Ultimate list of things to do to support Aboriginal culture
Want to support Aboriginal culture? Check out how you can best learn & support, spread the word, advocate, join and help bring change. And know what you should better avoid.
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- Percentage of Australians in the general community who would like to do something to help improve reconciliation. Figure for Aboriginal people: 73%. 
- Percentage of Australians in the general community who know what they can do to help. Figure for Aboriginal people: 44%. 
If you're interested in other cultures you might have asked yourself: What can you do to support Aboriginal culture?
Don't underestimate the contribution you can make towards understanding Aboriginal culture. Every little bit you do might be seen and acknowledged.
And show your support as many times as possible, and not just on Australia Day or during NAIDOC Week.
Activities to support Aboriginal culture
- Check who is speaking. Many non-Aboriginal people write about Aboriginal culture. Though mostly well-intended, they'll always add their personal interpretation and views. Consciously select material from Aboriginal authors so you get the unfiltered Aboriginal point of view.
- Ask a different question. Instead of asking "How can I help Aboriginal people?", ask Aboriginal people "What do you need that I can help you with?"
- Read Aboriginal books. There are many books by Aboriginal authors covering all aspects of life.
- Read Aboriginal newspapers. Get the Aboriginal perspective on news by reading Aboriginal newspapers such as the Koori Mail or National Indigenous Times.
- Meet Aboriginal people. Nothing can replace meeting and talking to an Aboriginal person and hear their stories. The easiest way is by taking a tour by an Aboriginal tour operator. Respectfully start asking questions. Stay back after the tour and ask who you can contact to learn even more.
Nothing can beat talking with Aboriginal people who have made a conscious decision to embrace their culture. And when you have their trust they share a lot more.— Greg Lundstrom, Friends of Kumarangk 
- Watch Aboriginal television. The Living Black program on SBS runs from March to November, and National Indigenous Television (NITV) is broadcasting nationally on digital TV.
- Buy and listen Aboriginal music. Australia has a rich variety of Aboriginal musicians playing many different styles from lyrical songs to hard rock or hip hop. Check out song lyrics to learn what they sing about.
- Attend plays or performances. Some Aboriginal theatre companies are operating since the 1970s. Search the Internet for their next performance in your city or town.
- Watch Aboriginal films. There are hundreds of Aboriginal films available on DVD. Check libraries and Aboriginal organisations for non-mainstream films. The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia loans DVD compilations to individuals and organisations for private or public screenings.
- Visit Aboriginal places. When planning your next travel itinerary, find out if there are places of significance to the local Aboriginal community. Check Google or contact the local Aboriginal Land Council. Many sites are protected, so check out your state national parks listings. Visit and understand them and get to know this (your own?) country better.
- Research on the Internet. Find out about topics you're interested in. Critically ask who's writing - do authors give Aboriginal people a voice?
- Learn about Australian history. Only about a third of Australians know about Australian Aboriginal history. Explore timelines and find out significant events.
- Find Aboriginal nations. Learn who is the traditional owner of the land you travel on or live in, what language was or still is spoken.
- Visit galleries and museums. Learn about Aboriginal culture from Aboriginal people's artworks. Read what the artist intended and find out how topics changed over time.
[Germany is a land where] more people are interested in Aboriginal culture and living conditions than here in Australia.— Geoff Kitney, International Editor, Sydney Morning Herald 
- Buy only authentic Aboriginal goods. Check items were manufactured by Aboriginal people or in communities. Ask sales staff if it is not clear. If possible, try to find shops or galleries run by Aboriginal people. Check Buy Indigenous.
- Book Aboriginal-owned or operated tours. I found asking tour operators or their staff is a great way to explore and get information. They can share directly their culture and view of things. Don't be shy and show respect when asking.
- Promote cultural events. Go to and promote Aboriginal galleries, plays, dances and other events. Tell your friends about them, share them on Facebook or Twitter. Many people want to attend authentic performances and will be happy to receive your advice.
- Book Aboriginal performers and speakers. When planning your business or community functions think of Aboriginal people. Get an elder to do a Welcome to Country ceremony, share stories or culture, or an Aboriginal performance group.
- Support Aboriginal education. You can donate to Aboriginal education institutions such as the Tranby Aboriginal College or even take a course in Aboriginal studies.
