Values in the Pilbara Region
of the Pilbara region hold a unique mixture of isolation and interconnectedness.
Dependency on the mining and petrochemical industries for income
and services make the townships vulnerable to exterior economic
forces and overseas investors, leaving a majority of the community
with a sense of insecurity and unease about the future. This feeling
of instability is exacerbated by the organisation of fly in fly
outs from the region. The interconnectedness, however, stems from
the arid hostile nature of the land and climate, coupled with the
isolation and shared hardships of the people, which combined, results
in a highly valued sense of mateship.
has found a significant division amongst community values within
the northwest. Value has been defined as The worth,
desirability, or utility of a thing, or the qualities on which they
Amongst the Non-Indigenous people, the split lies between the fly
in fly out community and the permanent locals whose lives are based
in the regional towns. The other group of community values is that
of the Indigenous people. This report examines the different values
between these communities as well as the general values of Youth
and Women across all sectors of the region.
1. Divided Communities
of political oppression, racist community attitudes and the unappreciative,
careless nature of Non-Indigenous people towards Indigenous culture
has greatly changed and re-shaped both the Aboriginal culture and
its values. Current and historical treatment of Indigenous communities
has made many people feel like refugees within their own country.
Their loss of land and power seems to have left a sense of separation
and inferiority to the white communities.
people come and go from the Pilbara as industry requires. The Ngarluma
and Yindjibandi people were here before anyone else, and we will
still be here when everyone else has left. We only ask that people
respect our love of our country and our attachment to it (Media
people still hold the land as a core value within their culture.
A lack of understanding about Aboriginal culture and history appears
to be seen as a main source of racism, as well as misinformation
about Native Title legislation and stereotyped perceptions of Indigenous
The key issues
of Indigenous communities in the region include:
- Poor standard
of housing and living conditions
- Crime and
and Drug abuse
and limited job opportunities
- Poor standards
sense of hopelessness
from the past
All these issues
are still highly prevalent within the region and have resulted in
Indigenous people holding very little value for many aspects of
the Non-Indigenous way of life, policies and culture. The high value
they hold over their own culture is yet to be integrated or even
fully understood by the Non-Indigenous people of the Pilbara region.
dont come here to live, they come here to work
Town could be here today and gone tomorrow
Employ locals not fly in fly outs
Less dependence on industry and mining
The above comments
portray the mixed feelings of dislike and dependency on the mining
companies that so strongly impact on and influence the local lifestyles.
Changing shift rosters directly affect community and family life,
the declining community spirit and commitment to the region due
to instability of the fly in fly outs and the uncertainty of the
town's future are important influences within the region. However,
the Roebourne Cultural Study found that both children and adults
of the local community listed the lifestyle, small size of towns
and the strong sense of community as their greatest values.
Due to the
huge economic disparity within the region, people who are not employed
by the resource companies, such as schoolteachers, government workers
and local business owners, live a different life particularly
when you have to pay your own rent and air-conditioning bill.
This factor contributes to the inhibition of the towns to move away
from the resource companies and take control of their own townships
- economically, socially and environmentally.
and harsh physical attributes of the land have given many locals
within the town a sense of mateship and need for community. The
Non-Indigenous locals want to develop an agreed action plan to redress
the current erosion in social capital, as well as focus on the future
development of the towns to achieve greater social sustainability.
initiatives such as removing litter, tree planting, more shade,
more parks, improving gardens, less signage and power lines were
the most commonly suggested improvements. If a stronger sense of
local identity is to be fostered, then some priority must be given
to improving the public space.
Fly in Fly out Community
Due to the
improved efficiency of mining technologies and the increased costs
of establishing new towns, Fly in Fly outs have become an ever-growing
community within the Pilbara region.
This increasingly exaggerated demographic structure of predominantly
single, young physically orientated young men can be expected to
be powerfully structured by the dynamics of competition and conflict.
The value structure
amongst this community seems to be highly materialistic, with work
and economics being a major priority. Men isolated from family controls
who labour for many hours a day in very hot conditions with few
alternative leisure pursuits are prone to a huge consumption of
alcohol, with many drinking their weeks wages away.
We dont have a culture here or the only
culture we have here is sport and drinking are common conceptions.
