Community cultural capital as a factor in economic renewal : the Anakie Gemfields, c.2004
Competition over access and the exploitation of a community’s natural resource has, for decades, prevented the development of alternative economic enterprises for the long-term sustainability of the Anakie Gemfields. Only on near exhaustion of the area’s natural resources were alternatives considered and developed by the community, drawing on its cultural capital to produce a prosperous and confident local tourism industry. Cultural capital in this instance denotes unique assets such as the local history and traditions that attract visitors to the community. These assets are then used by community-based businesses to formulate and provide various information packages, opportunities offering unique experiences, and other related services to visitors. Cultural capital is primarily understood in two ways – firstly as it relates to the creative world of the arts, and secondly as it relates to all manner of things which shape our lives (Bourdieu, 1997). Here the term is used to capture the unique history, stories, characters and lifestyle of people who live and work in the [community] Recently gathered data in the Anakie Gemfields community, and analysis of secondary descriptive data, indicate that regional development based on certain types of capital-intensive and resource-based ‘investment’ approaches does not always benefit regional communities. In contrast, the data highlighted the way the community’s intangible assets provided a basis for more sustainable economic development - meaning development which ‘…encompasses a set of policies and activities that work together to create economic vitality, environmental stewardship, and social equity’ (Rainey, Robinson, Allen and Christy, 2003:709). This paper discusses the way small communities can develop in more sustainable ways by identifying and using their cultural capital as a serious and inexhaustible resource. However, a community’s cultural capital, and its potential, is often hidden by policies grounded in the belief that faster resource exploitation leads to greater community benefit. This is evidenced where state government legislation enables mining development to occur without regard to the links between a community’s way of life and the way it uses its natural resources. It is this relationship between people and their environment which generates cultural capital.