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Australian indigenous women’s seafood harvesting practices and prospects for integrating aquaculture

Ann E. Fleming (Aquaculture Branch, Northern Territory Government, Darwin, Australia)
Lisa Petheram (Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
Natasha Stacey (Research Institute for the Environment & Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Australia)

Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy

ISSN: 1750-6204

Article publication date: 11 May 2015




The purpose of this study is to explore Australian Indigenous women’s customary use of marine resources and views on aquaculture as a development opportunity. The value participants placed on economic, social and cultural outcomes were explored, as were benefit sharing, governance and business considerations.


Using a form of action research, workshops were conducted with a focus group of Indigenous women and interviews with men and women living on a remote island off northern Australia. Multimedia materials and a game were used to elicit a deeper understanding and facilitate discussion.


Women preferred aquaculture options respectful of culture and accommodating cultural and family obligations, that engage young adults in meaningful work, improve access to sea country and provide local foods and support economic development. Participants placed significant dependence on their governance body to support businesses and expressed disparate views on profit sharing. Women continue to engage in customary harvesting and fishing but various limitations impact on this.

Research limitations/implications

Conclusions based on one case study need to be confirmed in other communities. Future research should include a broader representation of youth and strategies to improve people’s understanding of aquaculture operations and business management.

Social implications

This research improves our understanding of Indigenous women’s preferred economic development pathways and their advocacy role within the community. These findings are relevant for policy-makers, businesses, other Indigenous communities and researchers.


This paper seeks to recognise and integrate Indigenous women’s economic and cultural aspirations within development policy. Such a place-based, gender-based consultative process is generally lacking in the Australian Indigenous policy arena.



The authors express their gratitude to the Warruwi community for their participation and support for this project. The authors thank colleagues for valuable feedback that improved the paper. Funding support was received from the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility. The views expressed herein are not necessarily the views of the Commonwealth or NCCARF, and neither accepts responsibility for information or advice contained herein.


Fleming, A.E., Petheram, L. and Stacey, N. (2015), "Australian indigenous women’s seafood harvesting practices and prospects for integrating aquaculture", Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 156-181.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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