Due to the fly in fly outs being directly linked to the mining companies
and the domination of their demographics within the region, their
interests and values also have the potential to dominate. These
interests are generally associated with alcohol consumption, which
has created problems within the region and has resulted in towns
catering mainly for the needs of these men more than others. This
syndrome was referred to within the Roebourne Cultural Plan as one
of the most offensive and less fortunate aspects of living in the
length of employment and therefore living period within the region,
results in this community taking a much less active interest within
think fly in fly out is a dreadful way to operate in this region.
Ive tried to relate to some of the minds that run on that
and its almost impossible because people are only interested
in one thing and that is work and money. Theyve got no time
for anything else because they work twelve hours a day and they
need to rest and sleep (John Dolling).
The fact that
a majority of the population does not contribute to the development
and sense of community and holds very little value on the importance
of community has a very negative impact on the social development
of the region.
2. Values of Youth
of Regional Development in WA has given the figures for the
Pilbara region showing that in year 2001, 5,002 students attended
primary school, 2,123 attended secondary school and only 293 students
from the Pilbara region enrolled in University.
Eighty-nine per cent of Indigenous children participated in primary
school whilst only fifty-five per cent enrolled in secondary education.
These figures demonstrate that a continued high level of education
is not a priority amongst youth within the region. The youth unemployment
rate of 10.8% of 15-19 year olds and 8.1% of 20-24 years olds is
the second lowest to the Kimberly, amongst all Western Australian
These figures indicate that much of the youth are going directly
into unemployment benefits or to work for the mining companies that
dominate the region. The monopoly hold of resource companies within
the region perhaps results in the perception that it is the only
employment opportunity, with practical work experience seen as a
more important option than mainstream secondary and tertiary education.
youth policy recorded that what most children learn is picked up
informally, particularly between birth and age five. This implicates
the educative power of the family background as a force, influencing
the childs educational and social destinations.
In regional WA, figures show that the Pilbara has the highest proportion
of tradespersons at 19.5% and the second highest percentage of labourers
and related workers at 26.6%.
These percentages support the fact that many families are involved
in the mining workforce and may either intentionally and unintentionally
transfer their related values to their children.
should we work for forty hours in forty degree heat amid the flies,
dust and sweat for $160 when we can get $80 for sitting at home
with air-conditioning, our mates and television? Wed be getting
$2 an hour to work. Wed be ordered around the whole time and
the job isnt leading anywhere (Youth, 83).
Lack of occupational
choice leads to powerlessness among all people, particularly the
There is no doubt that having a purpose in life gives a focus for
living and contributes a sense of meaning, wholeness and connectedness
to the personal development process and coherent identity, which
in turn gives enthusiasm to ones involvement in life.
This lack of choice about future employment, coupled with the lesser
value of education, which results in less employment opportunities,
may have the impact of loss of ambition and an increased feeling
of isolation within the region for Youth.
In all Shires
of the Pilbara region, children listed hanging out as
the highest rating for fun in the area. The highest percentages
were found in Roebourne and Karratha at fifteen percent and Wickham
at twenty-six percent.
youths greatest requests about improving their town included
an ice skating rink and make an Adventure World and more stuff for
older kids to do
Some people in
the communities believe that there is plenty for young people to do,
referring to all the sporting activities, while others suggested that
what is being provided was not what young people wanted. Youth policy
would do well to promote measures to strengthen self-identity and
aid the intimacy of involvement through working directly
with young people as well as attempting to secure within society a
more favourable structure of their involvement and growth.
Give us something to do! Without cops! we want a kids
Give us kids a place to hang out without parents watching,
something without police being involved either maybe a kids
Make this town more worthwhile to live up here
Get shops in the new shopping centre like music shops that
sell musical instruments, Doc Marten shop with weird shoes
a better shoe shop than Betts and Betts
Make the new shopping centre on a main street with individual
little shops along the street. NOT in one big building
Make a hang out place especially for the teenagers because
we have no where to go. Like a cafeteria or something.
It has been
widely suggested that vandalism and the use of alcohol and drugs
occur because of boredom and a lack of things for young people to
It is important that there are services and entertainment for youth
in each town as the difficulty for young people to get between towns
due to lack of public transport is further exacerbated by 12 hour
shifts, making it more difficult for children to rely on the parents
3. Values of Women
The harsh contrast
of lifestyle and physical environment between the Pilbara region
and the more metro-orientated region of Western Australia increases
the feeling of isolation in the Pilbara, particularly for women.
