Gender and Religion: Gender and Australian Indigenous Religions

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Indigenous Australian women's religious beliefs and practices and the nature of gender relations in Aboriginal societies continue to be the subject of considerable debate. Do women have ceremonies that are secret and sacred to them? Do their rituals implicate the entire society or only women? Should gender relations be represented as egalitarian, complementary, or hierarchical? What has been the impact of the colonization of traditional lands, the forced removal of children, and the policies of assimilation and self-determination on women and men's religious beliefs and relationships? Is it possible to generalize for the entire continent, or given that Indigenous people live in different situations across the country, is it only possible to document change for specific groups?

Problems with the Sources

For a number of reasons, women's voices are barely heard, especially in nineteenth-century and early- to mid-twentieth-century sources. Indigenous women, women anthropologists, and historians women have contested the validity of the male-dominated record. Silences, cultural assumptions regarding the "proper role" of women, and paradigms locating women outside the religious domain have rendered women mute. Influential texts, such as Sigmund Freud's Totem and Taboo and Émile Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, written by theorists with no direct fieldwork experience in Australia, cast women as the profane and "other." When women's experience, self-knowledge, and woman-focused activities are confined to the realm of the everyday, the mundane, and the hearth and home, the question does not arise as to whether the ceremonies women perform may have significance beyond the profane business of women's bodies. For these theorists, women have magic but nothing that could properly be called religion. Thus when Géza Róheim, heavily influenced by Freud's psychoanalytical approach, worked in the 1930s in Central Australia and addressed women's lives, he asked about their everyday preoccupations but not about religion.

In her 1979 article "Aboriginal Women and the Notion of 'The Marginal Man,'" Catherine Berndt traced the ways women in the records of nineteenth-century observers are routinely depicted as downtrodden slaves of their menfolk, objects for sexual barter, and the instigators of fights. In this schema women's politics are cast as squabbles, and the decision-making power they enjoy by virtue of being the economic mainstay for their hunting and gathering is rendered invisible. The trend continued well into the twentieth century. Denied agency, women are shadows in the landscape: they cannot and do not speak directly of their lives, beliefs, and practices. Women are "feeders, breeders and follow the leaders" (Cawte, 1974, p. 140).

The written record is further impoverished because most observers were men and, with the strict sex-division of labor, they faced practical difficulties in undertaking research among Indigenous women. Those who were accompanied by their wives sometimes recorded their wives' observations on Indigenous women or those of the wives of missionaries. But more often, where they make reference to women, male researchers have relied on Indigenous men for information regarding women's activities and status. These men, however, have been reluctant or unable to discuss what is sometimes referred to as "women's business."

Some insights are available from women who have set down their observations in fiction and diaries. Mrs. Aeneas Gunn, drawing on her experiences in the Roper River region of the Northern Territory, told the story of "Bett-Bett" in The Black Princess in 1905. For the most part the few trained women who undertook fieldwork in Australia did not focus on Indigenous women. Some ignored women, preferring to work on more "scholarly" prestigious topics. Some, like the journalist and self-taught anthropologist Daisy Bates (18631951), lived among and wrote about Indigenous peoples in Western and South Australia. Bates faithfully recorded aspects of women's ceremonial lives, had little time for women, and as a product of their times, assumed that male authority was part of the "natural order" of things.

Nancy Munn's careful documentation of Warlpiri women's ceremonies, sand drawings, and body paintings, published in 1973 in Walbiri Iconography, added to the richness of Central Australian desert ethnographies. But in pursuing her structural analysis, Munn focused more on the men's ceremonies, including the secret ones she was privileged to attend. She does not record having attended any secret women's ceremonies. Her conclusion that men held the keys to cosmic order echoed the 1972 opinion of Kenneth Maddock, in Australian Aborigines, that women's ceremonies are small and personal whereas men's ceremonies addressed broader societal concerns. On the basis of more explicitly feminist research and evidence in Aboriginal land claims, Maddock revised his position for the 1982 edition of that work.