- Subscribe to Aboriginal-owned newspapers. The Koori Mail is 100% Aboriginal-owned and run. Put them into your waiting room or library.
- Participate in Aboriginal events. Give your time and energy to events such as the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week, Australia Day and other significant Aboriginal events.
- Donate money. Groups like Australians for National Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) or Aboriginal social justice groups often depend entirely on voluntary donations. Support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation which runs healing programs around Australia. Support them regularly--remember your next tax declaration!
- Do volunteer community work. The best way is to support Aboriginal communities directly. Here's a guide to get you started with volunteering.
- Help with bureaucracy. Many Aboriginal people struggle to complete paperwork necessary to receive existing funding for activities or initiatives which would help their people. Help them bridge this gap by filling out the forms with them.
- Buy your tickets from Humanitix. This new company donates all profits to charity, including Aboriginal scholarships.
Story: Take-away lessons
My subscriber Sharon allowed me to share this story of hers with you which I edited slightly:
"I met an Aboriginal lady in Bathurst who had been to jail. She asked me for some money, but I said no, I will buy you lunch, and she accepted.
"I took her with me and got her a take-away of her choice. While we waited for our food we sat at a table and talked. I learned a lot about her, what she did and her back story of being beaten as a child.
"We met a few times and I learned more. I felt blessed that she opened up to me. I shared that I didn’t like how a lot of Aboriginal people ended up in jail. We talked about where she came from, how her people had land. She also wanted to help her people.
The last time we saw each other was at a distance. We made eye contact, but we both knew this was maybe the last time we saw each other. I also felt I didn’t need to say anymore, and that she believed in herself. I knew her as Joe."
- Share what you found. Be it what you have read, learned or seen, share it with family, friends, workmates and neighbours. Post on Facebook, Twitter. Share your photos. Write a blog entry. Write an article--newspapers and magazines are always keen on user-generated content.
- Prepare a presentation. Present your photos and stories in clubs, schools or churches. When people know you they are very likely to pay more attention than to an unknown presenter.
- Give feedback. Write responses to positive or negative media reports. Sometimes all it takes to make a difference is a fact-based readers letter to correct a journalist's mistake.
- Create resources. You can put together an information leaflet or a personal web site (such as this one). Make sure to acknowledge your sources to gain credibility and direct people who want to know more.
- Organise a film screening. Set up a screening in your community centre.
Healing in this country requires a lot of love, courage and honesty and the belief it is possible. Where there is true care, there is very little division.— Official website of the movie Kanyini
- Acknowledge country. When you organise formal events, always acknowledge the traditional owners of the land you work on. Find out which tribe's country you are standing on first.
- Acknowledge nations. When you get your address stamp, when you enter your address into the numerous services you use and companies that send items to you, add a line to include the Aboriginal nation's name where you live (or where the addressee lives). For example: John Smith / 155 George Street / Eora Country / Sydney NSW 2000. Use the Map of Indigenous Australia to find out the nation. 
- Write letters. If you see any injustice or wrong don't hesitate to write a letter to the editor or a representative of the organisation. Imagine five other people did the same.
- Improve school curricula. Lobby to have your kids' schools incorporate more Aboriginal history into their curriculum. Let them show Aboriginal flags or language maps.
- Advocate Aboriginal representation. Encourage local councils to create and implement policies for Aboriginal representation, consultation or employment.
- Create cultural awareness programs. Many of your staff or group members probably don't know much about Aboriginal culture or protocols. Organise cultural awareness programs to quench their thirst for knowledge. Invite Aboriginal people to talk and share.
- Speak up in support. Don't remain passive. Speak up for the rights of Aboriginal people. Regularly do something.
- Participate in protest marches. If you are keen show your support for Aboriginal rights by participating in protest marches. Check what the cause is first to make sure it's in line with your values or focus.
- Talk to librarians. Ask them to get Aboriginal writers' books or the Koori Mail newspaper into the library collection. (See also story below.)
- Invite Aboriginal people. Nothing beats authentic information. Invite Aboriginal people to do presentations or talks in schools or at community events.
- Consult with Aboriginal people. If you are doing something that affects or involves Aboriginal issues consult Aboriginal people. Ask them if you are doing it the proper way, if there are any special protocols to observe or people to talk to. Respect is a powerful thing.
