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.