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.
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.
Traditional Owners on the Gove Peninsula are at the forefront of the campaign to end domestic violence. The Rirratjingu Aboriginal Corporation, in partnership with the Northern Territory Police, held the first Indigenous Family Violence Policing Conference in Alice Springs in June last year.
During the closing of the event, the Rirratjingu invited the 2018 conference to be held in the Rirratjingu heartland – the remote community of Yirrkala in North-east Arnhem Land. The invitation was accepted.
For more on this and other articles on Rirratjingu in the January edition of Territory Q, click below and turn to page 62.
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For those who didn’t understand the title, this recipe contains a number of obvious deviations from what is considered the ‘classic’ Milanese Ossobuco recipe.
Several people have asked for my pizza recipe and while I often jot it onto a piece of paper for them, posting the ‘official’ version here might reassure them that ‘it really is that simple’. It certainly can be simple if you want it to be but there is a whole Interwebthingy strewn with debate, research, long versions, short versions, hints, tips and recipes from the pure and simple to the cluttered, chaotic and downright unnecessary. If you’re looking for a tomato sauce recipe, you won’t find it in this post but I will certainly cover it soon…
This is my version of a simple dough which is identical to so many out there. It was a starting point for experimentation, trial and error and my own search for great tasting pizza. I’m not saying it’s great by any high gluten stretch of the imagination and I’m not saying there aren’t better recipes out there but it’s a quick and simple version that could whet your appetite and launch you on your own quest for the Holy Grail of pizza.
The short way down
- 1 cup of plain flour
- 8 tbsp of warm water
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1 tsp of sugar
- 1 tsp of yeast
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Mix and knead for several minutes. Oil the inside of a bowl with a little olive oil or spray. Drop the ball of dough in and cover with Glad wrap or a damp cloth and leave somewhere warm. Leave to rise for a couple of hours or until it nearly doubles in size.
Punch the dough down in the centre and roll out on to a floured surface while the oven heats up to about 240° C. Add your tomato sauce and favourite toppings and bake for about 10 t0 15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
Once your dough is rolled out to the required size and thickness, transfer to a tray or other flat surface covered with semolina or cornmeal. This will enable the topped and finished pizza to easily slide off when you transfer it to the oven.
The long way ’round
For those partial to the convoluted, the following might satisfy your appetite. It’s the same simple recipe, just long-winded.
Flour – Strong baker’s flour is best but I often use the super-cheap supermarket homebrand. You can also buy specific bread and pizza flour such as the Anchor brand (for those of us in Australia) but generally, a strong, high protein, plain flour is what you’re after. High protein means higher elasticity and a better rise. Get King Arthur Bread flour if you can find it.
Salt – Good old fashioned table salt. A possibly interesting variation might be to use rock salt for an added crunchy suprise but until I find the salt shaker empty, I might just leave the rock for other recipes and emergencies.
Olive oil – I add a tablespoon of olive oil to the warm water and sometimes drizzle lightly over simple pizzas. A drop or two should be used to line the bowl to prevent sticking during the rise. The spray version is quite handy for this.
Water – 8 tablespoons of warm water should be a guide but 9 shouldn’t harm. If the dough isn’t slightly sticky add minute quantities and continue kneading. It should pull away from the bowl but just stick the bottom as you knead. Conversely, if it’s too wet, sticking to both hands and the bowl, simply sprinkle small quantities of flour. Apparently, an acceptable dough should stretch nicely without cracking.
Yeast – A level teaspoon of ordinary bakers yeast is sufficient for this recipe but this is one ingredient that you don’t necessarily double up on when making larger quantities. I believe this equates to a sachet of the common brands found in any supermarket. During your quest for the perfect pizza, yeast becomes very important but we’ll talk about that another time.
Add all dry ingredients to a large bowl. I use a hand whisk to disperse thoroughly. Make a well in the middle and pour in the water and olive oil.
Use a fork and mix until mostly combined. This saves getting all gooed up. Then again, so does using an electric mixer with dough hooks. Now use a floured hand to knead the dough. I find, as many do, that the kneading process is quite relaxing. It’s also a more socially acceptable means of developing a strong right hand but I digress. This should be done for several minutes before covering and leaving in a warm place to rise. I usually use Glad wrap instead of a traditional damp cloth.
There is much debate concerning ingredients, methods and temperatures etc and the length and size of the dough rise is no exception but if I’m in a hurry, I’ll roll it out whenever I damn please.
Many will say that you must wait until it doubles in size and there are arguments for overnight rising but as this is supposed to be a super simple recipe, leave it until it has risen by about 50-75%, usually between 1 and 2 hours. I have even kept dough covered in the fridge for days before using it and if you find regular kneading a chore, or the size of your kneading arm grows to the embarrassing proportions of Popeye, make up a batch, divide into single pizza balls, rub with olive oil, seal in Glad wrap or sandwich bags and throw in the freezer for a rainy day. Once solid, they can be dropped into a sock to manufacture a formidable weapon against burglars, door-to-door salesmen and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Once your dough has risen enough, dump it out onto a clean floured surface and punch the centre to expel the air. You can use your fist to start spreading the dough outwards. Purists will say you should use just your fingers to manipulate and stretch the dough to the required size and shape but this takes time. Personally, I more often than not use a medium sized empty jam jar. Starting from the middle, gently and evenly roll the dough outwards but avoid rolling the edge. Leaving a slightly thicker rim will result in a lovely crunchy hand hold and prevent hot goey ingredients from sliding off.
Once the dough is just about there or your patience runs out, whichever is sooner, wack the oven on at 240° C. If you are using a stone, then aim for a good 20 minutes or more to heat up properly. I have heard conflicting theories on stone placement, whether it be top or bottom of the oven and it may just have been luck but I have slightly better results by placing the stone at the top of my rather crappy fan-assisted oven. You’ll have to experiment. Keep an eye on it but at this temperature, 10 minutes should do but take it out when the cheese has melted and the crust is golden brown.
If, like me, you catch the pizza-making bug, it will not be long before you begin the quest for the ‘perfect pizza’. However, you need not look much further than Jeff Varasano’s web site. Just ask Google for ‘the perfect pizza recipe’ and Jeff’s site sits in the number one spot. I’ve scanned it numerous times to glean tips but it makes my mouth water in a particularly undignified and wholly Homer-like fashion, every time I visit. I shall have to wear a bib should I ever be lucky enough to visit his recently opened pizzeria in New York!
In the end
The key to making great pizza, in my opinion, is to keep it simple and this recipe is certainly that. By all means experiment with every step until you are satisfied. Get yourself a pizza stone, cook quicker at higher temperatures or for longer on lower, try the top of the oven as well as the lower, add grated Parmesan or mixed herbs to the dough or vary the thickness of crust. All this I will endeavor to cover another time.
All said and done, you have to enjoy what you are doing, otherwise call Domino’s!