Contemporary aboriginal women and subsistence in remote, arid Australia

Devitt, Jeannie (1989). Contemporary aboriginal women and subsistence in remote, arid Australia PhD Thesis, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland.

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Author Devitt, Jeannie
Thesis Title Contemporary aboriginal women and subsistence in remote, arid Australia
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Science
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1989
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Betty Meehan
Gillian Whitehouse
Total pages 309
Language eng
Subjects 370302 Social and Cultural Anthropology
379902 Aboriginal Studies
Formatted abstract

This thesis is an account of the role of contemporary Aboriginal women in subsistence. It refers to women living on remote outstations in the Sandover River region of arid, Central Australia. In this post-traditional situation, women's subsistence contribution combined foraging with the use of purchased foods. Their foraging contributed a small, but nutritionally important, component of the diet. However women devoted more time to foraging than to other subsistence activities. A sexual division of labour existed whereby men hunted regularly to provide fresh meat, while women were largely responsible for purchasing and preparing store foods. Substantial technological change was evident, but traditional values continued to shape contemporary subsistence practices. While women had abandoned the most onerous of their traditional tasks, they retained a central role in subsistence. Their contribution, though much changed, was essential to the maintenance of families and households. The subsistence work undertaken by women comprised one aspect of their productivity which also included child-care and household management.

Anthropological models of subsistence that have emphasized the aspect of sexual separateness in the traditional division of labour have been influential in the analysis of women's role and social change in Central Australia. This modern ethnographic data, however, highlighted the inter-dependence of women and men. It suggests that subsistence is, and was traditionally, a sphere of domestic life within which the inter-relationship of women and men is a prominent and necessary feature.

Keyword Women, Aboriginal Australian -- Northern Territory
Hunting and gathering societies -- Northern Territory
Aboriginal Australians -- Food -- Northern Territory
Additional Notes Other Title: Aboriginal women and subsistence.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: UQ Theses (RHD) - UQ staff and students only
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Created: Fri, 21 Feb 2014, 09:56:37 EST by Ms Christine Heslehurst on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service