The ‘day jobs’ described by Storylines’ artists varied enormously and ranged across the full spectrum of ABS occupational categories from business managers and administrators through professional, trades, clerical, sales, machinists and labourers. Many occupations reflected the rural backgrounds of the survey group and many of the artists, particularly the older people in the sample, had worked at the most menial levels of mainstream society. Also remarkable was the diversity of jobs that individuals in the sample had held over their lifetimes: Geoffrey Narkle went from boxer to pastor; Verna Nichols from deckhand to mothercraft nurse; Janine McCaullay Bott had worked as a horse trainer and a member of a racing yacht crew and Vic Chapman, who started out as a shearer’s rouseabout, became a primary school principal. It seemed to us that many in the sample had not set out to be artists, but came to it later in life after training and working in a technical trade or profession – or a lifetime of menial jobs or even unemployment. Although this included some of the highest profile artists in the sample (Richard Bell for example was a public servant before taking up art as a career), among the younger members of the survey group these tendencies were much less evident.
A striking number of people cited occupations in other areas of the arts. Didjeridu players, actors, storytellers, filmmakers and dancers we had expected, but the sample also included choreographers, singer/songwriters, writers, musicians, designers and performing artists. Artists who have worked across various areas of the Arts include Gail Mabo, Esther Kirby, Herb Patten and Graham Davis King. Men appeared much more likely than women to be involved as practitioners in other areas of the arts.
The most common occupation for employed Indigenous people in the 2006 Census was labouring(24%). In sharp contrast to this, by far the largest ABS category for both men and women in the Storylines’ sample was Community and Personal Service Workers. Large numbers of people had graduated from clerical, administrative, trades and labouring jobs to find employment in the Indigenous arts industry. Storylines artists had found full-time employment in Indigenous education at all levels from early childhood to youth workers or Indigenous health or housing or cultural tourism. Some of these individuals had no other vocational qualifications than their Aboriginality and their experience as artists. Others worked as full time teachers in schools, TAFEs and universities in the area of Indigenous arts, or were professional curators, working for major galleries and museums.
To document these tendencies without obliterating the fascinating range of earlier occupations and also to highlight the significant differences between men and women, we present two figures indicating occupational status by gender: one showing all the occupations which Storylines artists have worked in and another showing the highest status occupation in which they have worked. Figures 3.1 and 3.2 show these frequencies for men and Figures 3.3 and 3.4 for women.