The need for Indigenous Australians to be their own narrators is more important than ever

2 Mar 2022

Social media has allowed community to tell their stories their way, but non-mob must recognise cultural growth and adaption as well as tradition

A black and white photo of people protesting at the 2020 Black Lives Matter Protest

Inclusion and visibility have become major buzzwords in a post-Black Lives Matter world. While these issues always existed, it took developments on a global scale to make everyone stop and reflect.

The reaction across the world was loud and all over social media. Local mob couldn’t believe that Australians were suddenly becoming vocal for something that had been in their back yards the entire time.

The quest to be seen, heard, and respected always feels so much harder when you’re the one fighting for these opportunities.

To see someone who looks like you or has lived a similar life or culture like you feels like such a luxury when you don’t get to see it often, or the representations seem to be stuck in certain constructs. We know mob are amazing in respective sporting endeavours, but where are we when it comes to our TV shows that are set in a post 1970s world?

The ongoing quest for inclusion and visibility as a modern First Nations person is one that feels ever ongoing. For every win we seem to gain, such as having a prime time queer Aboriginal Bachelorette – Noongar-Yamatji woman Brooke Blurton – it still feels like we must work even harder.

Blame it on the “woke” culture effect, but the world finally seems to be waking up to inequality that has existed for some time. Social media has just made it easier for voices to be amplified.

The rise of First Nations mob on social media has allowed community to tell their stories their way. The last 10 years have seen community bypass the need of cultural media gatekeepers, who dictate the usual perceptions and representations depicted across media, to tell their truth.

A reliance on news outlets is no longer needed when you have mob utilising their knowledge, opportunities and skills to carry on the generations-old traditions of storytelling. All you need is your truth, your perspective and a willingness to be creative and persistent.

I’ve put myself out there and participated in advertising campaigns, only for it to be thrown in my face like when Andrew Bolt posted my photo – along with several other commonwealth government First Nations graduates, trainees, and cadets – accusing us of trading in on a race “undetectable to the human eye” for the sake of a career grab.

I’ve been in workplace kitchens and when people ask what food you ate growing up as an Aboriginal person, you see their disappointment as you fill them in on a life spent eating various Keens Curry incarnations, rather than the lemon myrtle damper and kangaroo they so wish you were enlightening them with.

Statistically, First Nations people can be found in more urban places than remote, yet we’ve had Tourism Northern Territory incorrectly sprouting that NT was “Your Answer to Aboriginal Culture” in previous, since-deleted advertising collateral. 

Being seen and heard as a First Nations person in a modern world feels like it’s often more harm than good. The narrative is still so stuck in a traditional native representation that anything that goes against it is perceived as unnatural, not Blak enough or not valid.

While Australia seems to be making strides in First Nations education and awareness, the real power lies with the emerging mob who are using their own tools for personal storytelling to their respective audiences. They are sharing their insights on their modern lives, how they are continuing their culture, and how they are using their platform to further educate mob and non-mob alike.

Culture is not a fixed state; it grows and adapts as we all do. We absolutely need our histories to be taught and displayed, but to focus exclusively on tradition without allowing and showcasing its growth and adaptation is self-defeating. How can we coexist in a world that doesn’t like our answers when their idea of the Blak narrative doesn’t suit?

How can a balance of ideas and representation truly be achieved if First Nations people get the opportunity to be in major fashion campaigns and then are seen as not dark enough? How can Blakfulla food be simply dismissed as variations of poor people food, when a majority of mob had to make do with when we were forced to live on missions and reserves and had to feed a big mob of family on basic ingredients?

The need for mob to be their own narrators seems more important than ever. It takes bravery to allow people into a life that goes against ingrained beliefs. But how do we create that balance so that we as a nation can continue to grow together and not always be the cultural load-bearers? A readjustment of centuries-old narratives can be uncomfortable, but if non-mob can’t take that leap, then what progress can be made without joint bravery?

Back to Stories
Related posts

We must listen to Indigenous voices. Social media is a good place to start

January is increasingly becoming a time for fierce debate about Indigenous identities and Australian nationhood. And each year the debate is gathering more attention. Indigenous voices, especially on social media, are getting louder.

Why are Indigenous people such avid users of social media?

Indigenous people use social media at a rate higher than non-Indigenous people, and this is the case right across the country.

I was inspired by young blackfullas making media for black audiences

My nan Sandra Onus and my mum Tracey Onus would always take me to rallies or protests. I remember when I was 19, I went with my mum and aunties and jumped in the car and we drove to Ngunnawal country (Canberra) for Invasion Day and the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

Enquire now

If you are interested in our services or have any specific questions, please send us an enquiry.