Deadly women : an analysis of Indigenous women’s leadership in Australia

  • Tess Ryan

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Whilst Indigenous female leadership studies have been undertaken previously, they have most commonly been in specific areas of politics, education and health. Located predominantly within the discipline of leadership studies, the aim of this strategic research project is to investigate the under-researched field of leadership for Indigenous Australian women. The thesis aims to address the question: ‘What does it mean to be an Indigenous woman leader today’? To achieve this aim, three spheres are identified in which Indigenous women exist and lead: in community, in public areas, and institutionally. The problem described by this study is the lack of public acknowledgement in Australia for the accomplishment of Indigenous women leaders in any of these three spheres. To address this problem, the research design adopts a qualitative inductive approach – further contextualised through an Indigenous construct – to capture qualitative information from 20 Indigenous women leaders living in Canberra, Sydney, Taree, and Melbourne. Yarning and Dadirri were used as the main research methods to enable the individual experiences of the participants to highlight an Indigenous women’s standpoint. A key finding from analysis of qualitative knowledge was the difficulty that participants experience in naming themselves as a ‘leader,’ since the connotations of the word for Indigenous women have become intermingled with historical contexts of Colonisation and modern-day contexts of adhering to ‘mainstream success’. In short, the term ‘leader’ is in itself perceived as a barrier to leadership. This study makes two main contributions: (a) it reveals a range of new sites at which Indigenous women’s leadership continues to emerge and expand across Australia; (b) it identifies the growing leadership capacity of both Indigenous women and men that is weakly acknowledged and hence poorly promoted beyond the Indigenous arena. The findings of this study will contribute to leadership literature by providing researchers with insights into best practice Indigenous leadership and provide a platform for future research. If we are to make headway in creating lasting change for Indigenous Australia, then the representation of effective and informal leadership needs to be witnessed.
    Date of Award2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorKerry Mccallum (Supervisor), Jerry Watkins (Supervisor) & Kerrie Doyle (Supervisor)

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