ESSENTIAL CONVOS: How Can We Support Indigenous Australians Beyond January 26?

“People need to educate themselves, understand their history, listen to and read Indigenous voices and step out of their comfort zone. They need to get a better understanding of what impact colonisation has had on the policies and laws that currently discriminate against Indigenous peoplebecause without the support of non-Indigenous people nothing will change: we need you to be agitators.”

SHANNAN DODSON.

SHANNAN DODSON.

Words: Kylie O’Connell

This year, on Saturday 26th January record numbers took to the streets all across the nation to protest against ‘Invasion Day’. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians walked together; a united stand against celebrating a day that causes much trauma and hurt for our Indigenous communities. While it’s a powerful thing to see so many people coming together, showing their support offline (and online) – one day of protest doesn’t eventuate to a whole lot of change. I for one am guilty of this, and I want to do more. We all need to do more.

There’s no easy fix here, hundreds of years of systemic discrimination brings with it much pain and complexity. This healing process is going to take time. Listening is key. We caught up with Yawuru woman and communications specialist Shannan Dodson, an individual with the ability to offer us something incredibly valuable - an Aboriginal perspective. And while one music-skewed interview may not make a huge difference, if we can all commit to continuing the conversation outside of the last few days, to listening a little more deeply, then together we will stimulate change.

Please press play below to enrich your reading experience, one of our favourite vinyl purchases from 2018:

We’ve seen some young Australian’s getting the attention they deserve in recent years. Baker Boy and his unique brand of rap is a prime example. How important is it that mainstream media gives our Indigenous Australians a platform to perform?

 To have an artist like Baker Boy, singing in Yolngu language and gaining traction on the Australian music scene is so important for the identity of this country. It showcases that our country is enriched by hundreds of Indigenous languages that most Australians would never have been exposed to or know existed. It gives a sense of pride. When I listen to Baker Boy or Briggs or the many other talented Indigenous artists it makes me feel empowered and heard - they have something to say, are sharing their culture, language and voice and that is being listened to outside of the ‘bubble’ you often find yourself in; the echo chamber. It’s so important for Australians to hear Indigenous voices and to get a unique perspective they’re not going to get elsewhere. 

 

What can non-Indigenous Australians do to help bridge the gap consistently, not just around Australia Day?

Non-Indigenous Australians, particularly my generation I feel are really getting their heads around the truth of this country, what we’re built on and the intergenerational trauma that is still plaguing our communities. They’re grappling with what this means to the nation and where we go to from here. People need to educate themselves, understand their history, listen to and read Indigenous voices and step out of their comfort zone. They need to get a better understanding of what impact colonisation has had on the policies and laws that currently discriminate against Indigenous people.

 

A lot of music festivals around the country do a ‘Welcome To Country’ to open their festival. However, at Gizzfest this year there was an Indigenous performance around 6pm which caught the attention of the entire festival. It was really powerful to see the festival watching and listening intently. What kind of impact do small changes like this have?

I think festivals incorporating Welcome’s and Indigenous acts has a really huge impact as it’s capturing an audience that may not have a relationship to Indigenous people and culture - but in an inclusive way that people can digest and be part of. The music industry has a long way to go in terms of elevating Indigenous acts, but we are progressing. Indigenous artists will always be political, even if they’re not trying to be, because our very existence is political. The stories and messages they have to share are important and to do it through music, will have cut through that an article, politician, or campaign will not. Music is power and can inspire people and reach them on a level that other methods cannot. 

 

If I was to seek advice on three things I could do this year to show my support to Indigenous Australians – what would you recommend? 

Support Indigenous orgs (not your Oxfams or Amnesty’s) but Indigenous legal aid, health organisations, artists, cultural centres etc. Write to your local member, politicians about issues that are affecting Indigenous people and help to get a swell of support around these issues. Because without the support of non-Indigenous people nothing will change: we need you to be agitators.

Whether you start by reading some books by Indigenous authors (suggestions here), or find new ways to help showcase Indigenous musicians, let’s all commit to keeping the conversation alive every day, not just on Invasion Day.

 

Deafen County