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New research to investigate gender inequality in the native title anthropology sector

New research to investigate gender inequality in the native title anthropology sector

Dr Cameo Dalley will undertake a three-year study into the native title anthropology sector designed to target issues related to the.

“The aim of the project is to better understand the gendered nature of experiences in the sector to benefit women anthropologists, employers including Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs) and the sector as a whole,” said Dr Dalley.

Native title claims in Australia, which formally recognise Indigenous people’s relationships to country, remain heavily reliant on the involvement of university-trained anthropologists. A 2016 survey conducted by the Australian Anthropological Society found that ‘female anthropologists with expertise in land rights and native title tend to be less senior, less well remunerated and experience greater levels of precarious employment than male counterparts’.

Dr Cameo Dalley will lead the Women in Native Title Anthropology research project.

“The issue of retention in the field of anthropology is often identified as an issue of career progression across all genders, however, previous research shows that it disproportionately affects women. A survey of native title anthropologists undertaken in 2003 found that 80 per cent of those aged under 30 were women, but that men made up the overwhelming majority of those in the age bracket 40+. The current profile of practitioners suggests that this hasn’t changed much in the 15 years since,” said Dr Dalley.

“It is very clear that the gendered nature of the experiences of women anthropologists plays a defining role in the retention of women in the sector, and I’m keen to further explore this issue and to find enduring solutions.”

The project will be overseen by a Reference Panel of key women in the sector including Dr Anna Kenny (Consultant Anthropologist), Dr Belinda Burbidge (Research Fellow, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies), Susan Phillips (Barrister) and Dr Pamela McGrath, the Director of Land People Rights Consulting.

Dr Pamela McGrath, Director of Land People Rights Consulting.

“Despite the fact that the majority of NTRB staff anthropologists are women, male anthropologists still tend to dominate more senior roles, in particular that of ‘exemplary expert’,” said Dr McGrath.

“There is still a great demand for ‘exemplary experts’ to assist with native title matters, and it is my belief that women anthropologists are well-placed to step up into these roles should they wish to. And yet many women aren’t. Why not?

Hopefully WiNTA will provide not only some answers, but also some ideas as to how to encourage greater recognition and respect for the special knowledge and experience of women who work in native title, along with some practical strategies for supporting them to make the most of what has the potential to be a very rewarding career.

I’m keen to hear from colleagues of all ages and stages of their careers about how and why they got into native title, what keeps them here, and what might be holding them back from fulfilling their ambitions.”

In addition to her analysis of the sector, Dr Dalley will be leading the development of professional development activities, networks and informal mentoring relationships between women working in native title anthropology to assist in strengthening the sector and promoting gender equality.

Susan Phillips, Justice Mortimer with BWW Elder Mrs Maher at the BWW determination on Moonah Creek west of Mt Isa. Photograph courtesy Susan Phillips.

“We cannot afford this continued loss of women, particularly for the purposes of acting as expert witnesses in court proceedings, at a time when the retention of qualified and experienced anthropologists is vital for achieving the resolution of native title claims in Australia,” said Dr Dalley.

Funding for this project is provided by the Australian Attorney-General’s Department.


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