How to Be an Ally – NAIDOC Week Learnings

During NAIDOC week, we were lucky enough to attend a Yarning Webinar hosted by Aunty Munya Andrews and Carla Rogers, Co-Directors of Evolve Communities. You may have seen their wonderful YouTube channel which addresses a wide range of questions in the format of “Ask Aunty!” and “Ask an Ally!“. They’re extremely knowledgeable and approachable, with a knack for addressing difficult topics with grace and a sense of humour!

The theme of NAIDOC Week this year is Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! NAIDOC Week encourages communities to come together and champion institutional, structural, collaborative and cooperative change while celebrating those who have driven positive change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities over generations.

It is endlessly beneficial for us to have a good understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Awareness, but the reality is that most Australian’s have so much more to learn. Aunty Munya and Carla spoke candidly about the ongoing challenges First Nations Australians face and how each of us can foster more inclusive communities.

A key takeaway from the webinar was that each of us have unconscious biases that influence what we say, do and think. We can’t necessarily change these, but we can find out what they are and be mindful, which can have a profound impact on inclusion and driving positive change.

Here’s a quick activity for you to ponder… grab a piece of paper and a pen.

  1. Who are 3-5 of the most trusted people in your life who are not family? Write each name down in a list.
  2. Of those people, who identifies as the same gender as you? Put a star next to their name/s.
  3. Next, who is roughly the same age as you (give or take a few years)? Add a star.
  4. Now, who comes from a similar background to you? Add a star.
  5. Lastly, who lives in the same city as you? Add a star.

If you are now looking at a list full of stars, congratulations! You’re human. This is a visual representation of Affinity Bias. Whether we like it or not, we are all hard-wired to trust and give preferential treatment to people like us.

This is why it is so important to regularly question our conversations, decision-making and thinking to ensure we’re not inadvertently excluding others. Thanks to Aunty Munya and Carla, we have compiled a list of simple actions you can take to be part of the solution.

Truth Telling

Acknowledge that racism exists and mistakes happen. If we can’t acknowledge this, we invalidate peoples lived experience with racism. Racism is complicated. We all have biases and may unintentionally say or do racist things.

It’s important to have an open heart and a willingness to challenge the idea that “only bad people are racist”. We can do this by discussing race and racism and its impacts regularly.

Understand your privilege

Understanding your privileges helps breaks down unconscious bias. You can start the process of self-discovery by completing the Online Privilege Walk.

Address racism in conversation

In the words of David Morrison, “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept”. Aunty Munya and Carla provided the following framework for addressing racism in conversation:

  • Reflect – what’s the issue?
  • Relate – how might I feel in the other persons shoes? (i.e. the person who has done or said something racist)
  • Reconcile – How can we move forward together?
Learn about your community & further your education

Do you know who the Traditional Owners are of the land where you work and live? Identifying Traditional Owners is not as simple as looking at the borders between suburbs or even states and territories as we know them.

Have a look at this map and additional resources on the website for a snapshot of the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups, each with their own culture, language, beliefs and practices:

You can explore privilege and the impacts of racism further by checking out the resources below.

Thank you so much to Aunty Munya and Carla of Evolve Communities for providing such valuable insights and resources in a warm and friendly way. The webinar ended with a beautiful video of children from Doomadgee State School which I have included because as our community already know, sometimes kids say it best… enjoy.

Hands Across Australia – Doomadgee State School