- Fly the Aboriginal flag. Lobby at school or at your workplace to have the Aboriginal flag flown next to the Australian flag at all times.
Story: "Not one book on Aboriginal Australians!"
Acclaimed Aboriginal writer Bruce Pascoe (Dark Emu) recalls what happened just before he was to give a talk at a Western Australian school in 2018. 
"I went to a school in Western Australia last year. I was early for the session I was going to give, and I went into the library to see what was there. And I found nothing. Not one book on Aboriginal Australians.
"I imagined a 13-year-old Indigenous girl set an assignment on Australian history. What if she chose to do it on her grandfather's people? What would be there to support her? There would be nothing. What would that girl think about that school, that town and the history of her own people? I was devastated."
One more reason to talk to your librarian next time you visit!
Join and change
- Join campaigns. For example, GenerationOne is an initiative aiming to help Aboriginal Australians.
- Volunteer your time. Help Aboriginal communities as a volunteer and experience Aboriginal life first-hand.
- Join reconciliation groups. Find and join local or state groups in your area to discuss and act on reconciliation issues.
- Join an Aboriginal support group. There are many such groups and a quick Google search can find one in your area.
- Give philanthropic support. Join support groups such as the Friends of Tranby Aboriginal College, Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre, Bangarra Dance Theatre or other groups and donate your (tax-deductible) money to a cause you value.
- Inform people. Give presentations or talks. Organise information stalls at public events or festivals. Consult Aboriginal people for what you can inform about and how they could support you.
- Plant native species in your garden. Find out which ones suit your backyard and attract insects. Join a local Landcare Australia group if you need to learn more.
- Dispel myths. Inform your community about current statistics and true stories about positive change. Dispel the many myths and stereotypes people hold about Aboriginal culture.
- Point out racism. When your fellow colleagues, mates or family members make racist jokes about Aboriginal people, point out to them that these are not appropriate. Watch an example.
- Organise educational courses. You can organise public events to educate people about Aboriginal culture. Invite Aboriginal people to contribute.
- Inform family, friends and workmates. Shoot them an email to let them know about NAIDOC week, Mabo day and other significant days of the Aboriginal calendar.
Summer May Finlay, a Yorta Yorta woman, has tips on how to be a good Indigenous ally.
For too long, we've failed to act because we've always looked elsewhere--blaming government, other communities, even the Indigenous people themselves. And we've relied too heavily on short term handouts, failing to see that they only removed incentive from people and communities in the short term, while destabilising them in the long term.— Andrew Forrest, founder of the GenerationOne initiative 
Tips & activities for companies and organisations
Here are some tips, from starting to support Aboriginal people to celebrating Reconciliation Week or NAIDOC Week:
- Do not tolerate racism. Implement HR policies that outline how to report and deal with racism within your organisation and apply the policy.
- Employ Aboriginal staff. If you run a business, break common stereotypes by employing or training Aboriginal people. Spread the word about their achievements. Check out Blakworks if you need a starting point.
- Give Aboriginal staff a say. Ensure that decision makers listen to, and consider, the voices of Aboriginal staff. This is a key demand of the Uluru Statement From the Heart.
- Display an Acknowledgement of Country. Print it on sturdy cardboard paper and display it in every meeting room to get facilitators use it. (Here's a sample.)
- Redirect budgets. Let budgets work for the communities you want to support or be allied with. You can redirect the 'Australia Day sale' budget to e.g. doing a campaign around NAIDOC Week instead.
- Train your staff in Aboriginal culture. Many of your colleagues might not know much about Aboriginal culture. Train them in the bare essentials or via cultural competency classes. The first 5 introductory emails I send to people joining my email list are a good start.
- Serve Aboriginal food. I once participated in a guided bush walk that ended with tasters of Aboriginal food. Might be a good sensual experience for a different lunch.
- Have a quiz. How much do they really know? Check my quizzes to get some ideas for questions.
- Contact a local reconciliation group. Ask them for ideas and about experiences they had with past events and companies they supported.
- Start or progress your company's RAP. Increase awareness of the company’s Reconciliation Action Plan and its concrete goals and activities. What can employees do to contribute?
