Broken Hill, Australia


Broken Hill is an outback mining town in NSW, Australia. Since the reduction in the mining industry, the town has suffered from population loss, and accompanying loss in services. The research examines the necessary conditions for rural renewal through intensive analysis of social capital formation and mobilisation. It entails a multidimensional analysis of social capital at the micro and macro levels in Broken Hill, in relation to cross-sector collaboration, interaction with economic, human and ecological factors, and the role of a bridging community organisation.

Led by Dr. Jenny Onyx, a survey of 635 citizens explored the issues and divisions that effect the town of Broken Hill. These views are analysed in the context of varying levels of social capital (Onyx and Bullen, 2000) that exist among different subsections of the town’s population. It was supplemented by over 50 intensive interviews and observation of key events. An additional survey of 210 youth was also conducted. The research found that there are profound divisions within the population of Broken Hill, along lines of age, gender, aboriginality, and length of residence. Thus far, attempts to bridge these divides have not been successful, and the potential of the town for sustainable renewal has not been fulfilled.