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Young, female and looking to the future : exploring the aspirations of adolescent girls in regional Tasmania


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Hawkins, CL (2014) Young, female and looking to the future : exploring the aspirations of adolescent girls in regional Tasmania. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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PDF (Whole thesis)
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This research explores the aspirations of adolescent girls living in rural and remote
areas of the Cradle Coast region of Tasmania. Based on ethnographic interviews and
life history portraits, the thesis demonstrates that rural girls have multiple aspirations
for school, work, parenthood, relationships, travel and lifestyle, as well as affective
aspirations such as those for happiness, success, independence and balance. This
thesis demonstrates how these aspirations, and the capacity to fulfil them, are shaped
by the girls’ cultural worlds. The study is part of an emerging body of work that
recognises the importance of culture in understanding adolescent aspirations. It
generates new conclusions about how and why culture matters by exploring the
impact of the socio-cultural context on a broader range of adolescent aspirations than
most other existing studies. Few existing studies take a culturally contextualised
approach to exploring various aspirations in connection with one another. There are
even fewer studies that do so with an adolescent, rural, female cohort. Through taking
an ethnographic approach, this research is able to show how many cultural factors are
interwoven with other factors and how this impacts on adolescent life aspirations and
the associated educational and career decision-making. In doing so, this study
contributes new insights into how culture and ‘cultural capacities’ create educational,
social and/or rural disadvantage. For example, it highlights how aspects of culture
such as community and family traditions, expectations, norms and values shape
‘capacity’ and how this may then influence participation in higher education and
educational outcomes. These insights are particularly relevant for policy makers
concerned with how to widen participation in higher education and how to address
access barriers to education, particularly for disadvantaged groups. The findings from this study are also relevant for education providers and practitioners in terms of
engaging adolescents who are traditionally under-represented in education, including
those from rural and regional locations. The study uses detailed life history portraits
and thematic analysis of rural girls’ shared aspirations and influences to illustrate how
and why culture matters. These portraits are constructed from personal stories
collected during in-depth interviews and they include in-context cultural descriptions
and the girls’ own thoughts and feelings regarding their many aspirations. The
thematic analysis of the personal stories collected provides for additional
understanding of the impact of the socio-cultural context by identifying the girls’
shared aspirations and influences. Largely through its approach, this study generates
new conclusions about how the aspirations of rural adolescent girls are culturally
constructed and how this impacts on school and work decision-making.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Aspiration, education, rurality, culture
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2014 the Author

Additional Information:

Chapter 5 is in part the equivalent of a post-print article finally published as: Hawkins, C, 2014, The Graduate, the globetrotter and the good Samaritan : adolescent girls’ visions of themselves in early adulthood, Australian educational researcher, 41(5), 565-583. The final publication is available at Springer via

Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2014 22:36
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2017 01:06
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