The ongoing protests against police brutality towards people of colour in the US have dominated the headlines for the last month. But if you’re finding yourself outraged by the situation in the US, you should probably be equally outraged by the racism and deaths in custody that are occurring right here in our own backyards.
To put it simply, racism is still alive and well in Australia, and if young people like us don’t take the time to educate ourselves on it, it’s not going to get better any time soon. It’s rooted in our country’s history. But if, like me, you weren’t taught a single day of Indigenous history in high school, it can be really bloody daunting to try to educate yourself as an adult.
So rather than (virtually) yelling at you for not being educated enough, we chatted to NITV to get their recommendations on the best resources you can access right now if you’re keen to learn more about Indigenous history in Australia.
1. What Is Australia’s Indigenous History?
It recently occurred to me that despite studying history right through high school, I didn’t have a single lesson that focused on our own history. I know more about the first Russian Revolution than I do about the atrocities committed against First Nations people in this country, which is pretty hard to admit. So, with that being said, let’s kick this off with a brief history lesson.
The NSW Department of Education has developed an Indigenous Australian timeline that briefly outlines everything from the moment Captain James Cook first stepped foot on Australian soil, right up until the Federal Government issued a parliamentary statement on racial tolerance in 1996.
You can also access this timeline from reconcilliation.org.
Getting a brief overview of Indigenous Australian history is probably the best place to start.
2. What Aboriginal Land Am I On Today And Why Does It Matter?
Prior to British settlement, there were more than 500 different groups or “nations” within Australia. Each of these groups had their own distinctive cultural and spiritual beliefs, languages and practices.
For Indigenous Australians, land is much more than just the physical space it represents. The land represents a diverse range of languages, cultures, beliefs and identities that deserved to be recognised individually.
It’s important to know and acknowledge the traditional owners of the land you’re on today. You can find out the traditional name and culture behind the land you’re on right now using this map from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.
3. Where Can I Learn About Indigenous Issues?
Indigenous Deaths In Custody: As the name suggests, the Indigenous Australian Deaths In Custody Database from The Guardian tracks every known Indigenous death in custody between 2008-2019. Not only does it give you some pretty gut-wrenching figures, but it also tells the story of each and every Indigenous Australian who has died in custody. Know their names, learn their story.
Racism And Mental Health: It is important to understand how racism actually impacts the mental health of Indigenous Australians. This report dissects the impact that racism and racial discrimination had on a Victorian community. This specific study found 97 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people surveyed experienced racism multiple times.
You can download the full 44-page report for free here if you’re interested in learning more about the impacts of racial discrimination on mental health.
4. What If I Want To Go Deeper On Indigenous History?
It’s important to look into Australia’s racist history, because it defines the issues we are still fighting today.
Massacres: We rarely acknowledge how many massacres of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people actually occurred after Australia’s colonisation. The last massacre recorded was the Coniston Massacre, which took place as recently as 1928.
The Stolen Generation: The Stolen Generation is one part of Indigenous history that you’ve probably heard of before, but you can learn more about it and its aftermath on Common Ground.
The 1967 Referendum: There’s a lot of misconceptions when it comes to what the 1967 referendum actually achieved. According to Common Ground, the referendum was “the culmination of a long struggle for rights and respect, for social esteem as well as equality before the law.”
This explainer from Common Ground details what the referendum was, how the campaign was run and how the outcome impacted Indigenous Australians.
The Mabo Decision: Eddie Koiki Mabo played a pivotal role in the Indigenous fight for land rights. This article from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies details the case, the decision and its significance for Indigenous land rights.
Australia Day: While some of us spend January 26 sinking beers and celebrating the best parts of being Australian, for many Indigenous people, this date represents far more terrible things. We covered the topic of changing the date, and both sides of the argument here.
Reconciliation Week: It is currently Reconciliation Week, which runs from May 27 to June 3, being bookended by the dates of the 1967 referendum and the Mabo decision. It’s a really important week and it’s worth learning why it’s so significant. This NITV explainer does a great job of explaining everything you need to know.
5. Where Can I Keep Up To Date With Current News And Issues Impacting Indigenous Australians?
It’s great to have a thorough understanding of the history of our First Nations people, but it’s also important to keep up to date with what is happening right now.
If you weren’t already aware, the National Indigenous Television channel (NITV) is an amazing resource for news and current affairs made by, for and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
It’s available on free-to-air television, and they’ve got a website filled with news and features on the stuff that actually matters. You’re hearing the stories of Indigenous people from Indigenous people, so you know you’re getting the real facts of what is happening.
The website is loaded with important information, but they specifically recommended the following programs if you’re keen to get educated on Indigenous issues:
The Point: The Point is NITV’s weekly current affairs program. Each week, it focusses on a different issue that is impacting Indigenous Australians. This week’s episode actually focuses on how the situation in the US resonates with what the Indigenous community here in Australia deals with.
The Point airs on Wednesdays at 8:30pm AEST on NITV (Ch 34)
Take It Blak: Take It Blak is NITV’s own podcast, which covers a wide variety of different issues impacting the community. Recent episodes have explored COVID-19, music, International Women’s Day, sports and politics.
You can find the podcast on the NITV website.
Living Black: Living Black, hosted by Karla Grant, deep dives into the atrocities that have occurred in Australia. She has in-depth conversations with famous Indigenous people and community leaders to really investigate the real stories behind these atrocities.
Living Black airs on Mondays at 8:30pm AEST on NITV (Ch 34)
You can also check out the following resources if you’re keen to learn more:
The Koori Mail: A 100% Aboriginal-owned, self-funded fortnightly national Indigenous newspaper.
ABC Indigenous: The ABC’s platform for Indigenous news and current affairs.
National Indigenous Times: An Indigenous newspaper covering news, current affairs, sport, culture, lifestyle and opinion.