Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women Celebrated

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Women play a vital role in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and this is celebrated with the 2018 NAIDOC week theme: Because of her, we can!

Increasing numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are becoming empowered through education while embracing their cultural heritage. They strengthen and support their communities, and provide a stimulating environment for the next generation of children. In 2014–15, there were 231,100 women in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population aged 15 years and over.

Being empowered

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are increasingly engaging in formal education and are achieving higher academic levels than ever before. In 2014–15, almost half (47%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females aged 15 years and over had achieved a Certificate, Diploma or Degree. This represents a 45% increase from 2008 (up from 33%, Figure 1.1).

The proportion of women whose highest (non-school) educational attainment was a Certificate doubled between 2002 and 2014–15 (up from 17% to 34%). Similarly, the proportion of women holding a Diploma level or higher qualification increased from 7% in 2002 to 12% in 2014–15. Engaging in learning can lead to better employment, health and social outcomes[1], with the transition from education to work often smoother for higher education graduates than those entering the workforce directly from school[2].

In our culture, our mothers, sisters, aunties, and grandmothers are highly respected and are the key to keeping families and culture strong. Education is giving us women and our communities hope and opportunities to be even stronger.
We dare to dream now.

Northern Territory

Figure 1.1. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females aged 15 years and over with a non-school qualification — 2002 to 2014–15

Graph Image for Figure 1.1.

Strengthening community
Providing care and support both within and outside of the household, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women play an enormous role in strengthening social and family networks in the community.

Support to those in need

In 2014–15, three out of ten women (30%) cared for someone in need (with a disability, a long–term health condition or old age). Women in the age group 45–54 years were among the most likely (35%) to have provided care to a person in need. Women living in Remote areas were more likely to provide care than those in other areas (36% compared with 28%), reflecting a combination of factors such as reduced access to services, closer family networks and strong community relationships.

Additionally, three out of five women (61%) provided support to someone living outside of their household. Almost two-thirds (61%) of these women lived in a household with dependent children.

‘Because of her, we can’ is a very powerful message, which makes all the Stars girls and any Indigenous female feel very proud.
It makes you think about who created us, how far back it goes. They created us, we make the change.
We continue to grow and make those who created us proud.

Kylie Duggan,
Stars Foundation

Raising the next generation

Women are most commonly the main carers for their community's children and therefore play a key role in a child's learning pathway. In 2014–15, almost two-thirds (65%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years had a main carer who was an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander female. As children grow, the positive experiences they have with their main carer (and other prominent people in their lives) influence development and often lead to better outcomes as they mature into young adults[3].

The vast majority (95%) of children aged 0–14 years, whose main carer was an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander female, spent time engaged in informal learning with that carer. Between 2008 and 2014 there were increases in the proportion of women engaging with a child in playgroups, and also those assisting with homework or educational activities (increases of 52% and 17%, respectively). Time spent with a child taking part in cultural or informal learning activities is an investment in their future, and can boost a child's confidence academically and socially.

Figure 1.2. Selected activities undertaken by children aged 0–14 years with main carer(a) — 2008 to 2014–15

Graph Image for Graph 1.2

It takes a community to raise a child

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities work together to educate, nurture and support children. In 2014–15, most children (69%) aged 3–14 years, whose main carer was an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander female, participated in selected cultural activities in their community. Popular activities included hunting, fishing or gathering local foods (59%), and creating Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander arts or crafts (25%).

Connection to culture

Yesteryear, our grandmother regularly invited women into her house on Coranderrk Aboriginal Station Healesville.
One of the mission management rules was to say prayers in the evening.
Jemima closed the door and pulled the hessian curtains across the window.
The women all spoke in their traditional Aboriginal languages.
Today my granddaughter sings in public places our ‘Call to Country’ in our Woiwurrung language.
Resistance, resilience and pride prevail – because of her we can.

Aunty Joy,

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have an important role in passing on knowledge and leading successive generations through their cultural journey. In 2014–15, 85% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women participated in, watched, or attended a cultural event or activity. Three-quarters (75%) of women aged 15 years and over recognised an area as homelands or traditional country and three-fifths of women (63%) identified with clan, tribal or language group.

In 2014–15, most (73%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women either lived on or had access to homelands. Of those with access to homelands, almost half (48%) did so at least once per year. Between 2002 and 2014–15, the proportion of women reporting a connection to homelands has steadily increased (Figure 1.3), suggesting that over time women are increasingly embracing and connecting with their spiritual and cultural heritage.

Figure 1.3. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females aged 15 years and over who live on or recognise homelands — 2002 to 2014–15

Graph Image for Graph 1.3

As mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters and daughters, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women continue to play a pivotal role in leading and supporting communities, providing support for those around them and guiding the next generation.

End Notes
1. L Feinstein, et al. Measuring the effects of education on health and civic engagement: Proceedings of the Copenhagen Symposium (OECD 2006)
Paper: 4. What are the effects of education on health? http://www1.oecd.org/education/innovation-education/37425753.pdf; last accessed 25/06/2018.

2. Lamb, S & McKenzie, P 2001. Patterns of success and failure in the transition from school to work in Australia, Australian Council for Educational Research, Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) Research Report 18, ACER: http://research.acer.edu.au/lsay_research/67; last accessed 25/06/2018.

3. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne, Centre for Community Child Health, May 2009. Caring for young children: What children need.
https://www.rch.org.au/uploadedFiles/Main/Content/ccch/PB15-caring_for_children.pdf; last accessed 25/06/2018.


© absau

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