Accountability, asbestos and indigenous rights: the case of Baryulgil
This paper documents the history of paternalistic state policies and the effects of asbestos mining on the Indigenous community at Baryulgil in northern New South Wales. Despite the lack of profitability, the asbestos operations continued for over 30 years leaving a legacy of asbestos-related health and environmental issues. The shift of responsibility for Indigenous welfare from the State to a corporate entity is evidenced in this historical study using the lens of historical institutionalism. The Baryulgil case is instructive in a number of ways: it demonstrates the subtlety with which human rights abuses can occur in an environment where paternalistic attitudes towards Indigenous peoples prevail; it demonstrates the clash between pursuit of corporate objectives and human rights; and finally it demonstrates the lack of corporate accountability in the asbestos industry.