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8 Things You Can Do Right Now To Be A Better Indigenous Ally

Wirriya liyan NAIDOC-jina! (Happy feelings for NAIDOC!)

It's NAIDOC Week. So why do we need a week to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures? 

Well, not only because we are the oldest continuing cultures in the world that have more than 60,000 years to celebrate, but because with almost 75 percent of news articles being negative about our communities, a bit of focussed positivity wouldn’t go astray. 

NAIDOC Week for me is a time when I feel even more connected to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders across the country. We have a special bond that is unfortunately wrapped in our shared trauma and history-- but mostly by our pride and strength. It gives me mabu liyan (good feelings/well-being) which reflects my mob Yawuru’s sense of belonging and being, resilience and dignity.

NAIDOC Week celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. (Image: Getty)

What many people don’t know is that NAIDOC Week actually began as a boycott to Australia Day (January 26) in protest against the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians in the 1920s. In the 1950s it was decided it should be changed to a celebration of Indigenous cultures and then became a week-long celebration in the 1970s. 

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So the concerns around our national day being celebrated on January 26 are not new, and neither are the themes of this year’s NAIDOC Week. 

Voice. Treaty. Truth. Three key elements to the reforms set out in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, where hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples gathered at Uluru to speak about what changes need to happen for us to move forward. 

Makarrata is a word from the language of the Yolngu people in Arnhem Land. The Yolngu concept of Makarrata captures the idea of two parties coming together after a struggle, healing the divisions of the past. It is about acknowledging that something has been done wrong, and it seeks to make things right. 

Referendum Council member Megan Davis reads the National Indigenous Constitution Convention's statement on behalf of Aboriginal Australians calling for a treaty, a voice in parliament and a truth commission, on May 26, 2017.

It specifically sequenced a set of reforms: first, a First Nations Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution and second, a Makarrata Commission to supervise treaty processes and truth-telling. 

Pretty simple concepts.

1.  A guaranteed voice that will allow us to have a say on laws that affect us. 

2.  A treaty process to lay out agreements between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Australian governments that should have been done in 1788 (and has been done in a majority of liberal democracies around the world). 

3.  A coordinated truth-telling process to not blame and shame but have open and genuine dialogue about what has happened in this country, and how it is still impacting on all of us to this day, to help the country heal.

But what has this got to do with me, you ask?!

As we all know, when we have conflict with our friends and family, often we’ll get angry and emotional, feel awkward for a little while, then come back together and express our hurt, talk it through and come to a better place where we’ve both heard each other. 

From left to right, Mick, Shannan and Pat Dodson.

And hopefully you’d join me in being keen to leave a country to my children and grandchildren that feels more comfortable and inclusive.  

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So what can YOU do? Sometimes it all feels too hard, and I get that. Everyday I have pangs of feeling disheartened and distressed that the issues which affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities seem to be expanding rather than diminishing. But my family, elders and generations before me have continued to fight and work hard to make this country better, so you never give up. 

But here are eight simple steps to do your bit: 

1.   Read Dark Emu or give your children and grandchildren Young Dark Emu -- this completely flips on the head that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were just ‘hunter-gatherers’. 

2.  Do a cultural tour in your area to hear stories of the land you live and work from an Indigenous perspective -- Google and you will find!

3. Also do thorough research of who the local Indigenous groups are in your area so that when you do an ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ at your next event you’re genuinely connected and sharing insight into what you are acknowledging.

4.  Watch, read and learn from NITV -- a free-to-air station showcasing stories and perspectives of Indigenous people across the country. 

5.  Invite two friends to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander event and unpack the ideas afterwards -- there’s always plenty of NAIDOC Week events and again Google is your friend!

6.  Check out the winners and finalists of the Indigenous Governance Awards (recognising the success of Indigenous organisations) and donate or see how else you can support them. 

7.  Looking for a graphic designer, promotional products or catering? Support Indigenous businesses and search for your needs at Supply Nation. 

8.  And have open and robust conversations with your friends, family and colleagues about the theme and what it means (people are more likely to absorb it coming from someone they know). 

So when the dust settles after NAIDOC Week we don’t just wait until July next year, we continue to burdij walama gamba junggu! (light the fire!)

Featured Image: Getty