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UnitingCare Queensland launches research on mining boom impact

UnitingCare Queensland has launched a report on preliminary research conducted into the social impacts of the mining and gas boom on its workforce and services in Gladstone, the Bowen Basin and the Surat Basin.

The research was undertaken in response to concerns expressed by staff and through them, clients and patients.

Although only preliminary research, the report makes compelling reading and also flags the need for further investigation.

One positive outcome from the research has been the building of collaborative networks with other NGO partners.

This group has applied for an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant to understand the socioeconomic impacts of mineral resources development on people who are vulnerable, and the implications for human services providers.

The report is based on more than 100 interviews and surveys conducted with UnitingCare Queensland staff and stakeholders in 2012.

Interviewees included Blue Care staff, UnitingCare Community staff, Uniting Church ministers and members of the broader Uniting Church family, and staff from Frontier Services.

Through these interviews contacts were made to secure interviews and meetings with representatives from other local service providers, community organisations, local government representatives, resource companies, social impact consultants, public servants and accommodation providers.

Analysis of interviews and surveys suggests the mining and gas resources boom exerts high pressure on the human services industry.

Initial findings indicate mining and gas operations increase costs of living, force employees and clients into insecure rental accommodation, change the nature of communities, reduce the supply of volunteers and create higher staff turnover rates.

UnitingCare Community Manager and Gladstone resident Leanne Montgomery was one of those interviewed.

She said that all of her staff have been directly affected in some way from the growth and development in Gladstone and asks how some of the less visible impacts can be measured.

"We have diagnostic tools in which we can measure levels of stress, anxiety and depression.

"But how do measure the other impacts that are less visible?

"How can we measure the loss of sense of community?

"How can we measure the loss of sense of security?

"I have school-aged children and I, along with many others, am very hesitant to allow them to walk home from school alone, even though I live less than 800 meters from the school."