In an effort to reclaim women from the sources and to explore why Indigenous women do not see themselves as the drudges of their society, women researchers began exploring the silences in the ethnographic and historical record. In the 1845 journal entries of the explorer and administrator Edward John Eyre, Fay Gale found evidence of women-only ceremonies among the people of the southern Murray River region of South Australia for her 1989 article "Roles Revisited." In rereading the 19011902 journal of Francis Gillen, who accompanied Baldwin Spencer on his travels through central and northern Australia, Diane Bell found data that did not appear in their ethnographiesit did not mesh with the evolutionary models of Spencer. But as she pointed out in her 1983 Daughters of the Dreaming, it did indicate that women's affiliations to the Dreaming were not mediated through men.

Women Speak

The 1939 publication of Phyllis Kaberry's Aboriginal Woman: Sacred and Profane established that Indigenous women had secret ceremonies. This was work undertaken by a woman who went into the field to study women and who was prepared to interrogate Durkheim's sacred and profane dichotomy. Her portrait of independent women, rich in ritual knowledge and expertise, stands in stark contrast to the findings of W. Lloyd Warner that women were born profane and made little sacred progress through life. Kaberry worked in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and Warner in Arnhem Land in the north of Australia, but regional differences do not adequately explain the divergent portraits. Kaberry's monograph continues to be read as a book about women in the Kimberleys and Warner's as a text on religion.

Catherine Berndt's work in the 1940s and 1950s confirmed and extended Kaberry's findings to South Australia, the Northern Territory, and other parts of Western Australia. Likewise Annette Hamilton, working in the eastern Western Desert, documented the existence of women's secret ceremonies in her 1979 Ph.D. thesis. On the basis of her fieldwork and land claim experience in Central Australia in the 1970s and 1980s, Diane Bell detailed the breadth, depth, and power of women's religious lives; explored their control over women's residential and ceremonial spaces; and demonstrated that yawulyu (land-based ceremonies) and yilpinji (love magic or emotional management ceremonies) are structured along the same principles of ritual reciprocity as men's ceremonies.

Françoise Dussart, writing of her 1980s fieldwork with the Warlpiri of Central Australia, focused on the elements of competition and obligation of both men and women ritual leaders and revisited the centrality of kinship. Zohl Dé Ishtar, working at Wirrimanu (Balgo, Western Australia) where Catherine Berndt had spent many years, traced the internal struggles of this complex community in her 2003 Ph.D. dissertation. Accounts of women's art, music, and dance have further fleshed out dimensions of the dynamic and vibrant religious lives of Indigenous women. The ethnomusicologist Linda Barwick's 2000 recordings and accompanying texts are the first commercially available of the yawulyu style of Warumungu women from Tennant Creek, Central Australia. Jennifer Biddle's article "Inscribing Identity: Skin as Country in the Central Desert" offers a closer look at the significance of women's body painting.

In land claims brought under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act (1976), women offered testimony regarding their religious ties to land and their knowledge of myth through yawulyu performances. A 1979 report of Justice John Toohey, the then Aboriginal land commissioner, made special mention of the significance of women's ceremonies. In government-sponsored reports, Indigenous women across Australia have spoken out about their community, family, and individual concerns.

The portrait of women's religious lives that emerges from these accounts is that in the desert regions of central, western, and southern Australia and in the Kimberleys both men and women have ceremonies that are closed to the other. However, there are also ceremonial moments where each has a presence at the rituals of the other. Knowledge is earned. The sages of the society are the "old people." The nubile young wenches who caught the eye of some commentators were not repositories of the sacred and secret law.

Bringing women into active voice in the ceremonial domain has been the work of women. To explore what was going on in women-only domains required a woman researcher, one who could be trusted with women's secrets. Catherine Berndt worked with women while her husband worked with men. They provided gendered perspectives on the same communities, stories, and ceremonies, and their access deepened as they aged. Bell described taking her two children into the field in the mid-1970s and how she was instructed in the ceremonial responsibilities of a mother of a boy nearing the age of initiation and a girl approaching marriageable age.

