Black Lives Matter & First Nations Justice
The resurgent Black Lives Matter movement has shone a spotlight on race-based discrimination and violence around the world, and here in Australia – as it rightly should. The IEU stands firm in its commitment to tackling and confronting racism, from fighting to improve wages and conditions for workers which materially leads to better economic outcomes for all, to standing in solidarity with First Nations struggles in Australia.
Across Victoria and Tasmania our union represents members who traverse over thirty-five different language, tribal and nation groups of Aboriginal people. As unionists we recognise that we live, work and play on the stolen Lands of Aboriginal peoples and we acknowledge the ongoing violence and genocide that has happened as a result of colonisation.
We wish to develop our relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members and recognise that they play a significant role in both the education sector and the union movement. We wish to act in solidarity with First Nations peoples and endeavour to play our part in reparation, beginning with formal reconciliation.
As such, we are actively working towards the completion of a Reconciliation Action Plan, which is a formally acknowledged set of goals for our organisation to achieve so that we can play our part in fighting for justice for First Nations peoples.
The fight for racial justice is integral to being a unionist and we all have a role to play in this struggle. Whether it is in the classroom, at home, online or on the streets, there are many ways to be involved. We’ve collated a number of ideas, resources and places to donate to help you with wherever you are on this journey.
The resources below will better equip you in the classroom and beyond when it comes to learning, teaching and acting in solidarity with First Nations peoples of Australia.
- The Teachers Learning Network (TLN) runs free courses for union members on inclusive practices to assist teachers in better supporting students from Indigenous and other backgrounds.
- The Healing Foundation has a great list of resources and lesson plans to assist teachers in educating students about the Stolen Generations and there are resources for students up to and including grade 9.
- In My Blood It Runs is a recent documentary film about the differences between Indigenous and Western modes of knowledge and education, told through the lense of an Aboriginal child grappling with this dichotomy. It is essential viewing for all educators and the website has a range of resources to help unpack this in the classroom.
- Purchase an AIAITSIS map for the classroom that represents the language, tribal or nation groups of the Indigenous peoples of Australia.
- Koori Web is a radical archive of articles, images, videos and audio run by radical Aboriginal activist and academic Gary Foley, who founded the Canberra Tent Embassy in 1972.
- Guardian Australia’s Deaths Inside database tracks Indigenous Australian deaths in custody from 2008 to 2020.
- Decolonising Solidarity is a book aimed at non-Indigenous people in Australia to better equip them with the understanding and knowledge necessary to act in solidarity with Aboriginal people. The recommended way of approaching this text is to form a book club and use the online resources to guide you through the book.
- Share Our Pride is an interactive website that takes you on a journey to learn and understand more about Aboriginal culture and history.
- Indigenous X is an Aboriginal owned and operated media company that amplifies the voices of Indigenous folks to challenge stereotypes and educate the public.
- Common Ground is a website filled with resources to help you build a foundational knowledge of Aboriginal culture and history.
- First Australians is a television series available on SBS that chronicles the birth of contemporary Australia through the voices of Aboriginal people.
- Frontier War Stories is a podcast dedicated to telling the true stories about the Frontier Wars by looking at 140 years of conflict and resistance.
Donating money to assist Aboriginal families, activist groups and organisations is one vital way of showing solidarity and support to their ongoing resistance.
Justice for David Dungay Jr - David Dungay Jnr was a 26 year old aboriginal man who was killed by corrective officers in long bay jail in December 2015 after he refused to stop eating a packet of biscuits. Similar to George Floyd, he also said “I can’t breathe” as he was killed.
Justice for Tanya Day – Tanya Day was a proud Yorta Yorta woman and respected member of her local community who needlessly died as a result of injuries she sustained whilst in police custody. She had been unnecessarily arrested for public drunkenness as she slept on a V-Line train to Melbourne.
Justice for Yuendumu – 19 year old Kumanjayi Walker was shot by police and killed in his home at Yuendumu in 2019. The police were there to arrest this teenager for breaching parole but instead his life was taken from him.
Sisters Inside – In Western Australia people who have no criminal convictions are imprisoned if they do not have the capacity to pay a fine. As a result, single Aboriginal mothers make up the majority of those in prison. Sisters Inside, an organisation that advocates for women in prison, has set up a fundraiser to pay these fines to help prevent these women ending up in prison.
Deadly Connections - is a specialist Aboriginal Community Led Organisation, developed to respond to direct community concerns about the over representation and mass imprisonment of First Nations people in both the child protection and justice systems.
Pay The Rent – This campaign asks non-Indigenous people in Australia to commit to contributing money each month to support Aboriginal folks and grassroots movements in recognition that we benefit from living on unceded Aboriginal Land.
North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency – support them in their delivery of legal services to Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.
Djirra – this Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation provides practical support to Aboriginal women who are currently experiencing family violence or have in the past.
Get active in your union!
Every IEU member has the potential to lead change at their workplace that can have practical outcomes in the fight for racial justice. Whilst a core focus of unions is to campaign to improve wages and conditions, there are other causes outside of the enterprise bargaining period wherein your collective power and workplace solidarity can be used to affect positive change. Here are a few examples of what this could look like and we encourage you to get in touch with your Organiser who can support you further with these ideas.
- Take solidarity photos with other staff members in support of campaigns and upload online with relevant hashtags
- Ensure that your school has a protocol for dealing with complaints of racial and other forms of discrimination
- Campaign at a school level to get more racially diverse resources in the library
- How does your school teach Aboriginal history to the students and could this be updated and improved to better reflect the truth of colonisation?
- How does your school commemorate or acknowledge important dates or events in the Aboriginal calendar?
People who have joined the union at your school should share certain values and common beliefs about justice, equality and dignity for all people regardless of race, gender, age, ability, etc. Thus, if you were interested in pursuing any of the ideas above at your school then the first step would be to connect with the other union members at your school and begin a dialogue around these issues. Starting small (for example, taking solidarity photos) is a great way to begin to build a sense of collectivism with your coworkers in a non-confrontational way that can build your collective confidence to achieve longer term goals down the track.
Attend rallies and actions in solidarity with First Nations peoples
Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR)
WAR is a collective of young Aboriginal people committed to the cause of decolonization and the philosophy of Aboriginal nationalism - resistance and revival. They are the organisers of the annual Invasion Day rallies that take place annually on January 26 as well as the current wave of BLM rallies around Australia. Follow their page for updates on upcoming events and rallies in support of First Nations peoples.