Ultimate list of things to do to support Aboriginal culture

Want to support Aboriginal culture? Check out how you can best learn & support, spread the word, advocate, join and help bring change. Avoid mistakes by knowing what not to do.

If you’re interested in other cultures you might have asked yourself: What can you do to support Aboriginal culture?

Don’t underestimate the contribution you can make towards understanding Aboriginal culture. Every little bit you do might be seen and acknowledged, as the stories below show which I experienced myself.

Activities to support Aboriginal culture

Learn

  • Ask: Who is speaking? There are so many non-Aboriginal people writing about Aboriginal culture. Though mostly well-intended, they’ll always add their personal interpretation and views. Consciously select material from Aboriginal authors so you get the unfiltered Aboriginal point of view.
  • Read Aboriginal books. There are many books by Aboriginal authors covering all aspects of life.
  • Read Aboriginal newspapers. Get the Aboriginal perspective on news by reading Aboriginal newspapers such as the Koori Mail or National Indigenous Times.
  • Meet Aboriginal people. Nothing can replace meeting and talking to an Aboriginal person and hear their stories. The easiest way is by taking a tour by an Aboriginal tour operator. Respectfully start asking questions. Stay back after the tour and ask who you can contact to learn even more.

    Nothing can beat talking with Aboriginal people who have made a conscious decision to embrace their culture. And when you have their trust they share a lot more.—Greg Lundstrom, Friends of Kumarangk [3]

  • Watch Aboriginal television. The Living Black program on SBS runs from March to November, and National Indigenous Television (NITV) is broadcasting nationally on digital TV.
  • Buy and listen Aboriginal music. Australia has a rich variety of Aboriginal musicians playing many different styles from lyrical songs to hard rock or hip hop. Check out song lyrics to learn what they sing about.
  • Attend plays or performances. Some Aboriginal theatre companies are operating since the 1970s. Search the Internet for their next performance in your city or town.
  • Watch Aboriginal films. There are hundreds of Aboriginal films and movies available on DVD. Also check libraries and Aboriginal organisations for non-mainstream films.
  • Travel in Australia. When planning your itinerary find out if there are Aboriginal places of interest. Visit them and get to know this (your own?) country.
  • Research on the Internet. Find out about topics you’re interested in. Critically ask who’s writing - do authors give Aboriginal people a voice?
  • Learn about Australian history. Only about a third of Australians know about Australian Aboriginal history. Explore timelines and find out significant events.
  • Find Aboriginal nations. Learn who is the traditional owner of the land you travel on or live in, what language was or still is spoken.
  • Visit galleries and museums. Learn about Aboriginal culture from Aboriginal people’s artworks. Read what the artist intended and find out how topics changed over time.

[Germany is a land where] more people are interested in Aboriginal culture and living conditions than here in Australia.—Geoff Kitney, International Editor, Sydney Morning Herald [1]

Support

  • Buy only authentic Aboriginal goods. Check items were manufactured by Aboriginal people or in communities. Ask sales staff if it is not clear. If possible, try to find shops or galleries run by Aboriginal people.
  • Book Aboriginal-owned or operated tours. I found asking tour operators or their staff is a great way to explore and get information. They can share directly their culture and view of things. Don’t be shy and show respect when asking.
  • Promote cultural events. Go to and promote Aboriginal galleries, plays, dances and other events. Tell your friends about them, share them on Facebook or Twitter. Many people want to attend authentic performances and will be happy to receive your advice.
  • Book Aboriginal performers and speakers. When planning your business or community functions think of Aboriginal people. Get an elder to do a Welcome to Country ceremony, share stories or culture, or an Aboriginal performance group.
  • Support Aboriginal education. You can donate to Aboriginal education institutions such as the Tranby Aboriginal College or even take a course in Aboriginal studies.
  • Subscribe to Aboriginal-owned newspapers. The Koori Mail is 100% Aboriginal-owned and run. Put them into your waiting room or library.
  • Participate in Aboriginal events. Give your time and energy to events such as the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week, Australia Day and other significant Aboriginal events.
  • Donate money. Groups like Australians for National Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) or Aboriginal social justice groups often depend entirely on voluntary donations. Support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation which runs healing programs around Australia. Support them regularly—remember your next tax declaration!
  • Do volunteer community work. The best way is to support Aboriginal communities directly. Contact Indigenous Community Volunteers to find out where and when you can support.
  • Help with bureaucracy. Many Aboriginal people struggle to complete paperwork necessary to receive existing funding for activities or initiatives which would help their people. Help them bridge this gap by filling out the forms with them.

