Aboriginal water values and resource development pressures in the Pilbara region of north-west Australia
- Year: 2011
- Author: Barber, Marcus; Jackson, Sue
- Journal Name: Australian Aboriginal Studies
- Journal Number: 2
- Country: Australia
- State/Region: Western Australia
The Pilbara is a remote arid region with a significant Aboriginal population, rich mineral resources and rapid rates of mineral resource development. Pilbara Aboriginal people claim deep ongoing connections to the land and water-scapes of the area and value water sources and features for a range of socio-cultural, economic and environmental reasons. Those water sources have come under increasing pressure from a new phase of development in the mining sector and so Aboriginal people have a strong interest in the longterm sustainability of this activity. We outline research generated through an agreement between the CSIRO and a major mining company in which fieldwork interviews were combined with the first peer-reviewed synthesis of the diverse and scattered literature describing Aboriginal people's water interests in the area. The paper describes and contextualises Pilbara Aboriginal peoples' relationships to water, highlighting its significance as part of the creative legacy of the ancestral beings, as an elemental resource for life, as reflective and constitutive of group and individual identity by relating people across time and space, and as a key focus of concerns about the ongoing effects of resource development. The scale of water use pressures in the Pilbara and the depth of feeling among its Aboriginal traditional owners and residents emphasise the need for greater resource allocations and engagement by those involved in mine water management and regional water planning, as well as in Aboriginal advocacy and research.