Contemporary Aboriginal women and subsistence in remote, arid Australia

Contemporary Aboriginal women and subsistence in remote, arid Australia Thesis

School of Social Science

  • Author(s): Devitt, J.
  • Published: 1989
  • Publisher: University of Queensland
  • Volume: PhD

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.

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Suggested Citation
Devitt, J., 1989, Contemporary Aboriginal women and subsistence in remote, arid Australia, Volume:PhD, Thesis, viewed 22 October 2021,

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