East Timorese women in Australia: Community, gender and identity

Andrea Mary Whittaker, Maya Costa-Pinto

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This paper examines how East Timorese women in Melbourne, Australia view gender relations within the context of their resettlement and integration process in Australia as part of a broader question about gender and the construction of ethnic identities within a diverse community. Based upon a small qualitative study with fifteen East Timorese migrant women, we examine the complexity of the ethnic identity of East Timorese women in Australia, whose community reflects the diversity of their homeland, status divisions used historically within East Timor, different migration experiences and socio-economic and generational differences. The experience of East Timorese women varies according to the circumstances and timing of their arrival in Australia. Although most fled conflict and trauma, for the most part the women interviewed do not describe themselves in terms of a traumatized self-identity and depict their community in terms of engagement, support and resilience. Gender relationships changed with migration to Australia, with women enjoying more `equality? in their relationships, in contrast to their past lives in East Timor. Yet many women also describe the maintenance of strong patriarchal values within the family, continued expectations of their responsibility to domestic affairs and the importance of maintaining a public face of appropriate behavior as `good Timorese women.? They maintain Timorese identity through raising children and transmitting the potent cultural markers of food and language skills.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501 - 524
Number of pages24
JournalAsian and Pacific Migration Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

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