Strong women
: a case study of Aboriginal woomen's work, Fitzroy crossing 1975-1980

Student thesis: Coursework Masters - CDU

Abstract

This study investigates a social change model created by some traditional Aboriginal women for the delivery of social welfare services to their own community. The women's work took place in conditions of extreme material poverty, and was an outcome of a collaborative effort between the community women, an outside female resource person, and a government department. Developed between 1975 and 1980, it was unique in its time.

Fundamental to the model was the location of the women as primary agents in their own growth from a position of dependency on government social welfare services, to that of relative autonomy. Other significant features of the model included its foundation on the strengths of the women, its recognition that they could create the tools for their own emancipation, its affirmation that they knew best what they needed, and its assertion that they were the most effective agents for their own social change.

Through the women's dialogue with the Western Australian government Department of Community Welfare, their motivation to work for themselves and upgrade their own living conditions was supported. Within the Department, the model inspired a policy change for the delivery of social welfare services to Aboriginal people in remote area communities. It became known as the Community homemaker Program, and within ten years was adopted by thirty two communities in the region. By placing the women centre stage in this study, it has been possible to record their responses to opportunity, and to identify their priorities and culturally appropriate work practices.

This study of Aboriginal women's work makes a statement about a paradigm shift from a condition of helplessness to one of i􀃃 and self-sufficiency. It thus contributes to the literature on Aboriginal women's work within their communities, on the efficacy of community development philosophy for Aboriginal women, and on the gender structures for empowerment in traditionally-oriented Aboriginal communities. An acknowledgment of women's status would return lo the women their traditional roles which, in a context where Aborigines are viewed as helpless, have been usurped by government agencies.
Date of Award25 Aug 1993
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorGrant Rodwell (Supervisor)

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