2005 Projects » Helping People to Help Themselves

Helping People to Help Themselves:  a study of training issues for Aboriginal women and their remote communities in Central Australia report presents research findings into the knowledge and aspirations of vocational education and training (VET) held by Central Australian Indigenous women leaders. It identifies and reviews some current initiatives to improve access and participation for women in remote Aboriginal communities in the region.

The project is based upon the perceptions of women in Central Australia who are:

  • Training participants: Aboriginal women undertaking training in a unit of the Certificate IV Training and Assessment in order to gain employment as Training Nintiringtjaku (community training facilitators)
  •  Advocates and decision-makers: Aboriginal women on the Management Committee of Waltja Tjutangku Palyapayi Aboriginal Association, representing their remote community and the concerns of communities across the Central Australian region
  • Training providers: Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal staff of two Aboriginal Registered Training Organisations: Waltja Tjutangku Palyapayi (Waltja) and the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT).

The research data comprises publications and interview texts on training needs and issues for Aboriginal women in Central Australia, compiled from 1993 to the present. Commentary is also provided upon the implementation of the National Strategy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in vocational education and training, and upon other policies and initiatives by the Commonwealth and Northern Territory governments. The report is accompanied by a Power Point presentation which provides a visual representation of the key points.

The consistent concerns of research participants are for training which supports employment access for adult Aboriginal people within existing community jobs, and training which supports traineeships and new job opportunities for their young people. They talk about why there are so few Aboriginal people holding manager and senior worker positions, and how to address the English literacy and qualification barriers and recognition of prior learning. They worry for their young people if there is no good start for them at school and in teenage years. They hope for a learning pathway for them, to get confidence, competence and employment. They hope that their young women can get work within their own communities, in the store, the Council office, the clinic, the school, the art centre, aged care and child care, living in their own country and working confidently both in their own language and in English.

The Aboriginal women who participated in this project have a clear appreciation of the value of accredited training, and a critical appreciation of the efforts of government and Registered Training Organisations to provide VET services for remote Aboriginal communities. They assert a strong commitment to the principles of life long learning within traditional Aboriginal societies as well as within their Aboriginal organisations. The training needs and priorities identified by research participants have been categorised in the following way:

  • Community self-determination: This refers to governance issues for remote and disadvantaged communities: planning and making decisions together, working to maintain culture and  language, managing community events, running local government and community services, making submissions and administering funding.
  • Training and qualifications for community-based employment: Research participants want improved Aboriginal access to existing jobs on their communities, such as governance,  administration, services, community care work, education and health, which are generally taken up by non-Indigenous workers. They also need professional development and accreditation opportunities as volunteers or hourly paid workers within these services. They need access to training in technical trades, and in the maintenance of houses and essential services. Aboriginal women also advocate for young people and men to gain similar access.
  • Functional literacies: Research participants stress the problems of low levels of English literacy, numeracy, experience with computer technologies, and the impact of this upon further education or employment opportunities. The functional literacies of documentation, governance, financial management and contractual compliance are required by community council members and by the boards and managers of community services.
  • Crisis management: addressing the immediate and long-term problems and effects of physical and mental ill-health, violence, alcohol and inhalant misuse, family breakdown. A direct link is drawn by research participants between the lack of good education opportunities and anti social/self-destructive activities, particularly for young people at risk.

The report therefore makes broad statements about good practice in linking VET to remote community needs, and specific statements about training needs in relation to the four priority areas listed above.

 To read the report click here.