- Show Aboriginal films. You can borrow films and show some at the office. (Utopia is a good candidate.)
- Change your templates. Add the Aboriginal place name of your business in the footer of your templates, for example "<Business name> operates on <Aboriginal nation> land". You can also add this to the stamps you use for the sender's address.
- Develop a First Nations language policy. Help your employees to use the correct terms when referring to First Nations peoples and their histories to avoid offending or causing distress.
Prominently display this Reconciliation Week poster infographic at your workplace to help your colleagues learn what the week is about.
What not to do
Sometimes your enthusiasm to support Aboriginal people can be misguided. Watch out for the following.
- Don't "borrow" from Aboriginal culture. You don't support Aboriginal culture if you "borrow" elements of it without knowing what they refer to and, worse, without consulting Aboriginal people. This includes words, objects, images and behaviours. Such action only would show your disrespect.
- Don't tell Aboriginal people what is "best". I know you have read a lot and worked out a "solution" to some of their problems. Don't be tempted to tell them. Solutions are complex and difficult to achieve, and often only work locally.
- Don't just pay money. Don't just put money into a company that aims to help Aboriginal people. Think of a more substantial contribution instead of just ticking a box.
- Don't keep quiet. If you hear racist or derogative remarks don't look away. Speak up and ask in a friendly manner why that person thinks that way and how much they know about Aboriginal culture. Chances are, they only perpetuate the wrong bits they "learned" and never questioned.
- Don't speak on behalf of Aboriginal people. Especially when you are working in the 'Aboriginal space' it is sometimes tempting to speak for Aboriginal people. Resist. Aboriginal people have a voice of their own (and are usually not afraid to use it). Practical example: If someone asks you for an interview, refer them to an Aboriginal person instead.
- Don't question discussion outcomes. Some discussions only involve Aboriginal people. Respect the result of these discussions, and don't pick and choose what suits you.
Video: Prof Gary Foley's advice
Listen to advice from Prof Gary Foley, community and academic historian, author, activist, actor and member of the Gumbainggir nation, who explains why impulsive actions to support Aboriginal people can be a problem. It is important to reflect on who you are, he recommends, why you want to support Aboriginal struggles, and how to do this, and know about local struggles, not just faraway ones. (3 min)
Adventures with a little flag
For many years I had an Aboriginal flag sewn to my backpack. I was using my backpack a lot, for shopping as well as for travelling. These are stories which I've experienced just because I showed the Aboriginal flag on it.
One day I was in a fish and chips shop and had just finished my meal when a young teenage pair entered. Something about them told me they were Aboriginal people although their skin colour was very fair. Was it that they scarcely spoke? Their shyness? Their dark eyes? I couldn't tell. I just knew.
When I rose and strapped my backpack to my back I saw from the corner of my eyes how the young man gave his companion a dig and pointed to my backpack. I paid and left the shop.
The original Aborigine
Months later, with the same backpack, I was getting a train ticket from one of the vending machines. Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and looked into the face of an Aboriginal man.
"What does that flag stand for, brother?" he inquired.
"It shows my interest in and respect for Aboriginal culture," I replied.
"Good on yer," he said. "Look at me: I'm the original Aborigine!" And walked away following his mates.
An unexpected bus encounter
I'm sitting on the bus on my way home, backpack in front of me, reading the Koori Mail. As I look up a young man is smiling at me, nodding towards my backpack as our eyes cross.
It turns out that his grandfather has a quarter Aboriginal blood in his veins, a fact which wasn't revealed until his parents did a thorough family tree research. And you wouldn't think it either, because this young man has curly, blonde hair and eyes which look grey-green. Most of his ancestors are English or Scottish, he admits.
The discovery of his Indigenous heritage hasn't changed much in his daily life but raised his awareness for Aboriginal culture. He's one of the many part-Indigenous people who do not openly talk about it.
The hairdresser's story
My backpack is sitting in the corner while I get a haircut. The hairdresser notices the Aboriginal flag and asks me if I was of Aboriginal descent.
As he learns that I am not he tells me that his wife comes from the Wakka Wakka people near Brisbane. She is keeping her culture strong, educating their sons to learn.
He says that his wife's father is "very dark". They don't travel to Brisbane that often though.