By the 1980s Indigenous women were adding to an already extensive body of literature, but little of it addressed religious beliefs and practices directly. Rather, they presented autobiographical material, emphasized survival, and located women's strengths within families and communities. As she documented the ravages of dispossession on her people in New South Wales in her 1978 film My Survival as an Aboriginal, Essie Coffey highlighted the strength she derived from her family. Hyllus Maris and Sonia Borg told the history of two hundred years of occupation of Indigenous lands in Women of the Sun, the 1983 four-part television series with a woman as the central figure in each episode. Sally Morgan's 1987 international best seller, My Place, traced her quest for identity through a maze of secrets in her Western Australian family.

Many more stories of survival in the face of loss and trauma came to light in 1996 with the publication of Bringing Them Home, a report on the "stolen generations," children forcefully removed from their parents in the name of assimilation. Other women are now coming forward to share their stories. Doris Kartinyeri's Kick the Tin (2000) told her story for future generations.

Although women's ceremonial life was imperiled by missionary activity and government policies of assimilation, particularly in the heavily settled part of Australia, fragments of knowledge of the beliefs and practices of earlier generations have survived and are held dear by those who have earned the right to know. In the stories of survival, there are glimpses of the continued importance of family attendance at various ceremonies, including funerals. These gatherings serve to unite communities and celebrate kinship ties, as they did in the premissionary days.

Indigenous women continue to explore their relationship to feminism and the women's movement. For some, the women's movement offered new insights and opportunities. Others have explored distinctively indigenous modes of representing their struggles as Indigenous women and express ambivalence and sometimes hostility to what they see as a white women's movement.

Gender Relations

Here also the record is impoverished. Throughout the nineteenth century and much of the twentieth century, male dominance was accepted as an accurate depiction of gender relations, which were usually discussed in terms of role and status. Evidence of women's rituals constituted a challenge to this view, but it has not entirely dislodged the model of male dominance as universally applicable. Rather, from the 1970s onward there is greater nuance and complexity to the way gender relations are presented.

For Central Australia there is general agreement that women enjoy prestige and respect by virtue of their secret and sacred ceremonies, and this is apparent in their rights in and responsibilities for sacred sites and country. This contrasts with Arnhem Land, where polygyny is common, the separation of the sexes is not as dramatically marked, and women's ritual activity does not have the wide reach of women's ceremonies in the desert regions.

In The Tiwi of North Australia (1960) C. W. M. Hart and Arnold Pilling describe older women as toothless old hags. In Tiwi Wives, researched in the 1960s but not published until 1971, Jane Goodale found Tiwi women to be wise individuals. Unlike the practice throughout most of the Australia continent, Tiwi men and women of Melville and Bathurst Islands are initiated at the same ceremonies, but women are not expected to be innovators. That is men's work. Goodale characterized male-female relations as structurally unequal.

In their contributions to the 1970 landmark publication of Woman's Role in Aboriginal Society, Isobel White surveyed the literature and concluded that women were not pawns or chattels of men but "junior partners" (White, 1970, p. 26), whereas Catherine Berndt opted for a "two sex model, dependence and interdependence" (Berndt, 1970, pp. 3948). Diane Barwick provided a nuanced account of Indigenous women's strategies in nineteenth-century Victoria as they took advantage of the opportunities afforded by mission and government stations to transform their roles within traditional patriarchal society and to enjoy the status of emancipated women (Barwick, 1970, pp. 3138).

