The statement “I am an Ally” has become quite popular in recent years, but it’s not an identity–it’s an action. This means people shouldn’t proclaim themselves as allies, but should treat Allyship as a series of steps a privileged person takes against oppressive systems to support marginalised people. People can go through Allyship training to fully grasp these actions, and as groups continue to push for equality, it’s vital to understand what Allyship means.
Who Is an Ally?
An Ally is any individual who actively facilitates and promotes a culture of inclusion via positive, conscious, and intentional efforts that benefit other people.
Anyone can be an Ally because privilege is intersectional—non-Indigenous Australians can be actionable allies to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people—as long as it is done respectfully. Many voices are better than one, and the need for allies is vital in Australia, where Indigenous people only make up 3.3% of the population.
What Is Allyship?
Allyship is a long-term process of building relationships based on consistency, accountability, and trust with marginalised groups of people or individuals. To create a solid Allyship, those you’re seeking to be allied with must recognise your efforts and work. Allyship offers us a chance to grow and discover more about ourselves while building confidence in others.
To be a devoted Ally, your actions and words must align, because empty words are detrimental and work against creating a culture of equality and inclusion. Allyship not only influences one person at a time, it’s also an agent of change that fosters an environment of support and acceptance.
Types of Allyship in society include:
- Cheerleaders–These are outspoken supporters of marginalised groups who draw attention to these groups in online forums and public places. These allies make their voices heard before large audiences through conferences, meetings, and social media.
- Researchers–These allies are hungry for information regarding what it’s like to be part of a marginalised community. They want to learn about the setbacks and difficulties that some of their friends have faced.
- Amplifiers–Minority, under-represented communities are heard, respected, and acknowledged thanks to these allies. Amplifiers pinpoint others’ contributions and use their platforms to communicate marginalised communities’ needs.
- Supporters–People from non-dominant communities may confide in supporters to express their anxieties, viewpoints, and concerns. These allies offer a safe, supportive, and trusting environment where people from underrepresented communities feel heard, secure, and respected.
- Intervenors–Intervenors step in and take the right action quickly. They pinpoint problematic and offensive behaviour and use their platform to educate and defend where necessary.
How to Be an Ally to Indigenous Australians
Becoming an Indigenous Ally involves education, self-reflection, and listening. It also involves recognising that you’re coming into this space from a position of privilege and power.
Thus, it’s not enough to speak out against unfair systems or show up in solidarity—you must do what’s within your power to dismantle the unjust system and differentiate yourself from the opponents of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. You must also change your behaviours and be mindful to ensure you aren’t contributing to perpetuating the unjust system.
When working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, there isn’t one way to form an Allyship—every person and community is different. Here are two tips that can help you get started:
- Learn the cultural and historical context–Being culturAlly competent and knowing the history of Indigenous Australians is crucial. The issues Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face stem from many years of ongoing discrimination and trauma. Thus, it’s not the responsibility of the First Nations to educate you. To be a great Ally, you must be open to educating yourself about Indigenous cultures.
- Speak up when someone says something inappropriate–Whenever you hear a colleague, friend, family member, or any other person say something reinforcing negative racial stereotypes or dismissing Indigenous Australians, it’s vital to speak up. If you’re uncomfortable voicing your opinion about racial stereotypes or comments, share what you heard with fellow allies and ask for their support.
To form a true Allyship with Indigenous communities and marginalised groups, you must ensure your actions and words are in sync. Further, to be a genuine Ally, you must centre your stories around marginalised communities and not make it about yourself. You must support, listen, reflect, and make changes where necessary.
Allyship is a long-term investment of time in uplifting others, holding yourself accountable when you make mistakes, and being ready to change your approach towards Allyship. Becoming and remaining an Ally is a unique and sometimes challenging journey, but one everyone should take.