Negotiating Aboriginal culture in the Australian mining industry: a case study of cultural awareness training

Parmenter, Joni (2015). Negotiating Aboriginal culture in the Australian mining industry: a case study of cultural awareness training MPhil Thesis, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2015.678

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Author Parmenter, Joni
Thesis Title Negotiating Aboriginal culture in the Australian mining industry: a case study of cultural awareness training
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Science
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2015.678
Publication date 2015-05-28
Thesis type MPhil Thesis
Open Access Status Other
Supervisor David Trigger
David Brereton
Total pages 136
Language eng
Subjects 1601 Anthropology
1699 Other Studies in Human Society
Formatted abstract
Aboriginal cultural awareness training for mine employees is increasingly being implemented at Australian mining operations. The training aims to foster good relationships between companies and Aboriginal people and increase Aboriginal employment within the industry by educating miners about ‘Aboriginal culture’. However, there is very little either academic or practitioner literature available about how the training is constructed, delivered, its content, or efficacy.

A great deal of the broader literature around cultural training focuses on the issue of effectiveness. While there is some evidence that the general awareness of other cultures increases amongst training participants, there is little evidence that the training results in changed attitudes and behaviour. Further, such outcomes are difficult to assess, especially in the long term. Rather than focusing on the issue of effectiveness of cultural awareness training, this thesis takes a different approach. It examines Aboriginal cultural awareness training as a site of engagement between mining company personnel and Aboriginal people. The study looks behind the scenes at contextual issues in terms of agency, interests and motives of the social actors involved.

The primary aims of this research are to investigate how these social actors assign meanings to the training and to explore the implications for using the training as a mechanism to improve relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Literature reviews are used to demonstrate the problematic nature of the cultural awareness training phenomenon. A case study of Rio Tinto Iron Ore (RTIO) in the Pilbara region of Western Australia is analysed using a mixed methods approach. Information on training content was obtained through participant observation at three different operations and semi-structured interviews with training presenters and company employees. Training participants were also surveyed to determine their responses to the training on the day.

The findings indicate that the corporate sector’s view of cultural difference as a barrier or problem that needs to be managed is highly problematic. I suggest that initiatives such as cultural awareness training are better understood as expressions of the fundamental tensions that exist in the changing relationship between mining company personnel and Aboriginal people. The way that culture is invoked and understood by the actors involved is influenced by politics between company personnel and Aboriginal people and politics internal to the Aboriginal domain. The findings of the research demonstrate a need for a more sophisticated approach to understanding the complex phenomenon of cultural awareness training.
Keyword Cultural awareness training
Aboriginal culture

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Created: Fri, 08 May 2015, 10:03:54 EST by Joni Parmenter on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service