Tess Lea will present her paper: Housing, Mines and Infrastructure on Groote Eylandt (Northern Territory) on Tuesday 28 February, 2012 at the ‘Songlines vs Pipelines’ conference, hosted by the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.
Imagine six houses built at a cost of $28 million AUD that have to be bulldozed and replaced by thermally inert cement boxes at unidentifiably larger costs that have no room for washing machines let alone people. Imagine this is a federally-funded, high-stakes and well-scrutinised ‘public good’ project in a country so affluent recent global financial crises left mere surface wounds. And it is on one of the world’s largest magnesium mining operations. This outcome of more poor housing for the already poorly-housed has multiple causes: technical incompetence; welfare ‘reforms’; recycled development arguments; and a rush to future-proof islanders against the immanent end of magnesium, along with the corrosions of rust, cyclones, calcification, termites, swamps and rats. This paper considers both the recalcitrant materiality of housing and infrastructure on Groote Eylandt and the limits of anthropology’s capacity to hold multiple scales in view.