This is an introduction to campaigning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is an excerpt from Building Power: A Guide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Who Want to Change the World. You can download the full guide from Original Power.
Campaigning involves activating, mobilising, and organising people to make change and influence others to make change. Campaigns are a series of sequenced tactical manoeuvres applied over time, designed to achieve a specific objective.
Social movements around the world have used campaigning to achieve change on many issues from ending slavery in the US, getting women the vote, giving birth to civil rights, removing British rule in India, liberating East Timor and many other examples.
Campaigning and resistance by Indigenous communities has taken many forms and for many peoples began with defying the act of colonisation itself. From everyday acts of resistance like speaking original languages and practicing culture to collectively organised walk offs, strikes and marches, our people have been effectively agitating.
This resistance is also evident in the way communities are organising around fossil fuel projects. Communities are saying no to their country being fracked, mined, becoming the dumping ground for toxic waste, or thoroughfares for resources dug up on another tribe’s land. Indigenous led resistance is visible in many places.
Sharing our campaigning wins and struggles is incredibly powerful. It encourages people to resist and strengthens the belief that victory is possible.
Indigenous peoples in other parts of the world have long campaigned to stop exploitative resource extraction including oil companies drilling on their land. The Ogoni in Nigeria eventually stopped Shell extracting oil from the Niger Delta in the late 1990’s [although large areas of land still need to be cleaned up and campaigning around this continues].
More recently the Sioux Tribe set up camp at Standing Rock and invited others to stand with them to prevent the construction of a crude oil pipeline and to protect sacred sites and country.
The increased efforts put into working in solidarity across tribes and linking issues has increased communities’ power and influence. Alliances like the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion in Canada have been influential in connecting communities, sharing resources and insights and organising people power on projects that cross tribal borders.
Individual campaigns link up to create a movement. For example, the Civil Rights struggle in the U.S included the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Rides and the struggle for voting rights. All these localized struggles combined to make the larger Civil Rights movement.
Over the last decade movement building and efforts to connect different local campaigns into a wider movement, have strengthened our collective power. The impact of Idle No More and Black Lives Matter can be seen in the way communities are working more closely together with shared purpose. This show of unity and movement wide resistance was visible in the 300 different tribal nations plus many allies coming together at Standing Rock.
We have a strong history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led campaigns in Australia. The 1967 Referendum, land rights, black power and the era which established Aboriginal community-controlled organisations have all contributed to significant changes in the lives of our people.
This article is an excerpt from the ‘Campaigning to Solve Our Issues’ process guide written by Karrina Nolan. The process guide is from Original Power’s Building Power: A guide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who want to change the world. Download the full Building Power guide from Original Power.
- Aboriginal Australians
- Campaigning - Grassroots
- Campaigning - Strategy
- Indigenous peoples_First Nations
- Movements_Campaigns - Self determination
- Movements_Campaigns – Racism_Racial justice
- Torres Strait Islanders