Police Brutality and Indigenous Rights: Here’s What Australians Need to Talk About and Do in the Wake of Protests For Racial Equality Across the Globe

From what organisations you should support to where you should donate to what resources you should learn from and everything-in-between, here’s how you can help the Black Lives Matter and Indigenous rights movements in Australia. 

Girl on shoulders holding Black Lives Matter sign

Black Lives Matter is an international movement that aims to abolish white supremacy, systematic racism and violence towards people of colour (POC) by the state and also, society as a whole. It came about in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, and from there has grown significantly in power, numbers and support. The purpose is to not only eradicate violence towards POC, but also to create space for black people’s voices, to support their innovation and businesses, to heal centuries of trauma and oppression, and to unite in improving the joy and lives of POC.

On May 25th 2020, George Floyd’s last words were ‘I can’t breathe’ as an officer pressed his knee into him whilst he laid on the ground handcuffed for 9 minutes. He was accused of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. His unjust murder has sparked waves of outrage across America and the globe, serving as the catalyst for a series of protests and riots amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whilst the movement has existed for quite some time now, there is now a significantly stronger call for action across all mediums and cultures around the world, including Indigenous rights and equality. Sharing posts has been deemed ‘not enough’, as activists reveal specific instructions on how to aid the movement through education, demanding accountability, writing letters to government organisations, showing up to rallies, giving space and amplifying the voices of POC, donations, pulling your loved ones up when they display racist behaviour and how to be an ally.

An abundance of resources has been provided that encourage non-POC to educate themselves to help end not only overt white supremacy, but also covert and socially acceptable forms of white supremacy. The Anti-Racism Resources for White People by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein is a particularly helpful database that serves as a good starting point. It provides specific information on organisations you should follow on social media that are doing important work for racial equality, articles written by POC activists and voices, books that dive into the history of systematic racism, podcasts that have critical discussions and films that represent the realities of their lived experience.

Another fantastic resource is the article written by Barack Obama, who discusses how we can sustain the momentum of this movement and incite real change that is long-term through both politics and protest. He recommends reading the report and toolkit developed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights which is based on his work on the Task Force on 21st Century Policing whilst he was President. The Obama Foundation has also compiled a list of resources and ways to take concrete action.

“Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s just getting filmed.”

Will Smith

This a quote rings even more true in light of recent events. It’s important to consider, what about all the George Floyds we didn’t see? What about the ‘almost’ George Floyds who’ve been beaten, oppressed, unfairly arrested or wrongfully incarcerated that we don’t know about? This is one of the many reasons why we should seek to understand the history of white supremacy, its prevalence in our current society and analyse our own role and privilege.

Ask yourselves, do you use insensitive racist remarks as ‘jokes’? Do you drop the ‘N’ word and attempt to justify your usage of it as ‘not serious’? Do you adopt aspects of black culture and cherry-pick, citing artists like Kendrick Lamar or Tupac as your biggest influences despite not being able to truly understand the meaning of their lyrics, doing anything for the black community or not having much diversity in your circles? Or do you racially stereotype or are inherently suspicious at times, because of someone’s skin colour? Questions like this may make you uncomfortable, but POC activists say it’s supposed to and it is the foundation to ending inherent racism.

You may be thinking, ‘this only happens in America or it’s only a big issue in America’. But it’s important to recognise that it isn’t just America and that Australia, as well as many other countries around the world aren’t  exempt from such atrocities. Whilst the culture and history in America and Australia differ, there are commonalities that exist through a shared and collective struggle where both have suffered centuries of oppression, lack of equal opportunity, systematic racism, wrongful incarceration and unjust murder.

Indigenous Rights Illustration
Instagram | @coffinbirth

Aboriginal Lives Matter Too

Within an Australian context, we have a shameful history of police brutality and Indigenous deaths in custody. There have been 432 deaths and not a single conviction since the 1991 Royal Commission into Indigenous deaths in custody.  Indigenous Australians are overrepresented in our prison populations at more than 28% despite accounting for only 3% of the population. Indigenous Australians also represent 30% of the population in the Northern Territory, but account for 86% of the prison population. Whereby Indigenous men are 15 times more likely to be imprisoned, Indigenous women are 21 times more likely and half of the youth that are incarcerated are Indigenous. This means the Indigenous population have the highest rate of incarceration in the world.

It also equates to more than one death a month for the last 30 years. Eerily similar to the death of George Floyd, David Dungay, an Indigenous man also said ‘I can’t breathe’ 12 times as he was pinned to the floor by five prison guards in 2015 at a NSW jail. In 2017, Tanya Day was arrested for public drunkenness and died in her cell after being left alone for 4 hours and repeatedly falling over, sustaining brain injuries. In November 2019, Kumanjayi Walker was shot dead by a police officer, Constable Zachary Rolfe who is currently out on bail and faces trial for murder on June 25 2020. Recently in Surry Hills, an Indigenous teenager was filmed being arrested by police officers with brutal force. His feet were kicked beneath him causing him to fall face first and sustain minor injuries.

