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Gender equity

Reclaiming strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identities through a gender equity lens

The Aboriginal Gender Study was a collaborative study undertaken by the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia, partnering with the University of Adelaide and the South Australia Health and Medical Research Institute. The study aimed to explore, from a strengths-based perspective, the diversity of contemporary perspectives of gender, gender roles and gender equity in South Australian Aboriginal communities.

During 2017 and 2018, yarning circles were held with 49 participants with a range of ages and gender identities in three sites. The yarning circles were transcribed, coded and thematically analysed using a collective approach where researchers came together to interpret themes through an Aboriginal lens.

Key findings from the yarning circles:

The study also included a literature review and critique of current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and social policy documents to explore how gender and gender equity is positioned in these documents. This identified a lack of contemporary research about Aboriginal masculinity and femininity that focuses on strengths, and no studies that incorporated the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer (LGBTQ).

Further analysis of policy documents revealed that existing health and social policies concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples do not adequately consider gender-specific vulnerabilities and consequences. The exceptions were policies concerning health, family violence, and business, however, even in these policies gender was not contextualised, and gender issues were confined to a narrow set of risks, such as family violence and wage gaps. None were cognisant that the experiences of Aboriginal women and men reflect a unique intersection of racialised and gendered interactions, creating different patterns of inequality.

As this research was exploratory project limited to South Australia, the conclusions require further exploration via a larger study that reflects the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia. Nevertheless, our findings underscore the need to consider gendered experiences in the development of programs and policies that aim to improve health and social and emotional wellbeing among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The finding that both men and women conceptualised gender equity as sharing and fulfilling responsibilities to family and community, provides further impetus for funding and structural reform to allow Indigenous people to strengthen and reclaim their cultural responsibilities. This will contribute to building strong, positive, cultural identities, thus enhancing social and emotional wellbeing.

Related resources:
Project leader

Ms Amanda Mitchell

Administering institution:

Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia

Completion date: