Career, aspirations and the meaning of work in remote Australia: Torres Strait

Author/editor: Arthur, W
Year published: 1999
Issue no.: 190

Abstract

The Indigenous Policy Unit of the Department of Family and Community Services (DFaCS) has commissioned the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Research to carry out research aimed at determining how the aspirations of young Indigenous people in remote regions match the Department's income support programs for the unemployed. The project is to be carried out over five years and focus on locations in the Kimberley and Torres Strait. The principal methodology for the project will be surveys of Indigenous people aged 15 to 24 years. This paper is a scoping exercise for the Torres Strait section of the project.

It is argued that the concepts of 'career' and 'orientation to work' provide useful analytical tools, allowing us to consider the impact of the surrounding social and economic milieu on people's approach to work and other activities. Using data from preliminary fieldwork and the Australian Bureau of Statistics' census, the paper suggests how people might be spending their time at the moment, what labour market options are open to them and how they are taking these up.

Women appear to be taking advantage of the scope for careers in health and education. In general, men seem to lag behind women in moving into skilled, professional and managerial positions. The apparently entrenched nature of the Community Development Employment Projects scheme (CDEP) is noted. However, it is also suggested that there may be some appropriate fit between the scheme and people's involvement in commercial fishing, giving them some degree of autonomy. A link between school attendance and commercial fishing is also noted. In addition, the apparently high level of mobility is considered.

It is suggested that although some may view welfare-derived programs, such as CDEP, negatively, it is not clear that the participants share this view. Also, as career options in remote regions are limited, it is proposed that there may be some value in considering this and other programs more as developmental devices and subsidies than as representing welfare dependency.

ISBN: 0 7315 2625 2

ISSN:1036 1774

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