Caution should be taken describing mining camp conditions

A NEW South Wales researcher who co-published findings describing mining accommodation as "gulags" is urging caution and accuracy when making such claims.

It follows a storm of controversy this week which followed Queensland Opposition Mines spokeswoman Jo-Ann Miller describing the villages as akin to "concentration camps"

Workers in many of these camps have access to gymnasiums, buffet-style meals, self-contained apartments and even swimming pools.

Ms Miller is not the first to use such terms to criticise the camps.

Queensland University of Technology's Dr Alison McIntosh was one of three authors behind the 2010 paper "Globalisation, Frontier Masculinities and Violence: Booze, Blokes and Brawls".

The trio described some worker villages as "gulag style accommodation units".

Gulags were Soviet-era forced-labour camps used to imprison punish critics and criminals.

Millions perished as they were worked to death.

Given the intensity of the discussion of Ms Miller's comments - including condemnation by the Queensland Government - Dr McIntosh declined to say whether the use of such terms was ever appropriate.

She did say it was important not to use broad strokes when discussing the camps.

"There is incredible variety in mining camps and the conditions they offer," Dr McIntosh said.

"You certainly can't appoint any sort of one characteristic to all of them.

"You need to make the qualifications and reasons for comparisons.

"We come from an academic standpoint so we have to really justify and be objective in our comments."

Ms Miller told Parliament the comments were made to her by those living in these Central Queensland mining communities.

Topics:  mining camps

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