In 1979 John Bern, working in the Roper River area and echoing Warner's pronouncement on women's profane lives, argued that religion is the domain where status is conferred, and religion is a male domain. A year later Hamilton explored what might constitute a challenge to this ideology. She argued that in the eastern Western Desert women's matrilineal ties, autonomous religious lives, and lower polygyny rates than farther north in Arnhem Land constituted a structural impediment to the consolidation of male dominance. Fred Myers, working with the Pintupi of Central Australia, has conceded that women's ceremonies are of importance but, like Maddock's 1982 revised position, sees the scale of men's ceremonies, their elaborate nature of preparations, and their integrative scope as indicative of their greater importance.

Echoing the work of Kaberry and Hamilton, Diane Bell in 1983 wrote of female autonomy and the complementarity of the sexes in Central Australia. She argued that the life on settlements (reservations) provided many opportunities for women's ceremonies and indeed intensified the need for those ceremonies that concern resolution of conflict. Women on cattle stations (ranches) have fewer opportunities for large gatherings of women but often have been able to remain closer to their sacred places and country.

In her reconsiderations of women and anthropology in 1984, Kay Saunders called for a reintegration of male and female perspectives. Reviewing the last twenty-five years of the twentieth century, Francesca Merlan, in "Gender in Aboriginal Social Life: A Review" (1988), noted the difficulty presented by the range of views and claims that much of what purports to address gender relations too often focuses on women's position in the society. Lester Hiatt, in Arguing about Aborigines, recognizes that age and gender are critical factors in any conceptualization of gender relations but with his characterization, "double gendered gerontocracies," allows that the weight attached to either may or does vary across the continent (Hiatt, 1996, p. 77).

Myth and Ritual

There are myths that explore themes of sexuality, sexualized power, and gender relations; myths that are known to women, and ones that are the domain of men; and gendered versions of the same myth wherein women and men emphasize aspects of ancestral activities that are relevant to their roles. From South Australia come men's stories of the whale, kondoli, and the theft of fire, his jealously guarded possession, and those of women about the old people riding whales and calling to whales, as if these large warm-blooded creatures were kin. Both women and men talk of the return of the whales to the waters of the Southern Ocean as a prophecy of the return of strength to their culture and communities.

Women feature in a number of Dreaming stories, some of which, like that of the Seven Sisters (the Pleiades) and the Mungamunga, traveling women who traverse the continent, interact with other Dreamings and establish rites of passage for women. In her 1965 article Catherine Berndt enumerated examples of present-day male ownership of myths that once belonged to women, the most well-known being the Djang'kawu sisters from northeastern Arnhem Land.

Myths are redolent with sexual imagery and make note of the aberrant and the taboo. Thus sex between mothers-in-law and sons-in-law leads to social disorder. Women's yilbinji songs of Central Australia may be used to attract or spurn a lover and to restore harmony.

In the central desert regions yawulyu ceremonies are the responsibility of senior women, and through their performance they make the country "come up green" and speak of "growing up" the country as one "grows up" children. In Warlpiri one is kirda for the country of one's father and kurdungurla for the country of one's mother's father. Other rights flow through mother's mother and father's mother, place of birth, and a number of idiosyncratic factors.

In the preparation of sacred objects for a ceremony, women may sing and speak of the significance of the stories that give meaning to their actions. Songs and designs painted on bodies, the ground, and ritual paraphernalia function as mnemonics and may be explored in greater detail in associated myths. Stories may be told when women are out hunting and gathering, and it is here that children first learn to name their country.

Adults tell myths, but the audience may be children, or it may be highly restricted on the basis of gender, age, family, and country affiliations. As one ages and grows in wisdom, the inside meanings of stories become available. This layering of knowledge may take one from a simple story told to scare children, such as the Mulyewongk (bunyip ) of South Australia, to deeper and deeper meanings of significance to men and male initiation and to women and child rearing.