Spread

  • Share what you found. Be it what you have read, learned or seen, share it with family, friends, workmates and neighbours. Post on Facebook, Twitter. Share your photos. Write a blog entry. Write an article—newspapers and magazines are always keen on user-generated content.
  • Prepare a presentation. Present your photos and stories in clubs, schools or churches. When people know you they are very likely to pay more attention than to an unknown presenter.
  • Give feedback. Write responses to positive or negative media reports. Sometimes all it takes to make a difference is a fact-based readers letter to correct a journalist’s mistake.
  • Create resources. You can put together an information leaflet or a personal web site (such as this one). Make sure to acknowledge your sources to gain credibility and direct people who want to know more.
  • Organise a film screening. Go to tugg.com and organise a screening in your community centre.

Healing in this country requires a lot of love, courage and honesty and the belief it is possible. Where there is true care, there is very little division.—Official website of the movie Kanyini

Advocate

  • Acknowledge country. When you organise formal events, always acknowledge the traditional owners of the land you work on. Find out which tribe’s country you are standing on first.
  • Write letters. If you see any injustice or wrong don’t hesitate to write a letter to the editor or a representative of the organisation. Imagine five other people did the same.
  • Improve school curricula. Lobby to have your kids’ schools incorporate more Aboriginal history into their curriculum. Let them show Aboriginal flags or language maps.
  • Employ Aboriginal staff. If you run a business, break common stereotypes by employing or training Aboriginal people. Spread the word about their achievements.
  • Advocate Aboriginal representation. Encourage local councils to create and implement policies for Aboriginal representation, consultation or employment.
  • Create cultural awareness programs. Many of your staff or group members probably don’t know much about Aboriginal culture or protocols. Organise cultural awareness programs to quench their thirst for knowledge. Invite Aboriginal people to talk and share.
  • Speak up in support. Don’t remain passive. Speak up for the rights of Aboriginal people. Regularly do something.
  • Participate in protest marches. If you are keen show your support for Aboriginal rights by participating in protest marches. Check what the cause is first to make sure it’s in line with your values or focus.
  • Talk to librarians. Ask them to get Aboriginal writers’ books or the Koori Mail newspaper into the library collection.
  • Invite Aboriginal people. Nothing beats authentic information. Invite Aboriginal people to do presentations or talks in schools or at community events.
  • Consult with Aboriginal people. If you are doing something that affects or involves Aboriginal issues consult Aboriginal people. Ask them if you are doing it the proper way, if there are any special protocols to observe or people to talk to. Respect is a powerful thing.
  • Fly the Aboriginal flag. Lobby at school or at your workplace to have the Aboriginal flag flown next to the Australian flag at all times.

Todd Sampson wearing an Aborignial flag t-shirt Advocating the Aboriginal flag. Todd Sampson (left), panelist in the ABC’s Gruen Transfer show, wears a t-shirt with an Aboriginal flag.

Join and change

  • Join campaigns. For example, GenerationOne is an initiative aiming to help Aboriginal Australians.
  • Volunteer your time. Help Aboriginal communities as a volunteer and experience Aboriginal life first-hand.
  • Join reconciliation groups. Find and join local or state groups in your area to discuss and act on reconciliation issues.
  • Join an Aboriginal support group. There are many such groups and a quick Google search can find one in your area.
  • Give philanthropic support. Join support groups such as the Friends of Tranby Aboriginal College, Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre, Bangarra Dance Theatre or other groups and donate your (tax-deductible) money to a cause you value.
  • Inform people. Give presentations or talks. Organise information stalls at public events or festivals. Consult Aboriginal people for what you can inform about and how they could support you.
  • Dispel myths. Inform your community about current statistics and true stories about positive change. Dispel the many myths and stereotypes people hold about Aboriginal culture.
  • Point out racism. When your fellow colleagues, mates or family members make racist jokes about Aboriginal people, point out to them that these are not appropriate.
  • Organise educational courses. You can organise public events to educate people about Aboriginal culture. Invite Aboriginal people to contribute.
  • Inform family, friends and workmates. Shoot them an email to let them know about NAIDOC week, Mabo day and other significant days of the Aboriginal calendar.

