As the mining boom ramps up and down in Regional South Australia, small communities, particularly the Opal Towns have found themselves lobbying for their very existence –  or taking advantage of what’s on offer.

These purpose built communities evolved in the harshest part of the desert for the occupation of opal mining, particularly after the war and the Great Depression.  This existence became a way of life and has been pretty much out of sight and out of mind to both State and Federal governments – until recently!  In line with “general trends” at present, remote towns built by the hands of pioneers and volunteers are being surrepticiously coveted, invaded and pushed by government departments to abandon their wonderful communities and lifestyles as the lust for minerals and convenient infrastructures increase.

More recently it appears that these small, hand built communities are finding themselves defending their territory in what appears another form of land and town grabbing or  as some have suggested, by stealth. ie: creeping acquisitions.  While politicians echo “Yo Regional SA”, Regional SA is saying, “then lift us out of the third world for that which we have established and wish to continue offering”. 

Safe oasis’ in the desert are not to be underestimated particularly by travellers. But is the outback really evolving as a tourist destination?  It would appear NOT.  Regional SA is about to be quarried along with these communities slowly being reeled in with small appeasing gifts – for the moment.  It appears as though the outback is for sale to any bidder.  Some can only hope that those bankrolling the demise of the only water left in the country, have a residence in some of these areas and are able to vote in the next election.

Mintabie residents have continually lobbied politicians and members from all sectors since Minister Paul Holloway signed off on them and didn’t look back and Minister Jay Weatherill announced an unsignable lease agreement to the Mintabie residents.  Interestingly those who hold portfolios in the appropriate areas had not bothered to reply to the Mintabie resident’s letters in order to give clues as to why this may be happening, despite it being glaringly obvious to many.  One such politician recently commented on the situation of this threatened town full of families, many of whom have known no other home, “Oh, isn’t Mintabie all done and dusted?”   With help from the controversial WesleyCare organisation, this could have become a reality for the wrong reasons with the convenient do-gooders having wreaked havoc and paper warfare upon the township in order to clean out decent families for reasons other than stated.  The Mintabie residents had not known they were sitting on top of Officer Oil Basin, surrounded by petroleum leases and only oil-shale at that.  Unfortunately for Mintabie their town is also handy to the Darwin rail.

Like the Leigh Creek residents who were also excised out of South Australia in earlier days, Mintabie residents aren’t quite sure if they are in fact still in South Australia, since Premier Don Dunstan rather nonsensically chose to incorporate an existing, gazetted opal mining field and town by altering boundaries to put it into the APY Lands. Since it is generally acknowledged that this was in fact a stupid idea, then it would seem that if it can put there with the thoughtless swipe of an idealist pen, then it should be put back where it was, by having a series of thoughtful meetings and conferences on the subject.  However, let not gain for strangers be the reason, nor sacrifice the lengthy existence of a whole community for what we have just seen as a major gamble on the stock exchange.  Money which will never reach hungry pensioners unless to stimulate the economy.

The disappointing factor is that where many politicians say they support Regional South Australians, only one has come directly forward to bat for this community of people who  may soon be inconvenient casualties of perhaps a longer term plan, now taking them by surprise.

In other words, Mintabie, your boiled frog is nearly ready – will you want fries with that?

Whilst it is greatly appreciated it seems a great shame that although Mr. Gunn is very familiar with this situation, the Honorable Graham Gunn MP is the member for Stuart.  Mintabie is not in Stuart.  Where are the members for the people of Giles and Grey?  It appears that they are sitting back silently or addressing less relevent issues closer to their own homes, with Mintabie and remote areas still out of sight and being dealt with impersonally, by a remote control or not at all.  Or if perchance their party is elected to power in 2010 then the dirty work has already been done in the name of “progress” and drawing funds for extravagant government spending and other less worthy causes and experiments.

In the meantime everyone from border to border in Regional South Australia should read the new “Country Plan” for their once beautiful state.  Read the fine print and in between the lines. It’s only several hundred highly intellectual pages. It is unlikely that the Anangu will ever read the Country Plan for SA and it is just as unlikely the many multicultural residents in the outback towns will be able to read it either.  If you can read the shorter version littered with catching historical photos, then note the choice of words which could distract you from what really may be happening in your back yard together with the air you may soon be breathing as your homes are filled with regular dust storms blowing across the upturned earth.  You are invited to comment on this plan, then in December it is likely you will be told how it will be.

Don’t you even wonder why anyone would consider downgrading the only hospital in the middle of the desert with huge mining operations about to commence in the same area?  Perhaps the downgrading of the hospital in Coober Pedy was simply another way of evacuating residents from their hand built town.  After all South Australia has an ageing poplulation.  Shove them all off.  Our unsaleable shanty homes and caves were then increased in price, “in line with current trends” – like Andamooka, who have now discovered that the main gold ore body extending from Olympic Dam is in fact under the Andamooka township!!

