How you can be an ally for First Nations people in Australia
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Today marks the start of NAIDOC Week.
NAIDOC Week is an opportunity for all Australians to celebrate the oldest continuous living culture on earth and learn about our First Nations culture and history.
The 2023 National NAIDOC Week theme is For Our Elders, with the week acknowledging the role First Nations Elders have played in communities and families across generations.
“They are cultural knowledge holders, trailblazers, nurturers, advocates, teachers, survivors, leaders, hard workers and our loved ones,” NAIDOC said in a statement when announcing the theme.
“Our loved ones who pick us up in our low moments and celebrate us in our high ones. Who cook us a feed to comfort us and pull us into line, when we need them too.”
For non-First Nations people, our role in NAIDOC Week, as always, is to be an ally.
Here are seven ways you can be an ally to First Nations people in Australia:
Learn about the community.
The first step you can take in being an ally is to find out who the traditional owners and Elders are of the land you are on. Learn about their history and listen to their stories.
Raise up First Nations voices.
It’s time to hand over the mic. When the opportunity arises, platform First Nations voices first.
We need more First Nations voices on our TV screens, in our newspapers and on the radio.
It’s also important to know when it’s time to step aside and let a First Nations person speak.
Speak up if you hear someone saying something inappropriate.
If you hear someone saying something racist about First Nations people, or reinforcing stereotypes, speak up and let them know that’s not okay.
Confrontation is uncomfortable, but speaking up is one of the most valuable ways to be an ally.
Support First Nations businesses.
An easy way to be an ally in NAIDOC Week is to support First Nations businesses. Buy art created by First Nations artists. Listen to music made by First Nations musicians. Buy a t-shirt from Clothing the Gaps or a carton of non-alcoholic beer from Sobah.
Always seek consent.
It’s great to get involved in community events, but always seek consent first, especially around cultural or spiritual events.
Most event organisers will let you know if allies are welcome and encouraged to attend.
Be mindful of the community’s time and energy.
First Nations people are often asked to be advocates and to speak up on a range of topics that affect them and their community.
They often don’t have the choice to switch off and can be spread thin. Be mindful of this when approaching First Nations people or organisations for their input.
Learn from your mistakes.
Everybody makes mistakes, and we all slip up and say or do the wrong thing. Instead of giving up, use your mistakes as a learning opportunity to be a better ally.
If you would like to learn for info about this year's NAIDOC week, simply head here.