Valuing Indigenous Women’s Work: Infusing Care into Every Aspect of Life

caregiving by indigenous women
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Indigenous women in Australia contribute significantly to caregiving, yet their work often goes unrecognized. Collaborating with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner’s office, we engaged with over 100 Indigenous women nationwide to understand their perspectives on care.

Mainstream definitions of care overlook the diverse ways Indigenous women define it, encompassing care for individuals, communities, Country, and culture. This oversight results in their vital work being undervalued, misunderstood, or even marginalized.

Our research aligns with the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Wiyi Yani U Thangani report, emphasizing the essential role of care provided by First Nations women. Through interviews, Indigenous women articulated care as more than just familial responsibility; it embodies reverence for culture and heritage.

Colonization has deeply influenced gender roles and societal structures, exacerbating the challenges faced by Indigenous women. State institutions meant to provide care often fail to do so adequately, compounding the burdens placed on Indigenous communities.

Many Indigenous women experience exhaustion and illness due to their demanding care responsibilities. Despite this, they remain committed to their roles, often juggling unpaid care with paid employment in community sectors.

Our time-use survey revealed that unpaid care activities consume a significant portion of Indigenous women’s time, equating to an estimated annual salary ranging from $81,175.64 to $118,921.40. This valuation underscores the economic and societal contributions of Indigenous women’s care work.

A new approach to supporting Indigenous women is imperative, one that centers their voices, acknowledges their needs, and values the care they provide. This approach must prioritize Indigenous perspectives and resist imposing settler-centric models of care.

Overall, our research sheds light on the resilience and strength of Indigenous women, highlighting the urgent need for recognition, support, and reevaluation of societal norms surrounding care.

Repurposed article originally published in the Conversation

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