Gender in Public

Controversies regarding the value to be accorded to research findings by women working with women persist and extend beyond the walls of academe. Between 1994 and 2001 the weight accorded to the claim that a group of Ngarrindjeri women in the southeast of Australia had secret knowledge of sacred sites was contested in a number of legal cases. Diane Bell and Chris Kenny provide diametrically opposed readings of the Ngarrindjeri issues. Ultimately the women were vindicated in the decision by Justice John von Doussa in 2002 in the Federal Court, but the hearings, media coverage, and anthropological and community divisions generated by the matter illustrate how contentious "women's business" remains. The lives of the women pursuing protection for the sites had been profoundly altered by the missionary presence and assimilation policiesincluding the forced removal of childrenand there was little in the ethnographic record to support their claims. However, the assertion of several Ngarrindjeri men and women that the Seven Sisters Dreaming traveled through their country could be substantiated from a number of sources. The politicized women of the so-called "settled south" were pitted against the traditional women of the "remote" communities and their authenticity as believers contested. Women-focused accounts were called biased, and the reflexive accounts where the researcher discussed the impact her presence has had on the collection of data were said to lack the objectivity of earlier positivist accounts.

Since the late 1980s the issue of violence against women has emerged as a highly emotive issue. Numerous reports have documented the increasing incidences of rape and physical abuse of women and children, and this has led to a lively debate concerning gender relations in traditional society and the weight to be accorded to the legacy of the gendered violence of the colonial frontier. Anthropologists and historians have debated the nature of the transformation of gender roles on the frontier. Berndt argued that women were advantaged by their privileged access to the hearth and home of the colonizers. Bell argued that women's lives were privatized by their domestication and that during the self-determination era men were groomed as leaders and negotiations were male to male. Assumptions regarding women's chattel-like status fueled the argument that violence against women was tolerated in "traditional" society. In response to Bell's call to all Australians to pay attention to intraracial rape, Indigenous women, such as Huggins, have argued that this is their business. This debate continues, as Bell documented in "White Women Can't Speak" and as "Tidda's Manifesto" illustrated.

Traditional religion is tied to place and firmly embedded in the kinship system. For a number of reasons, however, including dispossession of land, forceful removal of children, work requirements, and education, many people no longer live on their ancestral land. New spiritualities, in dialogue with different Christian modalities, formulations of social justice, environmentalism, and ecofeminism, have emerged. The hierarchical ordering of ancestral powers within these new theologies privilege male-identified beings, whereas some of the New Age romanticizations of the noble savage and the earth as mother articulate a female principle.

See Also

Anthropology, Ethnology, and Religion; Australian Indigenous Religions, overview article; Durkheim, Émile; Ecology and Religion, overview article; Freud, Sigmund; Magic, article on Theories of Magic; Ritual; Totemism.


Barwick, Diane. "And the Lubras Are Ladies Now." In Woman's Role in Aboriginal Society, edited by Fay Gale, pp. 3138. Canberra, 1970. Ethnohistorical analysis of changes in women's role and status following the Board of Protection of Aborigines 1860 decision to settle tribes in Victoria on supervised government stations and missions, where they could farm and support themselves.

Barwick, Linda. Yawulyu Mungamunga: Dreaming Songs of Warumungu Women, Tennant Creek, Central Australia. Sydney, 2000. Women perform a cappella; songs relate travels of the Mungamunga Dreaming women; accompanying texts and explanation.

Bates, Daisy Mary. The Passing of the Aborigines. London, 1938. An edited and revised version of serialized articles that first appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser; a lament for a vanishing race.

Bell, Diane. "White Women Can't Speak?" Feminism and Psychology 6, no. 2 (1996): 197203. Summary of the controversy over a 1988 paper by Bell concerning intraracial rape, the silence of feminists for fear of being called racist, and the male bias of the Australian legal system in advocating for Indigenous women victims of male violence and Jackie Huggins's insistence that this violence against women is not the business of white women.

Bell, Diane. Ngarrindjeri Wurruwarrin: A World That Is, Was, and Will Be. Melbourne, 1998. A historically grounded ethnography of the Ngarrindjeri of South Australia and the Hindmarsh Island affair.

