Indigenous Australian women and work : an historical context

Best, Odette & Fredericks, Bronwyn (2013) Indigenous Australian women and work : an historical context. In The Oxford Women's Leadership Symposium (London Education Research Symposia), 5 -6 December 2013, University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, England. (Unpublished)

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The aim of this on-going research is to interrogate the era of colonialism in Australia (1896-1966) and the denial of paid employment of Aboriginal women. The 1897 Aborigines Protection and the Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act witnessed thousands of Aboriginal people placed on Government run reserves and missions. This resulted in all aspects of their lives being controlled through state mechanisms. Under various Acts of Parliament, Aboriginal women were sent to privately owned properties to be utilised as ‘domestic servants’ through a system of forced indentured labour, which continued until the 1970’s.

This paper discusses the hidden histories of these women through the use of primary sources documents including records from the Australian Department of Native Affairs and Department of Home and Health. This social history research reveals that the practice of removing Aboriginal women from their families at the age of 12 or 13 and to white families was more common practice than not. These women were often: not paid, worked up to 15 hour days, not allowed leave and subjected to many forms of abuse. Wages that were meant to be paid were re-directed to other others, including the Government.

Whilst the retrieval of these ‘stolen wages’ is now an on-going issue resulting in the Queensland Government in 2002 offering AUS $2,000 to $4,000 in compensation for a lifetime of work, Aboriginal women were also asked to waive their legal right to further compensation. There are few documented histories of these Aboriginal women as told through the archives. This hidden Aboriginal Australian women’s history needs to be revealed to better understand the experiences and depth of misappropriation of Aboriginal women as domestic workers. In doing so, it also reveals a more accurate reflection of women’s work in Australia.

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ID Code: 71360
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: Acknowledgement is offered to the Oodgeroo Unit, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) for supporting Dr Odette Best's travel to Oxford University to present this paper. We offer acknowledgement to the National Indigenous Research and Knowledges Network (NIRAKN) based at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) for their encouragement of our research endeavours, which contribute to the overall research efforts of Indigenous peoples.
Keywords: Aboriginal , Indigenous , Women , Domestic Service, Wellbeing , Health , Stolen Wages, Australia
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (111701)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > CULTURAL STUDIES (200200) > Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Studies (200201)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Chancellery
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Research Centres > Indigenous Studies Research Network
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Odette Best and Bronwyn Fredericks
Deposited On: 12 May 2014 04:20
Last Modified: 12 May 2014 20:08

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