By Rhiannon Hardwick
Last week Australia celebrated National NAIDOC Week 2021.
NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, and has its roots in the boycotting of Australia Day and the Day of Mourning in 1938, which was one of the first major civil rights protests in the world.
Whilst NAIDOC week is a celebration of the histories, achievements and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the theme of the week changes each year to draw attention to critical issues.
This year’s theme was ‘Heal Country, heal our nation’. The message of NAIDOC week was calling for the right of Australian First Nations peoples to protect Country and culture, and for the government to redress historical injustices.
Redressing historical injustices requires more than symbolic acts, more than changing a word in Australian national anthem.
It requires a formal recognition that Indigenous Australians have been dispossessed, and then taking concrete steps to redress the grave social and economic disadvantage that has resulted from that dispossession.
The empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to participate in the Australian economy and society requires far more than lip service from the government, institutions and organisations.
Yet corporations like Woodside had the audacity to pay tribute to NAIDOC week whilst simultaneously destroying Aboriginal Cultural Heritage sites through their mining operations, including the erosion of the Murujuga rock art on the Burrup Peninsula.
Woodside’s Facebook post promoting NAIDOC week. They fail to mention the impact of the Pluto facility on Murujuga rock art, or the devastating impact of the proposed Scarborough gas project on Country.
This is the social justice equivalent of greenwashing and enables companies to maintain their social license to operate, despite the hypocrisy of these declarations.
Corporations such as BHP & Woodside should be held accountable – by shareholders, customers and the public – for backing up their public support of social and environmental issues with real action. They could start by choosing to not invest in projects such as Scarborough gas, which are severely damaging to both Country and Aboriginal cultural heritage.
How can we be genuine allies to First Nations peoples in Australia?
Allyship can be defined as ‘when a person of privilege works in solidarity and partnership with a marginalised group of people to help take down the systems that challenge that group’s basic rights, equal access, and ability to thrive in our society.’
There are many ways to be an ally, including using your voice to challenge harmful comments and advocate for social justice issues.
In the context of climate justice, it is important for us to stand in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the country, who are often on the frontlines of the climate crisis and experiencing the impacts more quickly and severely than non-Indigenous Australians.
Climate justice means building the power and voices of those who are most impacted by climate change and extractivism, and fighting for solutions to the climate crisis that don’t reinforce the broken systems of the past.
There are two ways that you can get involved as an ally through 350:
- Support the Our Islands, Our Homes Campaign
‘Our Islands, Our Home’ is a 350 Australia campaign led by Torres Strait Islanders to protect their island homes. The #TorresStrait8 is taking their case against the Australian Government to the United Nations for inaction on climate change, and you can help their cause by:
2. Reach out to First Nations climate organisations about 350.org Australia’s small grants application!
Another piece of work undertaken by 350 Australia is ‘Frontline Solidarity’, which involves amplifying and supporting First Nations led campaigns, as well as offering financial support to Indigenous climate organisations.
If you come across any First Nations organisations or campaigns that you think would benefit from the financial assistance or amplification and support offered by 350 Australia, please send them the link or get in touch with Jacynta.