The dissertation examines the internal dynamics of the campaign against a uranium mine at Jabiluka in the Northern Territory of Australia, 1997-2000.
That campaign was at the time the largest social movement campaign in Australia in some two decades. It was established by an alliance between an Aboriginal traditional owner group, the Mirarr, and national environmental organisations. The campaign attracted thousands of participants, both in a lengthy blockade near the minesite and also in a network of local action groups spread across the country. Even though all participants had a clear common goal – opposing the mine - the internal dynamics of the campaign were beset with vociferous and often bitter conflict. In the course of this conflict, while the initial alliance was able to maintain its cohesion, the national network underwent a process of schism.
I argue that the internal conflict can be explained by drawing a distinction between a ‘movement of crisis’ and a ‘movement of affluence’. A ‘movement of crisis’ is one shaped by imminent and direct cultural or physical threat, and where the outcome of the struggle is of great importance. In this case, the movement of crisis was the Aboriginal community involved, the Mirarr. A ‘movement of affluence’ is one shaped by no such threat. In the case of Jabiluka, the vast bulk of the campaign participants – members of environmental groups, blockaders, members of urban activist networks – constituted the movement of affluence, in that participants had greater latitude for choice and preference, since outcomes affected them directly to a far lesser degree, if at all. The internal dynamics are examined through the prism of Alberto Melucci’s breakdown of collective identity into three dimensions: understandings regarding ends, means, and context.
The dissertation breaks new ground in two ways. Firstly, it is the first extensive examination of the Jabiluka campaign, and therefore adds to the body of knowledge of Australian social movements. Secondly, it is unique in using the distinction between crisis and affluence to describe internal dynamics, and as such it expands the set of theoretical tools available for analysis of internal dynamics and schism.