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Factors that enable Australian Aboriginal women’s persistence at university: A strengths-based approach

Uink, B., Bennett, R. and Van den Berg, C. (2021) Factors that enable Australian Aboriginal women’s persistence at university: A strengths-based approach. Higher Education Research & Development, 40 (1). pp. 178-193.

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are increasingly completing university at rates higher than their male counterparts. However, the reasons for this trend, including factors that support Indigenous women’s determination to persist with university study, remain undocumented in the literature. We applied a strengths-based approach to determine factors that enabled eight Aboriginal women’s success at university. In a project devised, designed and facilitated by Aboriginal women with university degrees, participants were invited to contribute to a yarning circle discussion where they were prompted to discuss strengths they drew upon to persist in their studies. Thematic analysis of the yarning data revealed four superordinate themes related to persistence: affirming educational experiences, peer support, developing a growth mindset, and the Aboriginal Education Unit. Findings suggest that the women’s persistence was a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, all of which were contextualised within the intersectional experience of being both Aboriginal and female. This study acts to balance a deficit bias in studies about Indigenous people and higher education by elucidating the strengths of a specific Aboriginal cohort. Additionally, the findings can be translated into deeper understanding and practical guidance for universities to better support Indigenous women.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
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