With many activities being male dominated, there is little entertainment
for women in their leisure time.
not enough nightlife for women. With so many men in town it's awkward
going out. Men come up and pinch you and put their arms around you
and brawls start
For many women
the move to the Pilbara means their first major break with their
own family. The loss of the extended family as a support system,
help with small children, advice on marital problems and general
social interaction, adds to a greater feeling of isolation.
It has always
been a major objective of the mining companies to encourage the
employment of married men because, it is believed, the presence
of their families has a stabilizing effect on the area.
Unions in the area are often hostile to the employment of married
women, upholding the idea that a womans place is in
the home and that preference should be given to young, unemployed
In a society
that began to be organized around the production of goods and where
value was increasingly understood in terms of money,
the recognized values of womens work has deteriorated.
At the core
of any social policy is the creation and distribution of power.
The participation of women should be encouraged at all levels, including
those of central decision-making in youth and community institutions.
This would enable women to hold a greater value of themselves as
well as achieving the necessary recognition of the value of women
within all communities.
plays an enormous part in determining the position of women in our
society. In the Pilbara region there is an average of 36% of females
in the workforce with the difference between male and female earnings
averages at $31,000 per year.
Pilbara women are generally employed as cleaners, clerical workers,
shop assistants, barmaids and waitresses rather than mine workers.
Those few women who do work in non-traditional areas in the mine
hold positions which require a low level of training and are therefore
confined to the lowest-earning section of the workforce with little
chance of advancement.
For married women who no longer need or want to be full-time child
rearers a job can mean financial independence, greater social contact,
a release from the boredom of domestic chores, and a means of becoming
involved in the wider world of the community.
If married women were employed the community would benefit as a
whole from increased spending power and social stability as it would
provide women an opportunity for them to contribute to the family
income and to take a greater role in the world outside their homes.
It is difficult
to accurately report the values of a community without having actually
lived within it. This report is very much based on generalised speculations,
which are generated from facts and comments within government reports.
This source of information has resulted in the more negative issues
and values being reported
to the Indigenous communities there is little information available
about their current values and this report could have potentially
done a poor job of interpretation. The massive changes and impacts
on indigenous society would probably have diversified the values
and made them more fluid. Indeed the constant changes and social
instability of the region may result in regular fluctuations of
all community values.
regional survey should be held in the Pilbara region so as to achieve
a greater awareness of the full range of community needs, issues
and aspirations and consequently adjusting their policies and organizational
arrangements to ensure that related activities are properly coordinated
and their efforts are generated towards agreed priorities.
The division of the three communities and lack of interaction seems
to be currently inhibiting the formation of a holistic viewpoint
on environmental, economic and social issues, with these issues
instead being treated separately and continuing to support the division
Oxford Encyclopaedic English Dictionary
Rijavec, Frank, Exile in the Kingdom
Shire of Roebourne, Roebourne Cultural Plan, Local Government, 2001
Shire of Roebourne, Op.Cit p.73
Joynson, Tracey, Unstoppable Pilbara Project, The West
Australian, Liftout of Wednesday February 19, 2003, p.4
Youth Policy, p.62
Shire of Roebourne, Op.cit, p.1
Douglass, Trevor (ed.), Pilbara Journey Through the Twentieth
Century, Robe River Iron Associates, 2000, p.274
Department of Local Government & Regional Development, Chapt.
7 Regional Performance social, Indicators
of Regional Development in WA, Government of WA, March 2003
Youth Policy, p.30
Department of Local Government and Regional Development, Op.Cit,
Youth Policy, p.27
Shire of Roebourne, Op.cit, p. 132
 Youth Policy,
 Shire of
Roebourne, Op.cit, p.94
 Workers Information
and Research Centre, Housewives: The Pilbara Experience,
Women in the Pilbara A series of Discussion Papers,
Workers Information and Research Centre, Op.cit,
Youth Policy, p.29
Workers Information and Research Centre, Op.Cit,
Cultural Plan, p.102
of Local Government & Regional Development, Chapt. 7 Regional
Performance social, Indicators of Regional Development
in WA, Government of WA, March 2003.
(ed.), Pilbara Journey Through the Twentieth Century,
Robe River Iron Associates, 2000 pp.273-286.
Unstoppable Pilbara Project, The West Australian,
Liftout of Wednesday February 19, 2003
Exile in the Kingdom, Video documentary (further bibliography
available on request).
Shire of Roebourne,
Roebourne Cultural Plan, Local Government, 2001.