Learning as transformation and empowerment
: the case of African-Australian women in the Northern Territory of Australia

  • Susana Akua Saffu

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    Over the past decade, the number of African migrant and refugee women in the Northern Territory of Australia has increased exponentially. This influx has generated a range of government and community responses to build these African women’s capacity to integrate into their host society through various forms of education. In spite of these adult education and learning programs, there is a dearth of empirical study to understand how education is used to enhance capacity building during settlement.

    This study employs feminist qualitative case study to examine how African-Australian women utilise adult education opportunities to build their individual and community capacity during settlement in the Northern Territory. Purposive sampling was used to identify 24 participants whose accounts were collected utilising a semi-structured conversational style interview. The data was analysed using the theoretical and conceptual frameworks of transformative learning, feminist standpoint and women’s empowerment.

    The study’s findings show that for the African-Australian women participants, education was an adaptive strategy for social and economic integration as well as a means of survival, a critical phase in reconstructing their identities and rebuilding their lives. Participation in learning activities empowered them to engage productively in the social, cultural, economic and political activities of their new society. The study demonstrates that education is a potent force which has enabled the 24 African Australian women to find meaning in the challenges of their existence in the Australian multicultural mosaic.

    The study makes a number of significant contributions including the provision of empirical data of African migrant and refugee women’s settlement and educational experiences in the Northern Territory. It also contributes to the debate and discourse on immigration, feminism and most importantly adult education and learning in crosscultural contexts. The participants’ stories attest to transformation, empowerment and hope through adult education which can inform opportunities and educational pathways offered to other migrant and refugee groups in Australia and elsewhere.
    Date of AwardOct 2014
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGreg Shaw (Supervisor), Ruth Wallace (Supervisor) & Jane Qinjuan Zhang (Supervisor)

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