Tristan Kennedy

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

In 2018, BlogX, Education, Media, Twitter Hosts by Jack Latimore

Tristan Kennedy

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Tristan Kennedy is a PhD candidate at Flinders University in South Australia. Tristan’s current project involves looking at increasing connections and community building through social media. He is a Noongar man, sociologist, and educator.

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.

Recent studies have shown that the participation in social media among Indigenous communities is increasing. Per capita, Indigenous peoples’ participation on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is starting to outweigh that of non-Indigenous peoples. A number of Indigenous owned and managed social media groups and accounts are emerging in online spaces. @IndigenousX is one of the more prominent.

If you log on to any Indigenous run social media sites you will see the diversity of stories and issues that are important to communities across the land.

You will hear about the many achievements of our mob. One that sticks in my mind is the amazing journey undertaken by Clinton Pryor as he walked thousands of kilometres to take a message to Canberra.

You will hear of activism – most recently the nationwide protests urging Australia to reconsider, not only the date but the meaning of the 26 January public holiday. And all too often you will see hurt and harm. Indigenous communities across the continent are facing death and destruction on a daily basis.

These are issues that are important to our mob. And through social media we get to hear these stories firsthand; we can interact with and get involved with community action. Importantly, these stories are not filtered through mainstream media.

As a teacher and a lecturer of education I am often faced with students telling me they want to connect with Indigenous communities to build stronger connections in their own classrooms but they don’t know how or where to begin.

I increasingly see the value of connecting with these social media sites as tools for teaching and learning and connecting with community. I have been heartened by the almost unanimously positive response to these connections in my classrooms.

I have seen students use a range of social media sites and spaces to engage with local Indigenous communities to enrich their work. The result has been the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives, cultures, and knowledge of country in classroom activities. This fosters lively and respectful debate about what it really means to live and teach on these lands and waters.

Sure, education is a big part of addressing the issues of social injustice that exist in this country. But if we rely solely on the hard work of some amazing teachers, we aren’t going to see positive change anytime soon. Social media allows almost anybody to log on and learn, connect, and contribute.

Social media presents an invaluable resource for all Australians to connect with local Indigenous communities. It’s a platform to read the inspirational stories of courage and achievement, learn about Indigenous lands and waters and our connection to country, and get the current affairs that are important to our mob. These spaces will enable meaningful engagement with and recognition of the perspectives of Indigenous peoples.

Recent IndigenousX host Natalie Cromb suggested that for Australia to move on, First Nations people need to be listened to. I agree with Natalie and add that a great place to begin listening is by visiting Indigenous run websites, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and really tune in to Indigenous Australians talk about what really matters to our communities.

I encourage you to find one more Indigenous-run social media site on your preferred platform and start following. I promise it will be an immensely rewarding experience to learn the real stories of the land on which we live.

Logging on to social media may seem to be a small step, but this is how Indigenous Australia is increasingly being heard. Loud, and very proud.

This article was first published by Guardian Australia on 5 February as part of their ongoing collaborative partnership with IndigenousX

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