It has been a tough few weeks for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here in Australia. No, it has been a tough few years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Actually, for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, their lives have been tough with intergenerational trauma and experiences of institutional, interpersonal and political discrimination.
Deaths in custody, destruction of sacred sites, increased rates of incarceration, youth imprisonment, denial of historical facts including massacres, forced removal and many other injustices continue to play out with too few resolutions.
The last few weeks has seen people attending Black Lives Matter protests, being called selfish for protesting when the same analysis or comparison is not applied to people attending sporting games, shopping centres or other gatherings.
Now is a great time for those who are not directly impacted by racism against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to step forward, show support and be an ally. I'm talking about the 97 per cent of us who are not Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
What we do as allies moving forward will determine whether we move towards a country that is equitable, and acknowledges and respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, truth-telling, sovereignty and people. So, what does that involve and how do you do it effectively and practically.
Don't expect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to educate you on why this issue is important or on the history of colonisation. It can be exhausting for those affected to always be expected to educate others in why the issue is important, how it impacts and affects them (and us). Change begins with ourselves and understanding the real history of this country that extends far beyond 1788 - at least 60,000 years. Bruce Pascoe's award-winning 'Dark Emu' re-examines colonial accounts of Aboriginal people in Australia, and cites evidence of pre-colonial agriculture, engineering and building construction by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, compiled and edited by Anita Heiss, is also an excellent read for understanding the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today.
When other people say or do something that is racist or discriminatory, call it out. If you've ever had that uncomfortable, uneasy feeling you get when someone says something ill-informed or blatantly racist, act on it. Tell them. If we want to close the gap, it starts here with challenging racism. Racism has and continues to be a pandemic in this country. IndigenousX has published some great anti-racism speeches and articles which are well worth reading.
It is important that your actions and decisions reflect your words of solidarity and allyship. Volunteer your time. Local community organisations are often in need of people to help out.
If you don't have any spare time and would prefer to donate, read Welcome to Country's donation guide first and align your donation to the values or issues you are passionate about.
You can also directly support these organisations and Aboriginal creators by purchasing one of their products, this way you get the message out, end up with a great product and support the local Aboriginal community.
KNOW WHEN TO STEP BACK
We need to know when spaces are just for the people who are directly impacted by the experience of discrimination or the issue at hand and know when to step back. Aboriginal-led organisations such as the Koorie Youth Council are paving the way for Aboriginal self-determination, through yarning circles and gathering events of young mob such as Koorie Youth Summit. You can still show support and defend others' rights to participate in such a space, just realise it is not your space. You can observe at a distance, listen and show respect.
Aboriginal people have the solutions and know what works for Aboriginal communities. That's why Aboriginal mentoring programs, such as Rumbalara in Shepparton, Windamara in Heywood and Strong Brother Strong Sister in Geelong, have been crucial in supporting young mob to self-determine their future.
Whatever your intentions, it is important to consider what you are sharing online, especially videos of Aboriginal people being abused, hurt, arrested or discriminated against. This can be traumatic for many people and should be avoided. Just think whether you would share or say this if it was about a family member or person you loved.
Our actions and activities, online and offline, have a real impact for others. If we genuinely believe that Black Lives Matter, then we must educate ourselves, use our privilege to address systemic racism, support Aboriginal communities, and get behind and amplify the voices and perspectives of Aboriginal people.
Being an ally is a journey and this often involves confronting some uncomfortable truths about ourselves and about our friends and community. But it is a shared journey we need to embark on as we are 97 per cent of the population and have a collective responsibility to ensure that this is a country for all of us.