Career aspirations and orientation to work: Young Torres Strait Islanders, 1999

Author/editor: Arthur, W, David-Petero, J
Year published: 2000
Issue no.: 206


The principal aim of this paper was to determine what views young Torres Strait Islanders had about their careers and to assess their orientation or approach to work. Young Torres Strait Islanders often express their view of their future in terms of their work. However, as noted elsewhere in the study, commitments to career may have to be balanced with those to family.

People's notions of career seem influenced by their surrounding social and economic environment. Many young women are keen to work in areas such as health and education while young men are often interested in related trades positions. Despite the fact that commercial fishing is the region's primary industry, and that Islanders are already involved in this not one young person in the survey nominated this as their chosen career. Future stages of this longitudinal study will attempt to find out more about how young people view work in commercial fishing.

Cultural background may also influence people's approach to work. For example, they value the opportunity to work with others who understand them and their culture or 'Islander ways' and express some attraction for working in an Islander organisation and/or with other Islanders. However, a high value is also placed on working with people who have skills and who can pass these on. An ideal work environment might be one which includes supervisors who are skilled in their profession or trade and in cross-cultural communication.

Young Islanders place a high value on work that is interesting, that helps them to achieve their career goals, that is reasonably paid, that provides promotion and that is secure. These findings suggest that, in some respects, indigenous people may approach work in a similar way to other young people.

Young Islanders are quite negative about the CDEP scheme and this often because they see the normal part-time CDEP work as relatively meaningless and boring. However, CDEP communities in the survey are able to create full-time positions, traineeships and apprenticeships within CDEP, and these options are valued by the participants. The CDEP scheme can also provide some of the more culturally specific work qualities that people value. It allows participants to work with people they know and can communicate with, and in a work environment in which they feel comfortable. Therefore, although many view the scheme negatively, it does appear to have the potential to provide some career pathways and in this regard, CDEP communities could be said to be operating rather like development agencies. A continuing challenge for community leaders and policy makers is to provide career options for young people within the CDEP environment.

As noted in the foreword, this is one of a set of three papers from an initial survey in Torres Strait. The other two papers in the set deal respectively with people's careers and job searching techniques (CAEPR Discussion Paper No. 205) and with the relationship between their education and training, and their careers (CAEPR Discussion Paper No. 207). The initial survey that provided the data for this paper is part of a larger study. The study utilises the concept of career which facilitates an exploration of what people think about their future and embodies the idea of change over time. The project aims to determine what may assist or deter people from fulfilling their aspirations, and how and why their ideas about their futures may change. In an attempt to capture these aspects of people's lives, those who were part of this initial survey will be interviewed again.

ISBN: 0 7315 2641 4

ISSN:1036 1774

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