Bell, Diane. Daughters of the Dreaming. Melbourne, 1983; 3d ed., 2002. An explicitly feminist ethnography of women's religion at Warrabri (Ali-curang) with Warlpiri, Kayetj, Alyawarr, and Warumungu women; based on doctoral research and land claim experience.

Bern, John. "Ideology and Domination: Toward a Reconstruction of Australian Aboriginal Social Formation." Oceania 50, no. 2 (1979): 118132. Based on fieldwork in the Roper River region.

Berndt, Catherine H. "Women's Changing Ceremonies in Northern Australia." L'Homme 1 (1950): 188. M.A. thesis; documentation of the ceremonial lives and impact of cattle stations (ranches); song texts and body designs.

Berndt, Catherine H. "Women and the 'Secret Life.'" In Aboriginal Man in Australia, edited by Ronald M. Berndt and Catherine H. Berndt, pp. 238282. Sydney, 1965. Examines song, ritual, and myth from women's perspective; locates within context of complementary relations between men and women in ritual and ceremonial spheres.

Berndt, Catherine H. "Digging Sticks and Spears; or, The Two-Sex Model." In Women's Role in Aboriginal Society, edited by Fay Gale, pp. 3948. Canberra, 1970. A model of gender relations based on exploration of domestic, economic, and religious domains.

Berndt, Catherine H. "Aboriginal Women and the Notion of the 'Marginal Man.'" In Aborigines of the West: Their Past and Their Present, edited by Ronald M. Berndt and Catherine H. Berndt, pp. 2838. Nedlands, Western Australia, 1979. Literature survey of historical and contemporary material primarily from Western Australia.

Berndt, Ronald M., and Catherine H. Berndt. The Speaking Land: Myth and Story in Aboriginal Australia. Ringwood, Australia, 1989. Anthology of two hundred myth stories drawn from around Australia as told to the Berndts.

Berndt, Ronald M., and Catherine H. Berndt, with John E. Stanton. A World That Was: The Yaraldi of the Murray River and the Lakes, South Australia. Melbourne, 1993. A reclamation of the traditions of the Yaraldi primarily based on fieldwork with two remarkable elders, Albert Karloan and Margaret "Pinkie" Mack, in the 1940s, revised in the 1990s, and published after the death of Ronald Berndt.

Biddle, Jennifer. "Inscribing Identity: Skin as Country in the Central Desert." In Thinking Through the Skin, edited by S. Ahmed and J. Stacey, pp. 177193. London, 2001. A phenomenological analysis of Aboriginal women's paintings from the central desert of Australia.

Cawte, John. Medicine Is the Law. Honolulu, 1974. An examination of traditional Aboriginal society through the lens of psychiatric anthropology and an exploration of the possible alleviation of acculturation problems by sociomedical means.

Coffey, Essie. My Survival as an Aboriginal. 1978. Documentary film of the effects of dispossession, chronic depression, alcoholism, deaths in custody and poverty; filmed in Coffey's hometown, Brewarrina, in the far northwest of New South Wales.

Daylight, Phyliss, and Mary Johnstone. Women's Business: Report of the Aboriginal Women's Task Force. Canberra, Australia, 1986. An inquiry into Aboriginal women's involvement in critical social, political, and economic issues, including land rights; recommendations to the commonwealth government; based on an Australiawide, twelve-month consultative process by a team of thirteen Indigenous women.

Dé Ishtar, Zohl. "Holding Yawulyu : White Culture and Black Women's Law." Ph.D. diss., Deakin University, 2003. Research at Wirrimanu (Balgo), Western Australia; her role in establishing Kapululangu, a women's camp and cultural center; the politics of the community (including intra- and inter-black and white politics).

Durkheim, Émile. The Elementary Form of the Religious Life. New York, 1915. Classic account of religion, sacred and profane, draws on Australian material.

Dussart, Françoise. The Politics of Ritual in an Aboriginal Settlement: Kinship, Gender, and the Currency of Knowledge. Washington, D.C., 2000. Based on doctoral and subsequent research at Yuendumu in Central Australia; traces how ritual leaders function as individuals, women, Warlpiri, and members of residential kin groups.

