Gunyanarra and from homelands in the region actually work[ing] for Rio Tinto Alcan’ (Altman 2014), but social and economic relations are far more complex and enmeshed on the ground.
Nhulunbuy is a purpose built township situated on leasehold land within the boundaries of Aboriginal freehold land. It was established by the former owner of Alcan Gove [Nabalco] to accommodate and support staff involved in the operation of the bauxite mine near Yirrkala (~20km from Nhulunbuy) as well as the alumina refinery at Gove. It has a population of approximately 4,000 people, the majority of whom are non-Indigenous people. It is the fourth largest town in the Northern Territory and the service and administrative centre of the region. Capital, like magic, creates things.
The economy of the entire Gove Peninsula is centred around the mine and refinery. The Gove operation spends more than $300 million annually on local goods and suppliers, with approximately 1400 employees and contractors. The closure of the Gove refinery will mean the loss of 1100 jobs and almost 25% of the town’s population.
With the loss of $300 million annually from the local economy it is likely that small business will find it very difficult to survive. The shopping centres, clothes stores, video stores, sport and recreation stores, taxi businesses, restaurants, mechanics, cafes, bars, etcetera – many of them will close and their owners and staff leave town. The are many and various other features of this modern industrial township – the sports ground, the golf course, the yacht club, public swimming pool, fishing club, surf-lifesaving club, the speedway, the skate park – that may not survive. Daily Qantas flights to Darwin and Cairns, which connect this remote township to the larger centres, have already been cancelled.
With such a dramatic fall in the population of the township it is also likely that the delivery of services will be significantly wound back or deemed unviable. This will affect health, education, training and social welfare – the hospital, the schools, the TAFE centre, the Centrelink office. Staffing numbers will likely be reduced at the Shire Council, the police station and the local Court, which will affect service and capacity in these areas also. There are also questions surrounding the future of housing and infrastructure and the legal status of the township lease, situated as it is, within the boundaries of Aboriginal Freehold land.
Yolŋu people from across NE Arnhem land depend upon Nhulunbuy for their consumer needs including food, alcohol, tobacco, consumer goods, vehicle maintenance and banking needs among other things. They also depend upon Nhulunbuy as a service and administrative centre, for health, training, social welfare, licensing, policing and legal services, among other things. What will the impacts and effects be if they can no longer access these goods and services in Nhulunbuy? Will they have to travel to another town or centre to access them? Will the loss of access to these basics affect people’s health and well-being? If they have to travel elsewhere to access these things might this affect other aspects of their lives?
Nhulunbuy, Yirrkala and surrounds has also become a nationally significant site or hub of intercultural relations, politics and brokerage. It has seen the establishment of a number of influential intercultural organisations such as the Dhimurru Rangers, Yothu Yindi Foundation, etcetera, and events like the annual Garma Festival which attracts prominent politicians, including the Prime Minister, and social figures from across Australia every year. How will the closure affect organisations such as Dhimurru and events such as the Garma Festival? Or don’t we care?
‘Nowadays,’ writes Graeber, ‘we all think we know the answer to this question. We pay our taxes so that the government can provide us with services. This starts with security services-military protection being, often, about the only service some early states were really able to provide. By now, of course, the government provides all sorts of things. All of this is said to go back to some sort of original “social contract” that everyone somehow agreed on, though no one really knows exactly when or by whom, or why we should be bound by the decisions of distant ancestors on this one matter when we don’t feel particularly bound by the decisions of our distant ancestors on anything else. All of this makes sense if you assume that markets come before governments, but the whole argument totters quickly once you realize that they don’t’ (2011:55).
What is the responsibility of the State or Federal Governments in this situation? Whose responsibility is it to maintain the service and administrative centre in the region? When capital withdraws so too, apparently, does any sense of social responsibility on the part of the Government toward its citizens. Rio Tinto has announced a ‘rescue package‘ to help locals when it closes the alumina refinery, so where is the government rescue package to provide basic services for its citizens?
K thnx bai,
p.s. What the **** do you do with all that money if it’s not to provide basic services for tax paying citizens?! Oh.
 We have seen similar unified, organised, determined and innovative responses from Yolŋu people in their engagement with the Native Title process. (See, for example, Morphy, F. ‘Performing law: The Yolngu of Blue Mud Bay meet the native title process’ in D. Fay and D. James (eds), The Rights and Wrongs of Land Restitution: ‘Restoring What Was Ours’, Routledge-Cavendish, Abingdon, pp. 99-122.)
 See ‘Nancy Williams, 1986, The Yolngu and Their Land: A System of Land Tenure and the Fight for Its Recognition, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra.’
This work by Bree Blakeman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
The availability of affordable housing is absolutely critical to Gove’s successful transition from a cashed-up mining town to a tourism-based region populated by more realistically salaried families.
If it is not self-interest or downright greed running this region, it’s blissful ignorance, incompetence, apathy or a destructive combination of all.
“Say something,” you say?
One of the problems you will have with a public discussion is that too many of us value our jobs, many of which come with housing, subsidised or not and there are a few cliques within this outwardly idyllic society which would enjoy nothing more than your ultimate relocation interstate, should you feel the need to rock the boat.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this region and have no plans to leave but the wealth and power are controlled by a few at the expense of many; no different to any other purportedly democratic society, I suppose. I have worked in rural community regeneration and development and know from experience that my voice doesn’t matter one iota. However, everyone knows that many voices are capable of great change.