For too long, we've failed to act because we've always looked elsewhere--blaming government, other communities, even the Indigenous people themselves. And we've relied too heavily on short term handouts, failing to see that they only removed incentive from people and communities in the short term, while destabilising them in the long term.—Andrew Forrest, founder of the GenerationOne initiative [2]

Activities for corporate events

Here are some tips if you want to celebrate Reconciliation Week or NAIDOC Week at your company:

  • Prepare information sheets. Many of your colleagues don’t know much about Aboriginal culture. It would be good to have information outlining the bare essentials one needs to know. The first 5 introductory emails I send to people joining my email list are a good start.
  • Serve Aboriginal food. I once participated in a guided bush walk that ended with tasters of Aboriginal food. Might be a good sensual experience for a different lunch.
  • Have a quiz. How much do they really know? Check my Aboriginal culture overview page for links to quizzes to get some ideas for questions.
  • Contact a local reconciliation group. Ask them for ideas and about experiences they had with past events they supported.
  • Check your company’s RAP. Increase awareness of the company’s Reconciliation Action Plan and its concrete goals and activities. What can employees do to contribute?
  • Show Aboriginal films. You can borrow films and show some at the office. (Utopia is a good candidate.)

Tip Prominently display this Reconciliation Week poster infographic at your workplace to help your colleagues learn what the week is about.

What not to do

Sometimes your enthusiasm to support Aboriginal people can be misguided. Watch out for the following.

  • Don’t “borrow” from Aboriginal culture. You don’t support Aboriginal culture if you “borrow” elements of it without knowing what they refer to and, worse, without consulting Aboriginal people. This includes words, objects, images and behaviours. Such action only would show your disrespect.
  • Don’t tell Aboriginal people what is “best”. I know you have read a lot and worked out a “solution” to some of their problems. Don’t be tempted to tell them. Solutions are complex and difficult to achieve, and often only work locally.
  • Don’t keep quiet. If you hear racist or derogative remarks don’t look away. Speak up and ask in a friendly manner why that person thinks that way and how much they know about Aboriginal culture. Chances are, they only perpetuate the wrong bits they “learned” and never questioned.

Adventures with a little flag

A day backpack with an Aboriginal flag on it. Since a long time I have an Aboriginal flag sewn to my backpack. I’m using my backpack a lot, for shopping as well as for travelling. These are stories which I’ve experienced just because I show the Aboriginal flag on it.

Silent acknowledgement

One day I was in a fish and chips shop and had just finished my meal when a young teenage pair entered. Something about them told me they were Aboriginal people although their skin colour was very fair. Was it that they scarcely spoke? Their shyness? Their dark eyes? I couldn’t tell. I just knew.

When I rose and strapped my backpack to my back I saw from the corner of my eyes how the young man gave his companion a dig and pointed to my backpack. I paid and left the shop.

The original Aborigine

Months later, with the same backpack, I was getting a train ticket from one of the vending machines. Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and looked into the face of an Aboriginal man.

“What does that flag stand for, brother?” he inquired.

“It shows my interest in and respect for Aboriginal culture,” I replied.

“Good on yer,” he said. “Look at me: I’m the original Aborigine!” And walked away following his mates.

An unexpected bus encounter

I’m sitting on the bus on my way home, backpack in front of me, reading the Koori Mail. As I look up a young man is smiling at me, nodding towards my backpack as our eyes cross.

It turns out that his grandfather has a quarter Aboriginal blood in his veins, a fact which wasn’t revealed until his parents did a thorough family tree research. And you wouldn’t think it either, because this young man has curly, blonde hair and eyes which look grey-green. Most of his ancestors are English or Scottish, he admits.

The discovery of his Indigenous heritage hasn’t changed much in his daily life but raised his awareness for Aboriginal culture. He’s one of the many part-Indigenous people who do not openly talk about it.

The hairdresser’s story

My backpack is sitting in the corner while I get a haircut. The hairdresser notices the Aboriginal flag and asks me if I was of Aboriginal descent.

As he learns that I am not he tells me that his wife comes from the Wakka Wakka people near Brisbane. She is keeping her culture strong, educating their sons to learn.

He says that his wife’s father is “very dark”. They don’t travel to Brisbane that often though.

Footnotes

View article sources (3)

[1] 'Kontinent am Ende der Welt', Süddeutsche Zeitung, 2/7/2002
[2] http://www.generationone.org.au, newsletter 12/4/2009
[3] 'Friends of Kumarangk discuss reconciliation', Environment South Australia newsletter Nov/Dec 1994 p.10

Cite this article

An appropriate citation for this document is:

www.CreativeSpirits.info,
Aboriginal culture - - Ultimate list of things to do to support Aboriginal culture, retrieved 23 June 2017