A dear Indigenous friend once said to Kristen that there is absolutely no excuse in this day and age that any Australian should be ignorant to the history of our country nor the racism that exists. At that time, Kristen heard her, but it took a while to absorb, she honestly thought that while some people were ignorant to our racist past and present she didn’t fully understand that some people simply did not WANT to know. It’s uncomfortable to recognise that because of your skin colour you are part of oppressing other humans, but that is the reality for those of us non-Indigenous white skinned folk here in Australia and at the moment, that reality has hit a lot of people hard, something which is long over due.
We have been angry and outraged at the racism all non-white people experience in Australia, interpersonally and institutionally as a result of Australia’s policies and laws for many years. It feels like the world is at a tipping point in history where we each can make a conscious choice to participate in a stand against racism.
Over the last few days we’ve been contacted by so many folks who want to be allies of Indigenous Australians, want to be anti-racist and want to understand but are struggling to know where to start. Many people are very aware that it is not the responsibility of the discriminated to be the educators of the discriminators and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait voices have been there for us to listen to since colonisation. As such there is a lot of silence around, folks are worried they might ask ignorant questions, or say the wrong thing. So if you are looking for information where can you start? Firstly we wanted to say – please don’t ask us. We aren’t Indigenous and it is critical that you do your own research and hear the facts from the people who have been trying to tell us non-Indigenous folks since 1788.
However, because folks really do seem to be struggling to know where to start we have put a few point together below we thought might help but we really want to emphasise that this is a starting point and the information is coming from two non-Indigenous folks (including very large Sri Lankan man who often gets mistaken for being Aboriginal) who actively attempt to be anti-racist in all we do.
So as a starting point, do you know whose land you are on? Do you recognise that land? If you don’t know you can go here – https://achris.vic.gov.au/weave/wca.html
Here in Kyneton, most folks are on Tungarung land (https://taungurung.com.au/).
Acknowledge the country you are on during events, if appropriate ask local elders to come and do Welcome to Country ceremonies when you can and understand that we are on stolen land and sovereignty was never ceded (this means that the Aboriginal people never agreed to hand their land over to the British settlers). You can get a map of the country and it’s owners here – https://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/articles/aiatsis-map-indigenous-australia
There is LOADS of information here to read through as a starting point: https://www.commonground.org.au/learn
Talk to people. Talk to your family, neighbours and friends. Ask them have they seen what’s happening, share what you have learnt, ask them what they have learnt. If they say something inappropriate call it out. Calling things out need not be disrespectful – ask them to explain why they say what they say and it’s incredible how quickly people’s “jokes” and “humour” fall apart when you say “why would you say that?” or “that’s not my experience of what you’re saying.” This is VERY important. Your silence makes you complicit.
If you are are on social media, start following Indigenous organisations, individuals and groups with public profiles. Share what you learn, repost, amplify the voices of the folks doing the teaching. If you want to share, DO NOT REPOST NON-INDIGENOUS FOLKS’ OPINIONS, share directly from Indigenous people. For example, don’t repost this – if there is something in this post you find useful, go to the source of what we have said and repost that.
If you find something online that resonates with you, find the source of it and share that voice. Do the work.
Be aware that skin colour does not dictate identity, you can have pale skin and be Indigenous.
For the folks asking us for book suggestions, we appreciate your thinking and absolutely agree that books are an excellent starting point but if your intent is to buy books please go to Magabala books (https://www.magabala.com), an Indigenous owned and led publisher and order directly from them. At this point in time we are not aware of any Indigenous owned and led book stores (please let us know if you are aware of any) but here is list of Indigenous owned stores who also stock Magabala’s books:
Shop Homelands (https://www.shophomelands.com/)
Starwin Shopfront (https://starwin.com.au/)
Koori Curriculum (https://kooricurriculum.com/)
Kullilla Art (https://www.kullillaart.com.au/)
Provenance Arts (https://provenancearts.com.au/)
Aboriginal Bush Traders (https://aboriginalbushtraders.com/)
Otherwise if you can, borrow books from your library. Use the money you would have otherwise spent to donate to Indigenous organisations to whom you are looking to for information now that your eyes, ears and heart are open – they need it now more than ever. We saw a video from Tiffany Jewell, the bi-racial author of This Book is Anti Racist saying that capitalism is tied in with racism and she suggested that people should support black organisations in the US and borrow books from libraries instead. It’s up on her instagram feed if you would like to view it (https://www.instagram.com/p/CA6AyWynIjr/).
If there is one book Kristen would suggest to get you started on understanding personal experiences of Indigenous folks here in Australia it is this Growing up Aboriginal in Australia (this is our region’s library link). It offers a variety of experiences in short story format and helps demonstrate the complexity and diversity of Aboriginal culture.
Welcome to Country: A Travel Guide to Indigenous Australia by Marcia Langton is also excellent at giving an overview of Australia: link
For anyone that hasn’t watched the film about footy player Adam Goodes, The Final Quarter (https://thefinalquarterfilm.com.au/), it’s a great example of just one person’s story but it shows the multifaceted aspects of racism, from interpersonal, to institutional. Watch it, and reflect on the people in your life who have or had an opinion about Adam and if their opinion would have been the same if he was not Aboriginal. And think about how some people in positions of power shown in the film deliberately mis-characterised him in order to force the conversation away from Adam’s actual words, actions and ideas and to portray him the problem.
Divest in companies that support the discrimination of Indigenous people worldwide. Consider finding ethical superannuation and banking if it is possible for you.
Creating change like this is not easy, it is not fast and it is not convenient.
Do your research and share the voices of Indigenous Australians. We would love for you to comment with what you are learning, things you didn’t know, links to Indigenous pages and resources you have found valuable – only with widespread community driven knowledge, energy and desire will anything change.
Much Love, Kristen and Lucky