By Jason MacLeod, Karrina Nolan
Building Power: A Guide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Who Want to Change the World was produced by Original Power in 2018. The guide includes several training resources to build capacity for campaigning by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This post includes an introduction to the guide and the contents page. Download the full Building Power guide from Original Power.
About the Building Power Project
The Building Power project has evolved from working with and collecting stories, lessons and case studies from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities across Australia. The insights come from campaigns to stop a nuclear waste dump, resistance to the imposition of fracking, and lessons from the many communities challenging the existence and expansion of mines.
The project highlights that not only could we be working better together across different community struggles but that there are similarities in the things communities need to be better equipped and organised. It is important to acknowledge the diversity among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and nations, our lived experiences, access to resources, remoteness and much more. So, there is no one lesson or approach that would apply to all. However, its helpful to articulate some of the key ingredients common across many struggles that can assist communities to better engage with projects or be equipped to say no. These capacities, capabilities, skills and knowledge are outlined as ingredients in the guide.
Talking and working with different communities also showed up the need for more research, campaigning and organising that focuses on the impacts of mining. These impacts can be seen in the damage to country and culture as well as the immense pressure and stress put on communities and families to negotiate with mining companies. The equation is presented as mining equals jobs and money, saying no means no economic development and people live in poverty. What other communities in Australia are asked to choose be- tween economic development in the form of mining to have their basic needs met, over their rights to protect country?
The development of this guide, the processes and tools came about as one way for communities to share their learnings and grow their power as they respond to and challenge the mining industry. Building knowledge between communities will ultimately support communities to have greater capacity to be able to self-determine their futures and make informed decisions that take into account long-term community needs as well as considerations of country and culture.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples face unparalleled challenges in living strong, proud and healthy lives. We are living in times where our people are incarcerated at higher rates than any other peoples in the world. Our young people are experiencing extreme mental health issues, the gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous life expectancy remains unacceptably high and many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to live in deep poverty. In fact after ten years successive governments have failed to meet most Closing the Gap targets.
The current period of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs is dominated by ever-changing government policy and reduced funding for community programs and services. The landscape is further complicated by divisive Native Title and land use arrangements. After decades of struggle around land rights these issues are still unresolved.
These issues are compounded by dangerous global warming, the continued irresponsible use and expansion of fossil fuels, the mining and fracking of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands. Indigenous peoples the world over who have for millennia shown steward- ship, cared for country, protected waters and seas, know we are at a tipping point. The way Multi-national corporations supported by states, and our economic systems have treated resources, as things to be extracted, with seemingly little regard for their finite nature, cannot be sustained.
Devastating changes to our climate are being felt all over the globe. We are already experiencing significant species loss and the changing of seasons is impacting our hunting and gathering practices, and therefore our ceremonies and medicines. Increases in severe weather events such as droughts, cyclones, floods and bush fires are not future possibilities they are with us now. Many Pacific Island nations are experiencing rising sea levels which is affecting the availability of food and leading to the forced relocation of communities. It is increasingly understood that First Nations people are on the frontlines of these impacts.
Yet the extraction continues and pressure to negotiate with companies in the face of limited economic alternatives has left many communities feeling they have been forced to compromise lands that have been cared for and nurtured over thousands of years, by many generations.
However, we are also a people who won’t be defined by problems. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have resisted, innovated, led and been the stewards of this country; seas, lands and waters. Many continue to make the difficult decisions and sacrifice monetary gains so their children can access sacred sites and hunt and fish for basic livelihoods for generations to come. We will continue to challenge the injustice of resource extraction without consent and join together where we can to support each other’s’ struggles.
How to use this guide
This is written for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who are taking on and challenging mining or mining-related projects in their community. It’s also relevant to campaigners working for climate justice. It is geared towards those who may be taking on a facilitator role and are interested in bringing groups together to move a struggle forward. It’s for people who see the value in working collectively and offering solidarity to others.
The guide is divided into sections to help you think about where your group or community members may be at and the different tools that might help. There are several processes you could use separately or in combination. Some of these are more advanced and you may want to consider how you build a shared understanding and language before you get into those processes.
You may want to think about how each process relates to different communities and their context. You will need to consider your relationship with the community, issues like language, access to translation, family groupings and all of the other important cultural protocols that would guide you when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Who is it for
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, activists, educators, change makers and community members wanting to make a difference for their people.
This guide can support information sharing and greater solidarity between communities. It is primarily focussed on members of communities who have been part of a campaign, decision-making or engagement process to undertake exploration or mining on their coun- try. The idea is that some guidance and lessons should be offered to individuals and communities facing similar situations. Such guidance is intended to be useful for community members themselves as well as outside parties supporting or working with community.
It is important to note this is a working draft and will be tested and refined along the way. We will add things from communities as we go and no doubt extra lessons and stories will be shared.
If you want to use this guide please get in touch first. This is a complex and challenging area and communities are all different so let me know how you might want to use these resources. And then of course how they go!
Please contact [email protected]
This guide was written and collated by Original Power’s director Karrina Nolan with Pasifika’s Jason Macleod.
Firstly, I would like to thank all of our people who stand up to protect country everyday. Thank you to the families and communities who shared their victories and lessons from fights won and fights ongoing. I can’t show enough gratitude for the elders who gracefully guide and offer strength to all of us. And of course a huge shout out to all the deadly young mob who inspire and show us change is happening.
I would like to acknowledge and thank The Change Agency and Training for Change for their support, wisdom and resources which have informed this guide.
The project wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Casey & Family Foundation.
Table of Contents
- Building the Power of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities 4
- Key Ingredients for Building the Power of Our Mob 8
- Change Making 16
- Process Guide | Naming the issues 17
- Process Guide | Making a positive change to my community 18
- Process guide | Cyclone Warning 21
- Process Guide | Community resistance timeline 25
- Process Guide | Village Game 28
- Strategy 30
- Process Guide | Vision Gallery 31
- Process Guide | Campaigning to solve our issues 33
- Process Guide | The Blanket Game 36
- Process Guide | Cutting the issue: breaking it down 38
- Process Guide | Cutting the Issue: Learning from Nashville 41
- Handout | Cutting the Issues in Nashville 43
- Process Guide | Critical Path Analysis: Learning from Nashville 44
- Facilitator Resource | Nashville Critical Path: Outcome Cards 46
- Handout | Nashville Critical Path 48
- Process Guide | Critical Path Analysis 50
- Handout | SMART Objectives 53
- Process Guide | Tactics Relay 54
- Facilitator Resources | Tactics Relay: Tactics Cards 56
- Handout | 198 Different Kinds of Nonviolent Action 58
- Process Guide | Gurindji Land Rights Struggle 64
- Handout | Gurindji Struggle for Land Rights and Wave Hill Station Strike 65
- Process Guide |Power mapping 70
- Process Guide | Story Swap 72
- Leadership and Decision Making 74
- Process Guide | What makes a good leader for social change? 75
- Handout | What makes a good leader for social change? 77
- Process Guide | Stepping Stones 78
- Power 80
- Process Guide | Three Kinds of Power 81
- Process Guide | Introducing the CEO of Big Bagarap Business 83
- Process Guide | When the teacher says… 84
- Process Guide | Mattress Game 86
- Facilitator Resource | Building our nations 88
- Climate Justice 90
- Process Guide | Climate Change Hurts Activity 91
- Resources 94
Download the full Building Power guide from Original Power.
- Aboriginal Australians
- Campaigning - Strategy
- Capacity building
- Indigenous peoples_First Nations
- Movements_Campaigns - Self determination
- Movements_Campaigns – Racism_Racial justice
- Organising - Community
- Torres Strait Islanders