A Mintabie Resident writes:


Member for Stuart, the Hon Graham Gunn strongly defended the hard working residents of Mintabie in State Parliament on 23rd September 2008. The following is Hon Graham Gunn, quoted from an excerpt of SA Hansard:

“There is another matter about which I am concerned. Like most members I have had representation from the Mintabie opal miners. I know a little bit about Mintabie. I was a member at the time the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act was passed. I say now what I said then: I think they were very badly treated.

Those people have been there a long time and they have worked hard, and in some cases it is the only residence they have had. If anyone thinks that they will stop illegal activities and grog running by preventing people having a few bottles of beer in their home at Mintabie they are deluding themselves. What about the grog that comes in from Curtin Springs? Where else does it come from? It comes in from Alice Springs and Yulara. Unfortunately, there are people who want to break the law. We cannot just blame the people at Mintabie.

I know there are one or two scoundrels there but, unfortunately, we have them throughout the community. It is a small number of people, but that is not a reason to put unreasonable restrictions on these people.

What are the benefits to the Aboriginal community? Most of them who have gone there have done a lot of noodling on the dumps and been fairly rewarded for it. They like going there. Because of the poor management of the Pitjantjatjara lands, we cannot blame them for wanting to go where there is more activity and something constructive for them to do. I will not be supporting any legislation which will make life unreasonable for them.”

To the architects of the proposed Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (Mintabie) Amendment Bill 2008 (and related Amendments to the Opal Mining Act 1995) listen to the words of an intelligent and just man, learn from his experience and wisdom.

Mintabie Fan

Reprinted from: Coober Pedy Regional Times

6 replies »

  1. Thanks Graham,

    Yes its a great shame that government should mis-treat people, its supposed constituents in favour of mixed messages and woeful media representation to support a pre-designed course, the details of which might not have been shared with the people the most affected – the residents, the people, the history, the land, the environment.

    Its about time the governments take heed and listen to what people are saying about their own lives which seem very seperate to those of the people making decisions which are affecting them for better or for worse.

    Mining, Land Rights, agreements, communities, native title, call it whatever name or whatever council but the same things still need to be considered and one of those is respect, for all people and to declare your business and find proper welcome before trampling un-invited on many peoples land.

    Thank you for covering this issue diligently for the Mintabie community and APY communities.

  2. Thanks guys for maintaining the bridge across the continent but we aren’t hearing about third world tax concessions, just another kick in the guts. See the picture?

    At first I thought this was funny…then I realized the awful truth of it. Probably missed a few hundered. (Author unknown, but not wrong)

    Tax his land,
    Tax his bed,
    Tax the table
    At which he’s fed.

    Tax his tractor,
    Tax his mule,
    Teach him taxes
    Are the rule.

    Tax his work,
    Tax his pay,
    He works for peanuts

    Tax his cow,
    Tax his goat,
    Tax his pants,
    Tax his coat.
    Tax his ties,
    Tax his shirt,
    Tax his work,
    Tax his dirt.

    Tax his tobacco,
    Tax his drink,
    Tax him if he
    Tries to think.

    Tax his cigars,
    Tax his beers,
    If he cries
    Tax his tears.

    Tax his car,
    Tax his gas,
    Find other ways

    Tax all he has
    Then let him know
    That you won’t be done
    Till he has no dough.

    When he screams and hollers;
    Then tax him some more,
    Tax him till
    He’s good and sore.

    Then tax his coffin,
    Tax his grave,
    Tax the sod in
    Which he’s laid.

    Put these words
    Upon his tomb,
    ‘Taxes drove me
    to my doom…’

    When he’s gone,
    Do not relax,
    Its time to apply
    The inheritance tax.

    Accounts Receivable Tax
    Airline surcharge tax
    Airline Fuel Tax
    Airport Maintenance Tax
    Building Permit Tax
    Cigarette Tax
    Corporate Income Tax
    Death Tax
    Dog License Tax
    Drivng Permit Tax
    Excise Taxes
    Federal Income Tax
    Federal Unemployment (UI)
    Fishing License Tax
    Food License Tax
    Gasoline Tax ( too much per litre)
    Gross Receipts Tax
    Health Tax
    Hunting License Tax
    Hydro Tax
    Inheritance Tax
    Interest Tax
    Liquor Tax
    Luxury Taxes
    Marriage License Tax
    Medicare Tax
    Mortgage Tax
    Personal Income Tax
    Poverty Tax
    Prescription Drug Tax
    Property Tax
    Provincial Income Tax
    Real Estate Tax
    Recreational Vehicle Tax
    Retail Sales Tax
    Service Charge Tax
    School Tax
    Telephone Federal Tax
    Telephone Federal, Provincial and Local Surcharge Taxes
    Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
    Vehicle License Registration Tax
    Vehicle Sales Tax
    Water Tax
    Watercraft Registration Tax
    Well Permit Tax
    Workers Compensation Tax


    Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, and our nation was one of the most prosperous in the world.

