Australia was born from traumatic events. The British who “discovered” Australia stole it from the initial custodians of the land who had, until then, lived harmoniously for tens of thousands of years. Since colonialism, the same country has become a place where many Indigenous people feel unwelcome.
Now that people are discussing the injustice and racism that happened in the evolution of Australia, it can be daunting to accept that Australia was born from such ugly events. However, being a loyal and genuine Ally of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people involves pushing past uncomfortable feelings and educating yourself—cultural competence and Allyship go hand in hand. Here are several ways to become a devoted Ally to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.
As you begin down the path of asking what Allyship really is, you’ll find that education is one of the first steps. Education is a personal thing–don’t demand or expect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to do this work for you.
Start by learning who the elders and traditional custodians are of the land you live on, and be respectful to them in your daily life. Educating yourself on the land’s traditional inhabitants can also help implement a Welcome to Country, which is a crucial way to recognise the value of traditional land custodians. In addition, find out the name of the land you live and work on and put up a Sign of Respect in your house as a way of appreciating Indigenous people.
By educating yourself on the land’s cultural values, you’re acknowledging that it didn’t initiAlly belong to non-Indigenous Australians, and that the history is more profound than what you were taught. This is a fantastic way to fully understand Australia’s history.
Allow First Nations Voices to Be Heard
One of the best ways to support Aboriginal culture is to listen. It’s crucial to shed light on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s injustices and oppression by creating educational resources about Indigenous culture; however, as a non-Indigenous Australian, you haven’t experienced what Indigenous people have experienced, so you may not understand where they’re coming from.
To be a strong Ally to Indigenous Australians, support their communities and their work and allow them to speak on the issues that affect their lives. Allow them to share their stories and experiences and listen to them.
Speak Up and Interrupt Racism
You must recognise that you, as a non-Indigenous Australian, can move more freely in situations and circles where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people might face hostility. Thus, where it is safe to do so, you must speak up whenever you hear something offensive about Indigenous people.
It can be daunting and intimidating to do this, but staying silent means you are condoning negative attitudes, which can be just as bad as verbalising them yourself. This doesn’t mean you should get into a confrontation, but begin by questioning the attitudes or beliefs of those around you when something offensive or dismissive is said. You can also voice your opinions through social media, online literature, and discussions on online forums–don’t remain silent. Our R3 Approach provides a framework to have these difficult conversations, constructively.
Think About Your Privilege
If you live in the unceded territories of another community, you certainly have privilege, and as an Ally of Indigenous people, you must reflect on your privilege and become comfortable scrutinising that privilege.
White fragility refers to when a white person is defensive when asked about race or is made to think about their race. Thinking about white fragility and your privilege might be uncomfortable, but it’s vital if you truly want to be an Ally to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
A great Ally must undertake self-reflection and understand how past practices and policies have marginalised Indigenous communities. Allies must also commit to personal investigation to consider their unconscious biases and privilege.
Remember to Take Care of Yourself
Being an Ally can be daunting, and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and tired. You must learn to take care of yourself to take care of others. Here are some great self-care habits that can help you become a better Ally:
- Learn and accept that you won’t always get things right and be open to learning.
- Surround yourself with positive and like-minded people who can help you become a better person.
- Ask for help from friends and family members if you need it.
- Be mindful and try to be present in the moment.
With the Indigenous population making up only 3.3% of Australia’s entire population, the need for Allies is crucial. Learning about Indigenous culture and enhancing your appreciation and respect for one of the oldest cultures on earth is vital—above all, being a loyal and genuine Ally to First Nations communities means being ready to learn and grow.