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It's not just January 26: First Nations women share how to be an ally 365 days of the year.

In 2020, Mamamia will only refer to January 26 on our homepage by its date, to acknowledge that it is not a day of celebration for all Australians. If you want to be an ally this January 26, we urge you to sign this letter to your MP about the Uluru Statement from the Heart – which calls for constitutional change and structural reform that recognises the sacred, ancient spiritual link Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have to their land.

However, being an ally for First Nations peoples on January 26 alone is not enough.

So, we asked three Indigenous women how you can be an ally 365 days of the year. Here is what they had to say. 

Karla Grant: Australian TV presenter and journalist

I recently interviewed acclaimed Playwright and Sydney Festival Artistic Director Wesley Enoch. We were discussing the non-Indigenous audience reaction to the highly successful play “The 7 Stages of Grieving” which he directed and co-wrote with actor Deborah Mailman 25 years ago. He was talking about the concept of “white guilt” and the need to move on.

To quote Wesley’s words:

“Don’t get me wrong. I love white people. Some of my best friends are white people. They’re fine, there’s not a problem with them” he said.

“But can they get off their guilt trip? They have to get off their guilt trip and get onto actually making a difference.

“Guilt’s not very useful I think. If you sit there and wallow in your guilt, you’re not going to get to the next step.”

Wesley was making the point that Indigenous Australians felt a strong connection with the play. It took them on a historical journey, through the grieving process, then lifting them back up allowing them to move on. However, he said for many non-Indigenous people it left them feeling guilty.

While this guilt may be real, it’s all well and good, but that time is done now and we’ve got to move on.

I agree with Wesley’s sentiments and I believe the time has come where non-Indigenous Australians need to take the next steps – starting with learning more about the true history of our nation.

Understand why days like January 26 are difficult for us as First Nations people. Come to us to gain an Indigenous perspective and knowledge on a range of issues such as land care and climate change. Learn more about the issues that Indigenous Australians face on a daily basis such as homelessness, poor health outcomes, high rates of incarceration and suicide by watching NITV – our national Indigenous television channel.

In order to have a shared future together, we need to have a shared understanding. Indigenous Australians have 65,000 years of knowledge to offer. So, learn about who we are and where we are coming from and why change is needed in this country. We can’t change history but we can change the way we move forward together.  If we can do that, then perhaps we can walk together as a unified nation.

WATCH: Why January 26th is one of the most complex dates in Australia. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia
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Tanya Denning Orman: Channel Manager at NITV

Start at home. If you don’t know who the traditional custodians of the land you live on are and how to do an acknowledgment of country, find out, but don’t stop there.

Learn the traditional names of the places or landscapes around your home, and talk about it with your friends. Get out into the community and attend some deadly black events.

Joining Indigenous social media groups will help keep you across the hundreds of gatherings we have across the nation, from art fairs, cultural festivals to the local NAIDOC or Reconciliation Week events. Keep going to our gatherings and spend up!

Our growing business sector needs your support, from coffee cups to trucking companies, go to the Supply Nation website and check out their business directory and see how you can spend wiser in everyday ways, both at home and for your workplace. Never give up and keep learning.

Switch on Australia’s dedicated channel to Indigenous storytelling, NITV, or read the works of awarded authors like Anita Heiss or Stan Grant. You will learn the issues we face are as critical as deaths in custody, basic human rights and access to essential services.

Listen to our voices. Being recognised for our contribution to the economy and cultural knowledge stemming more than 65,000 years will help heal the spirit of this country. Show up and stand with. We are meeting in solidarity action marches throughout the year, walk with us and show the world change is needed, not just on January 26.

Listen to Mamamia’s podcast, Tiddas 4 Tiddas. It features candid conversations with our Indigenous sisters, hosted by Kamilaroi and Dunghutti woman, Marlee Silva. Post continues below.

Rhanna Collins: Executive Editor, Indigenous News & Current Affairs at NITV

We live in a country that is home to the oldest living continuous culture in the world. At least 60,000 years of history, community, kinship and connection to this country. Our role at National Indigenous Television is to present our stories — our triumphs, our challenges, our voices. By, for and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to reclaim the narrative about our communities and to combat the often negative or stereotypical portrayal of our issues and affairs in mainstream media organisations.

So how can you be a good Indigenous ally?

  1. Be informed, watch NITV News and other programs, understand our stories, our unique challenges and perspectives 
  2. Be there for the good, the bad and the ugly – not just when it is easy like NAIDOC Week or Reconciliation Week 
  3. Be angry that we die on average 10 years earlier than non-Indigenous Australians
  4. Be angry about our incarceration rates, deaths in custody and suicide statistics
  5. Research: Learn about the history of our country and how Australian law and policy has disproportionately affected and controlled Aboriginal people over the past 250 years
  6. Call out below the line comments or behaviours which reinforce stereotypes about our communities—there is violence in silence and standing by without holding people to account
  7. Include us — have identified positions at your companies
  8. Educate yourself – Research and learn — lean into the ancientness and culture of your hometown. Find out the local mob, learn a few words in the dialect and partake in local Aboriginal culture — it is truly a gift to all Australians

Feature image: Supplied.


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