Macquarie University
01whole.pdf (1.8 MB)

Sovereign women: why academia?

Download (1.8 MB)
posted on 2023-02-06, 22:42 authored by Amy Thunig

As higher education institutions increasingly display stated commitments to diversity, equity, and increasing Indigenous student enrolment and completion, it is undeniable that Indigenous academics are in high demand. However, fewer than 430 Indigenous academics are currently employed on the continent now commonly referred to as ‘Australia’, and 69% of that cohort identify as female. This thesis aims to explore the motivation for and experience of engagement in academic careers for Indigenous academic women from their own perspectives. It reports on a nationwide study of 17 one-on-one, face-to-face interviews with Indigenous academic women. The study applies Indigenous research methodologies and poetic transcription to inquire into the experiential and relational aspects of Indigenous academic women’s roles in Australian higher education. It also uses storytelling and Indigenous women’s standpoint theory to centre the consideration of legacy motivations for both academic women’s professional work and their initial journey into higher education study, highlighting concepts of ‘first in family’ and ‘first for family’ in the data. This study argues that the implications of academic engagement for Indigenous women who sit at the centre of their communities include wider influences, impacts and outcomes for their immediate familial, extended kinship and broader Indigenous community groups. It posits that these are not secondary or incidental, but primary motivations and shaping influences on Indigenous women’s academic careers and how they should be understood, valued and supported by institutions.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction and Background to Thesis -- Chapter 2: Voice, Choice, Sustenance, and Violence—Literature Review -- Chapter 3: Theory -- Chapter 4: Sovereign Women: Why Academia? My Doctoral Journey Gathering Word-Gifts and Heart Berries -- Chapter 5: ‘First In Family, First For Family: Indigenous Academic Women’s Legacy Motivation’ -- Chapter 6: ‘Don’t Make Me Play House-N***er’: Indigenous Academic Women Treated as ‘Black Performer’ Within Higher Education -- Chapter 7: Why Academia? -- Chapter 8: Discussion and Conclusion -- Appendix A: outputs towards the Wuuri-lay work of this thesis

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD

Department, Centre or School

School of Education

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Tiffany Jones

Additional Supervisor 1

Neil Harrison

Additional Supervisor 2

Leanne Holt


Copyright: Amy Thunig Copyright disclaimer:






239 pages

Usage metrics

    Macquarie University Theses


    Ref. manager