Charles Darwin University (CDU) researchers will investigate ways to grow and retain women working in the Northern Territory’s commercial seafood industry, a sector where worldwide they are significantly underrepresented.
The landmark study aims to understand the various ways in which women have participated in the NT seafood industry, explore barriers for engagement and the factors that might help the industry become more gender inclusive, robust and viable.
The study is a partnership between CDU and the Australian Government through the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), the Northern Territory Seafood Council (NTSC) and Women in Seafood Australasia (WISA).
CDU Professor of Environmental Science Natasha Stacey said the research will help to understand barriers to current workforce participation and opportunities for growth in the NT.
It is estimated that some 25 per cent of the Australian seafood industry workforce are women.
“The seafood industry is an important contributor to the NT’s economy, jobs, and food security and women’s contributions to the sector have been substantial but inadequately researched,” Professor Stacey said.
“This is an important area that merits investigation so that we can learn how to grow the workforce of women in the seafood industry whether that be through specific policy or industry support interventions.”
PhD candidate Nilanjana Biswas will help to lead the project, using her nearly three decades worth of experience in gender and fisheries research and development.
Ms Biswas will look at women's engagement in the NT's seafood industry, both historically and in the present through a range of methods including oral interviews, focus group discussions, archival searches and policy analysis.
“The project will look to focus on women who have participated in and contributed to the development of key commercial fisheries and aquaculture in the NT,” Ms Biswas said.
“It will help to identify factors contributing to the attraction and retention of women to the seafood industry.
“This is a unique opportunity for us to access a network of women who are working in and with the seafood industry to learn about their experiences,” she said.
The project, which has received funding as part of the National Industry PhD Program an initiative of the Federal Government to help solve key industry problems in a range of areas, has the support of a diverse range of stakeholders in NT's commercial seafood industry.
NTSC Chief Executive Officer Katherine Winchester said the project would be crucial to support the future of the industry.
“There are amazing stories of women within the NT seafood industry that haven’t been formally captured or documented. This research will help to understand the industry’s past and highlight a way forward for the future,” Ms Winchester said.
WISA Executive Officer Kirsten Abernethy said the research would be highly beneficial.
“WISA are really excited about this PhD research to deeply understand the participation and roles, as well as opportunities and challenges of women in the NT seafood industry,” Dr Abernethy said.
“The collaboration between industry and research is a real strength of the approach and will mean the outcomes can result in tangible benefits for women and the sector as a whole.”
FRDC Managing Director Patrick Hone believes this study will be relevant not just for the Northern Territory but, it will also build Australia’s knowledge base on the incentives and barriers for all women working in commercial seafood sectors.
“Anything that helps us understand how we can build capacity and opportunities for women to work in seafood sectors in all States and Territories, gives me confidence that our sectors will be sustainable over the long-term,” Mr Hone said.
“Diversity and inclusion in fishing and aquacultures’ human resources is an integral element for stimulating innovation and responding to future challenges.”
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