Fergie, Deane. "Secret Envelopes and Inferential Tautologies." Journal of Australian Studies 48 (1996): 1324. Account of the logic pursued in investigating the secrets of the Ngarrindjeri women in the Hindmarsh Island case.

Freud, Sigmund. Totem and Taboo. New York, 1950.

Gale, Fay. "Roles Revisited: The Women of Southern South Australia." In Women Rites and Sites, edited by Peggy Brock, pp. 120135. Sydney, 1989. A reconciliation of the nineteenth-century literature on the role and status of Indigenous womenprimarily those living at Point McLeay (Raukkan)with perspectives of women in the twentieth century.

Gillen, Francis James. Gillen's Diary: The Camp Jottings of F. J. Gillen on the Spencer and Gillen Expedition across Australia, 19011902. Adelaide, 1968. Gillen, special magistrate and protector of the Aborigines, Alice Springs, worked with Baldwin Spencer, professor of biology at the University of Melbourne; Gillen spoke several of the local languages and recorded the daily activities of women.

Goodale, Jane C. Tiwi: A Study of the Women of Melville Island, Northern Australia. Washington, D.C., 1971. Based on doctoral research, traces woman's life cycle from birth to death; social structure of Tiwi society; importance of matrilineality and patrilineality.

Gunn, Mrs. Aeneas. The Black Princess (1905). Sydney, 1977. Jeannie Gunn (18701961) worked at Elsey Station, Northern Territory.

Hamilton, Annette. "Timeless Transformations: Women, Men, and History in the Western Australian Desert." Ph.D. diss., University of Sydney, 1979. Fieldwork at Everard Park Station (now Mimili), South Australia; argues the region is in flux; analysis of mode of production in relationship to reproduction and symbolic production.

Hamilton, Annette. "Dual Social Systems: Technology, Labour, and Women's Secret Rites in the Eastern Western Desert of Australia." Oceania 51, no. 1 (1980): 419. Separation of the sexes and consequences with special reference to women's secret religious lives.

Hart, C. W. M., and Arnold R. Pilling. The Tiwi of North Australia. New York, 1960. A study of a system of influence and power based on woman as currency and male competition for control of this "good."

Hiatt, Lester R. Arguments about Aborigines: Australia and the Evolution of Social Anthropology. New York, 1996. Explores major controversies in Australian anthropology; includes the chapter "The Woman Question."

Kaberry, Phyllis M. Aboriginal Woman: Sacred and Profane. London, 1939. Revised doctoral dissertation; based on field-work in early 1930s; portrays women as complex social personalities.

Kartinyeri, Doris E. Kick the Tin. Melbourne, 2000. Firsthand account of the struggles of a member of the "stolen generations" taken at birth and raised in the Colebrook Home in South Australia.

Kenny, Chris. It Would Be Nice if There Was Some Women's Business. Potts Point, Australia, 1996. An involved journalist's defense of the proposition that the Ngarrindjeri women fabricated their religious beliefs to thwart development of the Hindmarsh Island bridge.

Little, Janine. "'Tiddas in Struggle': A Consultative Project with Murri, Koori, and Nyoongah Women." SPAN: Journal of the South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies, no. 37, 1993. Includes discussion of Jackie Huggins and the development of the "Tiddas Manifesto," "white feminism," and the benefits that flow to white women from the dispossession and oppression of Koori people.

Maddock, Kenneth. The Australian Aborigines: A Portrait of Their Society. Ringwood, Australia, 1972; rev. ed., 1982. Revisits the claim that women's ceremonies centered on narrow, divisive, and personal interests and concedes that women may indeed celebrate their relationship to land and broad cohesive themes similar to men.

Maris, Hyllus, and Sonia Borg. Women of the Sun. Paddington, Australia, 1983. The book based on the award-winning television drama.

