Oral Presentation Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2016

Understanding meaningful engagement in a remote Aboriginal context: The experience and perspective of the Warburton breakfast minyma (women) as waarkas (workers) (#36)

Rosalind Beadle 1 , Olive Lawson
  1. University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Seldom are Aboriginal people in remote communities employed in meaningful work. In terms of research regarding their engagement in work, the existing academic literature is largely written from non-Indigenous perspectives. This presentation will share findings from a collaborative study with a group of Aboriginal women who identify as the Warburton Breakfast Minyma (women) and their engagement in what was initially a community initiated school breakfast program at Warburton in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands, Western Australia. It reveals their perspective on why the activities in which they engaged were meaningful, and how the way in which they shaped their worker-role reflected and supported their values–specifically nurturing and relatedness to kin. The underlying study investigated the question: How do remote Aboriginal women enact and describe their experiences of being workers? By immersion in community life and through a network of strong relationships, I used a collaborative ethnographic approach to research, within which the women guided its various phases, the methods and the writing. An emergent waarka (worker) role– characterised by strong participation, motivation and a passionate identity expressed within the narrative accounts of the study– provided important insights into the life-world of Aboriginal women in remote communities. Some of the key enablers which allowed the Minyma to frame their worker role in a way that supported their values and their relationships are highlighted. These reveal important insights for policy and program design for creating meaningful worker roles for Aboriginal women in remote communities.