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A day in the life of An Aboriginal Woman

Did you know that Tasmanian Aboriginal women played a highly significant role in Aboriginal life in respect to the division of labour? Perhaps society hasn’t changed as much as we like to think...

Not only were the women highly proficient divers but they were also responsible for gathering bird eggs, hunting seals (a primary food source alongside shellfish), and scaling trees to catch possums. The women also mined and prepared the ochre, a highly valuable cultural resource.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal men often had ‘dreadlock’ like longer hair while the women had shaved or close-cropped hair, this was for ease as they were in and out of the ocean. Particularly in coastal areas, the women would smear their bodies with seal fat as an important insulation source for the cold waters of the North-West as they dived for abalone, crayfish and other molluscs. In 1973 the French naturalist, Jacques Labillardiere, noted that Tasmanian women could remain submerged for twice as long as the best French divers.

Women would not only dive for food sources, but also for kelp as it was frequently used to make baskets to carry water.

So whilst the men were responsible for capturing the large game and some plant foods, the Aboriginal women often bore the brunt of the daily labour.

Could you imagine a day in the life of an Aboriginal woman?

Source: Johnson, M., & McFarlane, I., 2015 "Van Diemen's Land: An Aboriginal History", University of New South Wales Press pp. 34-61.

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