WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following article contains the names of people who have passed away.
The death of African American man George Floyd, while being arrested by Minneapolis police, has sent shockwaves around the world. The horrific footage of his killing has resulted in protests across the US and have caused many of us to take a hard look at our own backyard, and the injustices that are endured by Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) in Australia every single day.
Because, whether you realise it or not, Australia is not immune to shocking, systematic racism. Deaths in police custody aren’t a foreign experience, with 432 cases of Indigenous deaths since 1991 happening right here in Australia. Some statistics even paint a worse picture: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are locked up at four times the rate of African Americans in the States. David Dungay shared a terrifyingly similar fate to George Floyd in 2015 at Long Bay Jail in Sydney, though only about 50 people attended a protest held in his honour. Yesterday, a Sydney police officer aggressively tripped a First Nations teenager and pinned him to the ground. The NSW Police Commissioner has since said that policeman was just “having a bad day”.
It’s become glaringly obvious (and for the sake of the lives already lost, we wish it had been sooner), that it’s no longer enough to be “not racist”, it’s time to step up and be vocal. Yes, it might be a little uncomfortable for you to unpack your privilege and speak up, but you know what’s worse? Losing your life because of the colour of your skin; missing out on a job opportunity or higher education because of your race.
Here at Urban List, we don’t claim to be experts, we just want to use our voice as a media outlet to show our support and because we’re being completely transparent here—we too have a lot to learn.
So, lets educate ourselves together not because it’s trending on your socials, but because Indigenous lives are depending on it.
Acknowledge The Facts
We’re going to cut to the chase and spit some home truths because we think the first step in learning, is acknowledging the facts. According to the Australian government, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 12.5 times more likely to be in prison than non-Indigenous people, while Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were 21.2 times more likely to be in prison than non-Indigenous women. In Australia, Aboriginal deaths in custody have increased in the last 12 months—and according to Common Ground, there has never been a conviction. If you’re feeling a bit sick in your stomach right now, that’s ok, that’s normal—hopefully hearing these facts will fuel your desire to change the script.
According to Reconciliation Australia, 85% of Australians believe it is important to know about the histories of our First Peoples, but only 42% believe they have a high level of knowledge of that history. The silver lining here is that you can never stop learning and self-educating. To get started, get reading. Begin with excellent books like Talking To My Country by Stan Grant, Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe, First Australian by Rachel Perkins and Marcia Langton and Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia by Anita Heiss. More of a visual person? Check out flicks like Samson and Delilah, Rabbit Proof Fence, Beneath Clouds and documentary In My Blood It Runs. You can tune into podcasts like Always Was, Always Will Be Our Stories, and Take It Blak, while this TED Talk from Brooke Blurton will give you goosebumps. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it’s a starting point.
Donate More Than Just Money
If you have the means to do so then please donate to not-for-profit groups that are working tirelessly to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait People the fair go they deserve. If you don’t have money to spare, no worries, volunteering is free and is a great way to show your support. Some excellent organisations to be aware of are, Justice For David Dungay Jnr, Common Ground, Seed Mob, Black Rainbow, Team Mills Foundation and Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Like to get active? Throw on your sneakers and sign up to the Indigenous Marathon Foundation. And while you’re at it, sign petitions like this one (they really do have an impact) and join protests. Can’t get to one? Here’s how to protest virtually.
A really easy way to show your support? Get hyper local and purchase from Indigenous businesses. There’s about a 1,000 we could shout out but some of our absolute faves include Ginny’s Girl Gang, Clothing The Gap (where 100% of profits go to support Aboriginal health and education programs), incredible artwork from Rachael Sarra, and Haus Of Dizzy. For more shopping inspo, check out Blak Business and Buy Indigenous.
Remember To First Listen, Then Pay It Forward
This one should be simple enough. Use all of the above resources and absorb all you can. Reach out to BIPOC and listen to what they have to say, be it at protest or virtually. Soak it up and spread it to your friends and family. Conversations with family members around race can be tough, no one is denying that. But the joke about your racist uncle throwing a slur here and there at Christmas is absolutely done. Share one of the above-mentioned books with them, or chuck the epic Tiddas For Tiddas podcast on when you’re next in the car with them. The point we’re trying to make here is, it’s not about ‘trying’ anymore, it’s about actively doing.
We welcome anyone who would like to start a thoughtful conversation or add to these resources to email us at [email protected]
If you live across the ditch, here's a guide to ending racial violence in New Zealand.
Image Credit: Tim Mossholder