There are numerous mines that are either planned or are under construction throughout Australia in what have, until now, been regions dominated by broadacre agriculture. While these mining ventures bring new jobs, infrastructure, people and opportunities to their host community, it is usually the case that the management of the social dimension of economic change is often overlooked and the benefits are therefore substantially compromised. This social dimension informs the scope of economic benefits and environmental impacts, just as it determines the potential for inclusive, vibrant communities in which all residents can thrive.
Drawing on comprehensive research undertaken in the Shire of Ravensthorpe on the South Coast of Western Australia, this case study focuses on the experiences of two groups of women from a community that until five years ago was dominated by broadacre agriculture but now has considerable mining interests operating within its Shire boundaries. In particular, the work and social experiences of women who are longtime residents of the community are compared with those of women who are recent arrivals, demonstrating the complexity and importance of social dimensions in regional economic development and community management. There are many reasons why it is useful to view community change through women’s experiences. Ground breaking work undertaken by the Minerals Council of Australia in 2007 showed that women’s participation in the minerals industry is limited by a number of key structural issues including low levels of part time work, the industry’s culture of long hours and overwork. It is not surprising then, that women are less likely to participate in the industry but rather observe and experience the industry and its impact on the community from outside the industry.