Decolonizing Solidarity | Dilemmas and Directions for Supporters of Indigenous Struggles - Clare Land

What can I do?

I support Aboriginal people. What can I do?

‘It is important to act, and actions can be small, such as telling other people what you have learned,’ says a wonderful Pakeha woman, Jen Margaret (Working as Allies). So the first thing to do is some homework. Find out as much as you can from what is already out there in books, on radio and on film. Many local libraries now have a collection of local history books, some interesting documentaries and a subscription to the Koori Mail.

The most basic way to show respect to Aboriginal people is to find out what happened here.

See if you can find someone to talk to who has been on this journey before you. Perhaps there is a group you can get involved in, or a book they will recommend to you.

To know what has happened here leads to asking what should happen here. To begin to right the wrongs of over 200 years of colonial brutality, to change course and start building a common and respectful future means that we must:

  1. Acknowledge Sovereignty:

    Aboriginal people have been on this land for ever, have never surrendered their claims to sovereignty and have never sold their country.

  2. Be Honest about our History:

    The truth must be told in regard to the facts of history. That is, that Aboriginal people have suffered greatly, but have endured and survived in spite of the conscientious efforts by the dominant culture, including our attempted genocide: massacres, taking children away, preventing births through sterilization and splitting up of families, forbidding the practice of law and culture and creating fourth world living conditions.

  3. Safeguard Aboriginal Cultural Heritage:

    Cultural Heritage can be defined in at least two ways – as physical and as social. Aboriginal people must be given the means and authority to protect these. The dominant culture still seems to be pursuing policies that equate to a sort of relentless ‘genocide by stealth’.

  4. Recognise and Respect Aboriginal Culture:

    Aboriginal cultures are the oldest surviving cultures on this planet. It will take years, perhaps even generations, for Aboriginal people to rebuild their society – providing we STOP sabotaging their every effort! Rebuilding will take time, money, mistakes, confusion, conflict, leadership and our support.

  5. Seek Aboriginal Representation in all Areas and at all Levels of Civic Society:

    Aboriginal people must be allowed to the time and means of developing and be resourced to operate their own systems of representation by which to interface with the dominant culture. These representative mechanisms could be the foundation of future relationships between the governments and other institutions of the dominant culture and Aboriginal peoples.

  6. Pay reparations:

    The past cannot be forgotten or ever entirely forgiven. What has been taken is nothing less than almost ‘everything’. Money will not compensate for the losses, but it may enable a fresh start – built from a secure economic base. Besides, in the dominant culture, money is the means of compensation and should not be denied to those whose losses, at our hands, are the greatest.

You need to act to help this come alive

Please chose the most relevant and/or do-able activity as a starting point. But remember, there is a lot more that can and should be done. Please make contact if you are having difficulties.

CATEGORY ACTIVITY LEVEL 1 ACTIVITY LEVEL 2 ACTIVITY LEVEL 3 ACTIVITY LEVEL 4 ACTIVITY LEVEL 5 ACTIVITY LEVEL 6
1
Acknowledgement
Wear a tie-pin or lapel badge, use car stickers Use building plaques Fly the Flags, verbal acknowledgment at meetings Amend your organisation’s constitution Public signage & building names Use/Change street & other names
2
Honest
Whose country are you on? Where are you from – really? Educate self and others* re own and societal inherent racism Build into school curriculum Build into teacher training courses Build into citizenship and naturalization ceremonies
3
Safeguard
Participate in a “Learning Circle” Know and speak of Aboriginal days/events Learn some local Language What can you influence/protect Ensure right of access (eg. hunt & fish) Include in Park & forest management
4
Recognition & Respect
Build into family, work, faith, friends culture Get political: inform, educate, agitate & advocate Mark/celebrate important days/events Understand cultural obligations (eg. HR policies) Ask for info & pay for expertise Land: Pay-the-rent
5
Representation
Join a ‘solidarity’ & activist group – to support Aboriginal-led struggles Change existing org & representational culture to suit Aboriginal people Seek, pay for and act on advisory input in NGO and faith groups Create the expectation of self-determination as the norm Support Aboriginal people to meet with each other and to re-establish polities Government (all levels); Corporate policy and Educational bodies
6
Reparations
Make space, provide resources and allow time Human Remains returned from Oz and OS Create and honour ILUA’s and other agreements Establish secure economic opportunities Commonwealth, State and LGA land returned Land returned with freehold title

What do you think of all this? Questions for further discussion

  • What are some of the common barriers (mental, material, other…) people might face in being active?
  • What are some things non-Indigenous people can do without asking Aboriginal people (if any)?
  • What are the things that worked for you in making you interested in and/or committed to ‘doing something’? How can we work to give others experiences like that?
  • What are your ‘spheres of influence’ – who are you connected to and how? (eg, family, sport, faith, school/uni, union, …?) Brainstorm or map out on paper. Is there a way of generating conversations and/or working together with people in your network?

Background

This matrix, originally entitled “So, what do Aboriginal people want? And what can I do?” was created by Frank Hytten when he was Coordinator of ANTaR Victoria (2003-2006). I was Community Development worker at ANTaR from 2004-2006 along with artist Megan Evans and office manager Brigid Anderson (now Trennery) and we had a couple of chats with Frank about it. Frank and the current-day ANTaR Committee of Management kindly let me use this material for this website. I have revised and reworked it a bit.

New resources

I am adding more practical ideas, and explanations to guide you in more detail. I will add to these explanations bit by bit, so please follow me on tumblr and/or visit this site regularly to see fresh content on the Resources page. Please send me your ideas and feedback, especially if you have any concerns about whether these are constructive ideas. Feel free to contact me if you are having trouble working out how to do them or encounter difficulties.