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10 ways to be a genuine ally.

A clear guide to becoming a better ally.

Feb 17, 2022

Images: Edgar Chaparro

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“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – Aboriginal Activist Group (1970s)

What does it mean to be a genuine ally?

An ally is someone who takes action to support a group that they are not part of. They develop strong ties to that group, while remembering they are there in a supportive role. They know to turn up when needed and when to step back, never taking the spotlight.

Being a genuine ally involves a lot of self-reflection, education and listening. It means knowing that we’re often coming into this space from
a position of power and privilege. Privilege that we’ve gained through unjust systems that marginalise the groups we seek to ally with. It’s not enough to just show up in solidarity and speak out against the unjust system, we have to do what is within our power to dismantle the system and differentiate ourselves from the opponents of these groups. We have to change our own behaviours and be mindful that we are not contributing to keeping that system going.

It’s also important to keep in mind that these groups do not need saviours to come in to fix everything on their behalf. They are leading the fight against the injustices they face, as allies we are there to follow their lead.

Why is it important to be an genuine ally?

Committing to be an ally is not easy, but we cannot change the way our system treats marginalised groups without people from the side of power rallying against it.
...walk a world together.

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1. Listen to and follow the community

Find out who the traditional owners and Elders are of the land you are on. When doing long-term work on Indigenous rights, build strong relationships within the community and make sure everything is Indigenous-led.

2. Centre the stories around community

A big part of your involvement is to amplify the voices of Indigenous communities, don’t make it about yourself. You should directly share these messages with your networks in their words without alteration.

3. Know the historical and cultural context

Knowing the history and being culturally competent is vital. The issues the community face come from hundreds of years of ongoing trauma and discrimination. It is not the responsibility of the community to educate you.

4. Never show up empty-handed

Showing up in support is great but offer to lend a hand as well. Use your labour, resources and skills to help out. What additional value can you bring the community?

5. Always seek consent and permission

Consent is a continuous process, not a one-time request. Seek permission before taking part in community events, particularly around cultural and spiritual events. They’ll usually be labelled something like ‘all community and allies welcome’.

6. Be responsible for yourself

Be aware of what resources you’re taking away from communities through your presence. Ensure you’ve given back to the community more than you’ve taken away.

7. Know when to step back

Be aware of what space you are taking up. Always remember that you are there as a guest in a supportive role. There will be times when the community need to act alone, respect their boundaries.

8. Saviours are not needed, solidarity is

Solidarity is only meaningful if it is substantive and not merely performative. This means showing up to support the community with your presence alone should be the baseline, not the end game.

9. Be mindful of others’ time and energy

Indigenous people often have to be advocates on a wide range of issues that affect them and their community first-hand. They don’t have the choice to switch off from being involved and can be spread thin in many directions.

10. Do no harm to the community

The community should be better off, or the same, because of your presence, not worse.

Follow all of these suggestions and keep reflecting on your behaviour and you’re on your way to doing your part in bringing down an unjust system.

10 ways to be a genuine ally to Indigenous communities has been reproduced from Amnesty International Australia.

Gippslandia - Issue No. 21

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