    We had absolutely no national debt, had a large middleclass, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.

    What happened?


    I would like to give full credit for Mr. Rowan Ramsey’s written response to me. At least he, in his role of Federal Member for Grey, has formally acknowledged the very real concerns of those voters within his electorate. And Mr. Ramsey has also given a promise to drop in and speak with residents about this matter, next time he is in the area.

    Mr. Ramsey though, within his letter, expressed “serious concerns about Mintabie” and “has discussed them with UnitingCare Wesley, SAPOL and others”. Well I have personal concerns about the criminal element living in Adelaide, among other places, but I refrain from painting the whole city’s residents with smears relating to those concerns. I do hope others reciprocate my restraint when discussing Mintabie.

    As expressed by ‘Mintabie Fan’ in the Coober Pedy Regional Times Forum on Changes to the Opal Mining Laws, “Politicians and various do-gooders all seem to follow the goat trail of innuendo laid down originally from the individual opinions of those who may have had multiple secret agendas… Never mind the fact that many individuals have come and gone in the intervening years”.

    Hope this visit happens before the introduction of the proposed Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (Mintabie) Amendment Bill 2008 (and related Amendments to the Opal Mining Act 1995) and can be of constructive assistance to the law abiding residents of Mintabie.

    Yours cordially,
    E. Hooper

  4. Joey want’s to take the “meth” out of UnitingCare Wesley

    Re: Comment E. Hooper

    Hey, Hooper, you might like to know that on Friday 29th August Kieran Weir over here received a call from a listener to his show after hearing that ever whining Weslycare…..forgotten his name, advised liistners to beware of Wesley’s motives stating “All South Australians should not donate any money to Wesley Uniting Care “prohibitionists, The Methodists want the whole state to have bans on alcohol and have done so since the 1800”.

    It’s like these guys are good at kicking women, kids and old folk.

    Let’s face it, they aren’t doing the Methodist a favour with bigotted views like that and I say that with respect for some of the true methodists who aren’t fanatics.

    These religeons should keep out of politics, they are in over their heads. Pencil pushing pious pimps on pedestals of their own making is how it appears watching this fascade unravel. This guy has cooked the methodist’s goose for them. I say this because I was brought up methodist and this guy isn’t one of us regular methos. No problems with the beer in my fridge

    There must be annual funding going on there, when it could be reaching the people who need it. I read somewhere that nothing gets to the people on those lands it just goes to the staff and stuff the blackfellows don’t want.

    We note the Coober Pedy Times has investigated this mob in great depth and dismissed them as red herrings – convenient for a purpose. This organisation is linked strongly to the beaurocrats pushing the non eventful mining boom currently going down the gurgler over in SA.

    We noticed Torrens miners trying to hook into the shale oil over there have 3c shares today. Whose going to mine crappy oil with a company who ain’t got no shareholders

    With what they are allowing with regards to the disappearing water in the outback, there will be no doubling back for this lot when the recession and an election hit at the same time. Last time the libs rescued them they had a 90billion dollar debt. there working it down already in just a few months. and tryiing to blame the water minister for no water in the river. That rivers, near us and were looking at the basin.

    First they give away the future fund while there giving away the water. I tell you Hooper, you guys have to get a proper government over there. Mining is defnitly a gamble & your government are partners I reckon. This is what they are saying. No one ever took much notice of south australia, but there all looking now. Specially with the water crisis, as I said there all looking at the basin and what’s been allowed to happen to it. we think the basin belongs to Australia not that uranium company.


    Many thanks to the Mayor of Coober Pedy, Mr. Steve Baines, for his recent public expression of support and assistance regarding the problems faced by Mintabie residents with the proposed unconstitutional Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (Mintabie) Amendment Bill 2008 (and related Amendments to the Opal Mining Act 1995).

    Such support is both welcome and heartening. If I could vote for you Steve I would but, as you would know, Mintabie does not have any formal local council representation, contrary to the SA Constitution. You are a man who cares and remains open to the grass roots issues.

    Thank you also Steve for encouraging others to express their views to the powers that be. I am sure many private discussions have been occurring, now it is time to let the State know our opinions. A designated opal-mining field should be just that, a designated opal-mining field, meaning a SA PSPP should be valid for ALL fields. Fellow opal miners, united we stand.

    Grey Noodler
    Mintabie, SA

  6. Mintabie is a part of the far north region of South Australia

    Many thanks for your kind words. Mintabie is a part of the far north region of South Australia and as such also has a right to representation. I am not one for conforming to “borders”, and see the District Council of Coober Pedy also having an obligation to assist those towns who form a part of the best regional area in South Australia.

    There are still discussions happening behind the scenes, and I think feel as though the governments stance is softening and they are finally listening to reason. In the meantime keep up the good work at Mintabie.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s