Being an ally on Jan 26 and beyond

NOTE: This was written in 2018 so the event links are out of date and some excellent recent commentary hasn’t been added. Though much of the information remains relevant, the debate has moved on, and continues to evolve with more discussion about what paying the rent might look like, and more understanding from white allies, so much so, that various councils who have undertaken not to celebrate Invasion Day are being chastised by the Prime Minister. Hope you are all heading to a rally on the 26th of January this year too!

First off. Listen.

That is what we are doing. And we aren’t writing this to centre our own experiences – we are writing it because we take the time to try and follow and listen to a range of Aboriginal voices, and we might have access to information that you haven’t come across. We want to take away from emotional labour of Aboriginal people by supporting other allies with a collation of useful information.

So that is the first step. Its not about us, its not about you, it’s about mob. (Photos from Narrm – Melbourne rally here)

And guess what – they have got different views. Like white people, or people descended from Sudan, or Vietnam, or people all named Becky.

Please don’t be like Friendlyjordies and attribute all Aboriginal voices to one or two people. (Or maybe don’t be like Friendly jordies at all on this one.)

What even do I call JAN 26 and what are people asking for?

Some people are calling to #ChangeTheDate and some people call it Invasion Day or Survival Day. In Melbourne (Naarm) they are calling to #AbolishAustraliaDay. Its likely this will mean different things to different people, but what does seem to be commonly shared perspective – we shouldn’t be celebrating genocide.

Which is what happened when the first fleet landed on the shores of this continent and occupied where hundreds of Aboriginal nations had already been prospering for 1000s of years. First nations people in America (referred to as Turtle Island by some) have similar issues with Thanksgiving Day.

White Australia’s collective amnesia on this goes to the core of some of our current injustices. How can we talk about fixing things if we can’t admit there is a problem in the first place?

And some mob don’t support to Change the Date for that very reason – they would rather structural injustices were addressed – youth incarceration and suicides, health issues, legal discrimination, children removed from family, deaths in custody, land grabs for minerals… and so much more.

Here is Calla Walquist in the Guardian: “[Changing the date] would just be a feelgood thing that will pacify the masses and as soon as the date is changed, no one will want to talk about what is really happening,” she says. “If politicians are caught up with white Australians’ feelings, we will just get token gestures like Sorry [the national apology to members of the stolen generation] in 2008.”

There are a range of different views out there, some of them really strongly held, but a common theme tends to be that January 26 in its current form celebrates a day that is widely associated with mourning for blackfullas. Heck, you COULD even choose to listen to Jacinta Price, but most mob we know think she is a bit of a joke, or much worse. Some want to debate her. From our end, its hard to take anyone seriously who is working with Mark Latham, and his graphic design team. We agree Australia day is SAD though.


Listen, be open to changing your mind. Be willing to hold the tension that comes from hearing different things from different mob you respect.

Go to events and rallies on Invasion day (2018 dates)

More are listed here.

Don’t centre yourself. Please read this excellent article by Celeste Liddle about HOW ALLIES CAN HELP. Also, give money to mob run causes – even if you can only afford a few dollars – check out the patreon account of IndigenousX. A few other favourites are Seed – youth climate activists, and Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance.

There has also been this meme circulated. Have a think on it. We have asked a few mob for clarification on photos. Our protocol is that we ask for permission before taking any close up portraits, and particularly photos of kids, and older elders. And we generally take photos of speakers, performers, dancers who are clearly willing to be public, and crowd shots. We will let you know if we hear otherwise.

We are working on a resource and longer piece about working as allies, but its not the time for that – the time for listening to Aboriginal voices is now. So, we have collated some more information for you to check out.

Noticing a theme? Yeah, strong black women are getting their voices out there louder and stronger than ever before. It’s a win for all of us. Lots of other good stuff out there as well. Keep on reading below:

Here is a guide to “changing minds without ruining the BBQ” and this website outlines the issues in simple language if you need an entry level explainer for a friend or family confused on the issue. Though it seems to be coordinated by both black and white folks, and possibly has religious funding, so might not be for everyone. We are happy to hear feedback about this inclusion.

Also, there are some quality gems here from Briggs if you like your social change a bit more cheeky.

A few other tips

  • Don’t expect Aboriginal people to do emotional labour for you – especially this week. Try and listen real hard to speeches and read articles to inform your understanding. Don’t ask them obvious questions. There is certainly other people who have asked them the same question.
  • As requested by rally organisers – diffuse, don’t escalate. Lots of people, particularly radical activists, like to demonstrate their ally cred by shouting at racists. You are being asked not to. Marshalls at these events have been asked to support things staying calm.
  • Don’t get too precious about a bit of paint. There are already adequate laws in place to manage this – some might say they are aleady a little over the top. But regardless of your thoughts on graffiti, a splash of pink paint or a creative redesign is hardly comparable to many Aboriginal people being killed in custody, or the grave injustices being protested.
  • “Pay the rent” Unfamiliar concept? Learn more… Its about trying to support Aboriginal voices and organisations, and paying ‘reparations’ of sorts for benefiting from living on colonised land. We make small contributions by allowing activists free spaces at our workshops, paying small amounts to Aboriginal led causes and donating time, in lieu of money if we don’t have it. Other people donate directly to traditional owner groups and Aboriginal led organisations.
  • Seek out and listen to Aboriginal voices. Make complaints to mainstream media and university discussions if they are debating these issues without Aboriginal voices. These writers above are a great place to start, and twitter is a really helpful place to follow mob voices. We are seeking out a good list for indigenous activists on twitter, but in the meantime, we supported this online campaign, and collated the beautiful images of #IndigenousDads which was a powerful response to a racist cartoon – which showed first nations people fighting racism with images of love. And also happens to give you a handy list of wonderful voices to follow.

Oh, and try and limit the white tears. Someone will probably have issue with this post. This is the internet after all. We will try and take critiques on board. We also welcome ideas for inclusion of good articles or resources – hit us up! You can find more resources for allies here.

TLDR; here is a cartoon. With thanks to First Dog.

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