Thinking Allowed

10 Things We Can Do Right Now To Be A Better Indigenous Ally

On Thursday July 18, more than half a million people stopped to watch the film The Final Quarter (available to watch on 10 play,) which documents the final three years of Adam Goodes’ playing career. Hosted on Channel 10 by Waleed Aly, he invited the viewer to reflect where, as a nation we go from here; “the question now really is whether it can become a productive national conversation. And the answer to that question rests with each of us.”

In the wake of the film’s release I read the voice of many prominent Indigenous and non-Indigenous writers to try and deepen my understanding of the “conversation” that needs to happen. This reading strengthened my already held position that it is not up to Indigenous people alone to continue to carry the weight of our nation’s last 250 years – it is vital that non-Indigenous people listen and act on what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been saying for so many years in so many ways. In her article How to be a Good Indigenous Ally Summer May Finlay, a Yorta Yorta woman, academic and writer, urges all non-Indigenous people to be a useful ally to Aboriginal people: “We need good allies. We are only three per cent of the Australian population. We can’t raise the profile of issues affecting us without our allies.”

But what does a good ally look like? What can we do in our roles as teachers, friends, daughters, parents, mentors and community members to be a better ally to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?

Inspired by Summer May Finlay’s article as well as a recent article by Shannan Dodson 8 Things you Can Do Right Now to be a Better Indigenous Ally, I’ve created a list for the SCEGGS Community, outlining some actions we can take to stand with and be an ally to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

1. Read the Uluru Statement from the Heart
Read the statement aloud at a meeting, or show this short video by Blackfella Films to better understand its history and meaning. Talk about it to your friends, parents, children and students.

2. Say something when you hear inappropriate speech about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
Summer May Finlay says;
“If you hear someone say something racist, reinforcing stereotypes or being dismissive about Aboriginal people and culture — say something. Not saying something means condoning their attitudes, making you as bad as them.”

3. Request a cultural tour in our local area as part of your professional learning
Then make the effort to remember at least one interesting fact to share with your friends, family and students. As an example, on a recent tour of Centennial Park, I was taken to a special site and told that the fresh groundwater made it a safe and clean place for Gadigal women to give birth. I later shared this fact in an Acknowledgment of Country.

4. Regularly Acknowledge Country
Traditionally, Acknowledgement of Country protocols have been used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as part of a process of ensuring safe passage while on Country. It is an honour for non-Indigenous people to continue this ritual and is a clear and obvious way to show respect and reconciliation.

5. Listen to Indigenous voices
Watch, read and learn from the Koori Mail, IndigenousX and NITV to better understand and represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives.

6. Support Indigenous business and local Indigenous creators
Economic participation is a significant indicator of self-determination and engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-owned businesses is a simple way to be a better ally. From graphic designers to small and large catering businesses, Supply Nation is Australia’s database of verified Indigenous businesses.

7. Attend Indigenous events in our community
Search out at least two Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander events in our community and invite your friends and family to them. Some ideas are Bangarra, Blak Markets, Aboriginal Arts Market at Carriage Works, Stan Grant and Adam Goodes in conversation at the Art Gallery of NSW.

8. Volunteer or donate to local Indigenous organisations or causes
Mudgin-Gal (which means “Women’s Place) is an organisation I connect with and support. Located in Redfern, it offers support for women, girls and their young families through drop in, in-home family support, legal, medical and accommodation referral and educational and vocational support programs. Other organisations include The Tribal Warrior Association, Redfern Foundation and WEAVE Community Centre.

9. Share the voice/perspective of Indigenous people with solidarity and respect rather than with a saviour mentality
This point speaks for itself.

10. When teaching about Aboriginal perspectives, wherever possible teach with an Aboriginal person
In Kindergarten I feel honoured to teach about the Stolen Generations with Renee Cawthorne, a Wiradjuri woman and educator. We write the lesson together, teach it together and reflect on it together.

There are many more actions we can take as individuals to be more effective Indigenous allies, but these few points are a start. If you can add to this list, don’t hesitate to let me know. Let’s work together.

The SCEGGS Reconciliation Action Plan is committed to listening to and teaching Indigenous perspectives, celebrating Indigenous culture and developing relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. I look forward to sharing its vision with the SCEGGS Community in future articles.

Sarah Kearney teaches Kindergarten at SCEGGS. She leads the SCEGGS Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) which aims to make Aboriginal histories, perspectives and culture more visible across the School.