It is perhaps no coincidence that the library’s copies of the Fascist Manifesto, Mein Kampf and anything by Mario Puzo or with “Fifty Shades” in the title are permanently on loan.
In the years I have lived here, I have encountered many residents who see and understand the issues facing this town. Most agree with why it is so and agree with the way forward. The establishment of a community action group to address the issues this town faces has been broached on several occasions and received generally excited encouragement though sadly no action.
I won’t rant and bemoan the town’s woes without at least offering a suggestion on a way forward. If by some miracle several overly prominent members of this community who generally profit at the expense of the majority could be persuaded to relocate interstate, the town could start moving in the direction everybody but the privileged few, desperately want.
Here’s another suggestion, get rid of that DEAL quango and procure experienced and proven community regeneration and development organisations to make real and rapid change.
If that fails, well, I guess if you can’t beat them, join them.
Read more about Nhulunbuy in the NT’s Arnhem Land:
Real estate agent, The Eternally Puissant Annabelline Stealmore-Lifeblood, has boldly claimed that it’ll be a bloody cold day in the Sahara before considering reducing the unfeasibly high rents.
Stealmore-Lifeblood, who lists Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires by Selwyn Raab as a favourite bedtime read on her Faceache page, made the bold claim that snow would lie over the Sahara desert before she considered the community and its long-term prosperity above her desire to claw in more money and hold court over decent folk with low to average incomes and families to support.
After a thick fall of snow blanketed the famous desert overnight, scientists who were asked to explain the phenomenon suggested that “Stealmore-Lifeblood is such an anathema to both God and nature that both have suspended normal operation to fuck her over”.
When asked if they were expecting any long term effects from the snowfall, they confirmed that they had observed a permanent increase of pressure in the dangerously throbbing vein just above her temple.
“Oh shit”, the potty-mouthed panjandrum and denizen of despair exclaimed when told of the snowfall.
“Shit, shit, shit”, she continued.
“I didn’t think it actually snowed in the desert.”
“What would Selwyn Raab have to say? I will be seeking illegal advice” she added.
Stealmore-Lifeblood later confirmed that rents would remain at the current obscenely inflated rates while her interests remained compatible with the dying town’s iniquitous overlords, all the while silently encouraged by a toothless and passive community.
Still, if nothing else, we can run pictures of the snowfall on the desert and say it proves there’s no such thing as global warming.
Yesterday, I was feeling vaguely charitable (read curious) and so released everyone from cyber-Coventry (my ‘Blocked’ list). There were approximately 40 and they were no doubt overwhelmed with the joyous news of my gracious and forgiving act.
Would you Adam and Eve it, by lunch today ‘The Witless Six’ and ‘The Irksome Eight’ have already made compelling cases to be returned permanently, have their English teachers investigated, their priests investigated or their parents sterilised.
Alarmingly, some of this special ensemble hold positions of responsibility in society.
And yes, I am a grumpy old git with a moderate chance of making my fiftieth (please refer to quote/tattoo below).
“Bask in my surly malcontent, for I am curmudgeon.” – Me, Christmas 2014.
Have a great day!
From our friends at the Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services
Northern Territory Police are searching for a prisoner who is reported to have absconded from the Correctional Services work camp in Nhulunbuy overnight.
Edward (Eddie) James Horrell, aged 62, is described as being 170cm tall, medium build and was wearing a blue and yellow hi-vis button up shirt and dark blue shorts.
Horrell has a number of convictions for violent offences including rape, manslaughter and murder. Nhulunbuy Police are conducting enquiries with known associates and family members of Horrell in an effort to locate him.
If sighted members of the public are urged not to approach him and to contact Police immediately.
Likewise anyone who has information on his current or intended whereabouts are urged to contact Police as a matter of urgency on 131 444 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. In an emergency call 000.
This convicted axe murderer and rapist waltzed out of our low-security open prison here in Nhulunbuy. It wasn’t long ago that the government assured the community that only low-risk offenders would be accommodated in Datjala Work Camp. Their website even states…
The facility can accommodate up to 50 sentenced and remand, low and open-security male prisoners. No sex offenders or prisoners of public interest are considered for placement.
Horrible Horrell was apparently seen doing some last minute grocery shopping at nearby Woolworths before continuing on his merry way. It is also rumoured that a position has become available at the work camp to monitor security cameras in the event the brazen walk-out encourages others to leave at will.
I have it on very good authority that 3 sex offenders were hastily flown out of town today in what stinks suspiciously of damage control.
Did you know that this insidious government have already approached an elderly female occupant of Dhambaliya (Bremer Island), asking her to move into town and never return, in exchange for accommodation and Centrelink payments?
Fortunately, she has well water and solar power and was therefore in a position to tell them where to stick their salacious bribe.
I wish people would wake up to the sickening way in which people are being treated by the local authority and government in general. I am particularly disgusted with what I have learned about local social services. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a spokesperson for the Yolŋu and nor would I profess to be but I know bad smells and when something stinks.
I can safely say that if this was happening to white people, there would be bloody riots.
Tony Abbott wants to remove the rightful owners of the land because he believes living in these remote communities is an unsustainable lifestyle choice which should no longer be funded.
History repeating itself? Same shit, different stench!