Merlan, Francesca. "Gender in Aboriginal Social Life: A Review." In Social Anthropology and Australian Aboriginal Studies: A Contemporary Overview, edited by Ronald M. Berndt and R. Tonkinson, pp. 1576. Canberra, 1988. Detailed literature review; includes critique of reconstructions of "traditional" culture and calls for rereading the literature on sexuality and reproduction in a wider social context.

Moreton-Robinson, Aileen. Talkin' up to the White Woman. Saint Lucia, Australia, 2000. A critique of the exclusionary and racist practices of middle-class white feminism.

Morgan, Sally. My Place. Freemantle, Australia, 1987. Autobiography; a search for truth that implicates Morgan's whole family and frees her mother and grandmother to tell their stories.

Munn, Nancy D. Walbiri Iconography: Graphic Representations and Cultural Symbolism in a Central Australian Society. Chicago, 1973. An exploration of visual art and communications systems; examines the totemic designs as a representational structure and sociocultural symbolism; based on doctoral research at Yuendumu, Central Australia in the 1950s.

Myers, Fred R. Pintipu Country, Pintupi Self: Sentiment, Place, and Politics among Western Desert Aborigines. Washington, D.C., 1986. Based on doctoral research in Central Australia at Papunya, Yayayi, and beyond with senior Pintupi men.

Pattel-Gray, Anne, ed. Aboriginal Spirituality: Past, Present, and Future. Blackburn, Australia, 1996. Draws on papers from the First National Conference on Aboriginality and Perceptions of Christianity, South Australia, 1990, of explorations by Indigenous scholars and church and community leaders and theologians of their spirituality in relationship to Christianity.

Róheim, Géza. "Women and Their Life in Central Australia." Royal Anthropological Institute Journal 63 (1933): 207265. Rich data, but assumes women's activities concern magic, not religion.

Saunders, Kay. "'The Old Order of Things': Women and Anthropology Reconsidered." Hecate 10, no. 1 (1984): 6873. A historian's overview.

Toohey, John. Land Claim by the Alyawarra and Kaititja. Report by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner Toohey to the minister for Aboriginal affairs and to the administrator of the Northern Territory. Canberra, Australia, 1979. Makes reference to the performance of women's ceremonies as evidence of their rights and responsibilities in land.

Von Doussa, John. "Reasons for Decision." Thomas Lincoln Chapman, Wendy Jennifer Chapman, and Binalong (Receivers and Managers Appointed) (in Liquidation) v. Lumins Pty Ltd, Deane Joanne Fergie, Cheryl Anne Saunders, Robert Edward Tickner, and Commonwealth of Australia. Federal Court of Australia, No. SG 33 of 1997. The Federal Court decision of 2001 finding that the Ngarrindjeri women had not deliberately fabricated their religious beliefs to thwart development.

Warner, W. Lloyd. A Black Civilization: A Social Study of an Australian Tribe. New York, 1937. Based on doctoral research with the Murgin at Milingimbi in the Northern Territory; focus on kinship and social structure.

Watson, Lillian. "Sister, Black Is the Colour of My Skin." In Different Lives: Reflections on the Women's Movement and Visions of Its Future, edited by Jocelynne A. Scutt, pp. 4552. Ringwood, Australia, 1987. Autobiographical account of life in Queensland; born in 1940; experienced searing racism; ambivalence toward and recognition of the importance of strong women's movements.

White, Isobel M. "Aboriginal Women's Status: A Paradox Resolved." In Woman's Role in Aboriginal Society, edited by Fay Gale, pp. 129. Canberra, 1970. A literature review; includes consideration of women's rights, the extent to which they are enforced, and consequences of breaching the rules of the society.

Wilson, Ronald. Bringing Them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Their Families. Sydney, 1997. Report of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission on the "stolen generations."

Diane Bell (2005)

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Gender and Religion: Gender and Australian Indigenous Religions