The Black Lives Matter movement, which was officially formed in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death in 2012, and his killer’s acquittal in 2013, re-entered the public consciousness after the brutal death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
It – rightfully – dominated news cycles and social media. Millions of people attended Black Lives Matter protests across the globe.
In Australia, we dealt with our own public reckoning – how we’ve treated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples since colonisers invaded the country in 1788, with a specific focus on Indigenous deaths in custody.
Tens of thousands of people went to local Bla(c)k Lives Matters rallies and protests all over Australia. Petitions were signed, money was donated, members of parliament were emailed. All long-overdue efforts of anti-racism – from myself included.
Well, this year we’ve seen one word being changed in our country’s national anthem. Although many people attended Survival Day rallies, people still celebrated Australia Day on Invasion Day. In fact, our Prime Minister Scott Morrison made a disparaging comment in regards to the date saying, “When those 12 ships turned up in Sydney, all those years ago, it wasn’t a particularly flash day for the people on those vessels either.”
Who’s going to tell him that there’s a huge difference between claiming an already settled land as your own and having tens of thousands of your ancestors slaughtered by colonisers?
One of our writers spoke to her friend, a First Nations woman, about the hype around the 26th and her feelings about it. Her response? “Until it gets close to January 26 and it’s topical, it’s not okay for me to be angry or to even talk about my intergenerational trauma but now, everyone wants an explanation.”
It’s not just on January 26 where we need to take action. Challenging and combating racism is a year-round effort – yesterday was just a starting point. Here are ways you can support the Bla(c)k Lives Matter movement in 2021:
Pay the rent
We live on stolen land. This grassroots initiative asks people who are living on stolen land, to commit to paying 1% of their income in rent. Paying the Rent is about restitution; it is controlled by the First Nations community without government interference.
As Gunai/Maar man Robbie Thrope wrote, “[The concept] will ensure self-determination and economic independence…it also recognises Aboriginal Sovereignty.”
Put your money where your mouth is
One of our writers put together a list of Indigenous organisations you can support monetarily throughout the year.
Sign a petition (or two)
It’s a task that rarely takes more than 60 seconds, but can make a huge difference. A petition to prevent deaths in custody caused by improper restraint is looking for signatures.
WAM Clothing, a non-indigenous brand, holds an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement to the Aboriginal flag. Clothing The Gap believes the flag “should be free for all to use and celebrate without fees or royalties”, and have a petition to change the licensing agreement around the flag.
Another petition you can support is the ‘keep grog out of our communities‘ on Change.org. It’s in response to the fact that Dan Murphy’s has been trying to open a superstore near three dry communities.
Diversify your news
Online publication, The Conversation, looked at Australia’s media and found that the media overwhelming reports from, and assumes, a white standpoint. Although many publications are making an effort to include more diverse voices, going straight to the source is a way to support First Nations peoples in 2021.
Award-winning fortnightly newspaper The Koori Mail is 100% Aboriginal owned and reports on issues that matter to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Australia’s longest-running Aboriginal newspaper, Land Rights News, tells stories from remote Aboriginal lands across the Northern Territory. Although it is only distributed within the territory, PDF copies of the paper are available online.
National Indigenous Television (NITV), part of SBS and available on channel 34, is “made by, for and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”. They also have an online news website and offer shows and radios online.
It can be hard – and intimidating – to know where to start when it comes to educating yourself on First Nations history, and current issues…especially when you consider 12 years of schooling barely skimmed the surface.
A great place to start is with Blak Business, an Instagram account run by Koori woman Olivia Williams, whose aim is: “Bringing together info, knowledge & resources to facilitate broader learning and discussion about Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander topics.”
Some topics you can educate yourself on include: Stolen Generations, Reconciliation Action Plans, cultural sensitivity warnings, and significant dates and events in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
The award-winning book, Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, is an anthology compiled by award-winning author Anita Heiss. The book features accounts from well-known authors, high-profile identifies, newly discovered writers, and showcases their experiences and stories.
Kindred, a debut poetry collection from proud Gunai Woman, Kirli Saunders, covers topics like identity, culture, community, and the role of Earth as healer.
An option for your littlies, I Love Me, is written by Sally Morgan and illustrated by Ambelin Kwaymullina, and celebrates individuality and joyous self-esteem.
Pop on a podcast
Everyone loves a podcast, so how about listening to one produced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?
WordUp “brings you the diverse languages of Black Australia — one word at a time.” The podcast is short, simple and shares new words with listeners each week, as well as giving you a fascinating background to those featured.
Unapologetically Blak, a podcast developed by two Australian Indigenous women, Ginny and AJ, offers an insight into their lives, and also discusses topics that have been placed in the “too hard basket”.
The aforementioned Clothing The Gap is an Aboriginal owned and led social enterprise. They offer tees, masks, totes, jumpers, accessories, and more, and let customers know whether an item is ally-friendly or mob only. Sizes range from XS-5XL.
As their website says, “When non-Indigenous people purchase Aboriginal designed fashion from an Aboriginal-owned business, Aboriginal people feel heard and supported.”
Haus of Dizzy was founded by proud Wiradjuri woman, Kristy Dickinson, and features bright, bold, and deadly jewellery and accessories. She designs with “inclusivity in mind with the hopes to make her customers feel strong and confident in who they are”.
These are just some ways you can support Bla(c)k Lives Matter in 2021, beyond January 26. However, as Pay the Rent says, treaty, advocacy and solidarity are also necessary. Listening, taking advice, and implementing what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples say and do is key.