Statistics reveal that between the years of 2018 and 2019, Indigenous deaths in prisons as a result of required medical attention that wasn’t provided increased from 35.4% to 38.6%. And Indigenous deaths where not all procedures were followed leading up to the deaths rose from 38.1% to 41.2%. The systematic racism and overrepresentation of Indigenous populations that exist not only in our prisons but across the country is evidently increasing.

Warning to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers that the following video contains images and voices of deceased persons. 

The Project, Channel 10

How to be an Ally

One of the biggest messages of this movement is to not just say and share, but to actually do something. Less emphasis on slacktivism and other forms of online activism. A heavier focus on converting it into real action and to ‘put your money where your mouth is’. It’s about educating ourselves and unlearning ingrained prejudices that we may have as well as listening and not making it about ourselves. For example, using the #alllivesmatter has been disapproved by POC because it detracts from the movement, whereby no one is saying other lives don’t matter but that the focus is on the systematic suffering of black lives. 

One of the main things we need to refrain from as individuals is performative activism, an exemplary of this would be the recent black tile movement on Instagram with the #blackouttuesday and/or (incorrectly) the #blacklivesmatter hashtags. Whilst intentions may be good, sharing a black tile independently has been called out by POC for not contributing to the BLM Movement. Through the usage of the #blacklivesmatter hashtag, the tiles drowned out the important and insightful resources that were previously accessible.

Going hand-in-hand with this was the #muted hashtag. Which in some cases, encouraged people to not share anything on their profiles during these protests. This was disputed by most POC because now more than ever it’s important to elevate the voices of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous People of Colour) and to be purposeful with what you share. Performative activism can at times fall into the trap that ‘any awareness is good awareness’, but it’s vital that the posts you share fall into one of three categories, which is profound impact, real action or education.

It’s important to keep learning, educating others and listening so that you can do your best to help in this movement. Everyone is at different stages in the process and sometimes we may get it wrong. There have been cases where brands, influencers and individuals have stepped forward and taken responsibility for incorrect language or posts where followers have held them accountable. These dialogues allow for growth and change,   whereby people can make more educated and thoughtful decisions in future. That’s why you must continue to engage with BIPOC, so you can hear their perspectives about whether an initiative is helpful or not to the movement. Are you ready to make a change?

Check Out These Resources

One of our favourite quotes is “If you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor” by Desmond Tutu. So, we’ve compiled a list of ways you can be an ally during these times for Indigenous people specifically. Remember this is just a starting point and it’s important to continue to expand.

Check out the First Nations Resource Directory which is a brilliant database that contains information on how to transform the system, where to donate, what to educate yourselves with, what action you should take and what voices to listen to.  

Another great collection of resources for Indigenous rights is Louis Anderson Mokak’s LinkTree which contains an ever-growing list of recommended organisations led and operated by Indigenous people for the communities. The main message here is to ‘pay the rent’ of this country and show your support through action.

Triple J Hack released an article last year where Shannan Dodson, a member of the NAIDOC committee, provides 10 specific ways on how to positively engage with Indigenous rights issues. She includes ways on how to find out about the mob in your local area, what Indigenous and Torres Strait Island events you should attend and how to encourage Indigenous cultural awareness at your university and workplace, amongst many other tips. 

Indigenous Rights Protest

People You Should Follow on Instagram (there’s many more!)

– @senatorbriggs
– @commongroundaustralia
– @ulurustatement
– @marlee.silva
– @tiddas4tiddas
– @boneybrooke
– @brooke.blurton
– @indigenousx
– @seedmob


– Talking to My Country by Stan Grant
– Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
– Growing up Aboriginal in Australia by Anita Heiss
– Talkin’ up to the White Woman – Indigenous Women and Feminism by Aileen Moreton-Robinson
– Welcome to Country by Marcia Langton


– Indigenous News Channels like NITV
– In My Blood it Runs
– Utopia
– Our Generation
– First Australians


– Curtain the podcast
– Always our Stories


Justice for David Dungay Jr
Justice for Tanya Day 
Go Fund Me for Kumanjayi Walker
– Bridging the Gap
– Change the Record
– Healing Foundation
– Human Rights Law Centre
– ANTar
– Redfern Legal Centre
– North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA)
– Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME)

Conversations and Rallies

– Engage and question the behaviour and statements of those around you, especially your friends and family.
– Keep up to date with what peaceful protests  are happening, attend and show your support on the ground
– Recognise your consumer power and choose to support businesses and creativity by Indigenous people

One of the most important takeaways from what is happening right now is that society needs to be actively anti-racist. Because simply being not racist is not enough. When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality can feel like oppression because you are not the centre of attention and your narrative is no longer the main one.  For those that are not part of the Indigenous and POC communities, it’s important to remember that if you don’t know what to say then your role is to listen. If you don’t know how to understand, take it upon yourself to expand your horizons by learning and researching about Black and Indigenous rights. And if you don’t know what to do, donate and show your support through action.

Our ears are always open to more recommendations and resources. If you have any that you would like to add please send them through at The Switch!