BECAUSE OF HER, WE CAN!
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.
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, with the transition from education to work often smoother for higher education graduates than those entering the workforce directly from school.
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.
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, Victoria
SOURCE: Australian Bureau of Statistics. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women Celebrated, 2018.” (First Issue) ABS No. 4739.0
Produced by the librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia