By Clare Land
This is a book about a difficult topic that is rarely discussed in contemporary Australia. It addresses situations and ideas that few non-Aboriginal Australians who say they are supporters of Aboriginal peoples’ quest for justice ever really consider. And yet these issues are major problems for those who seek a role as empathetic and constructive allies for the Aboriginal cause… I strongly recommend this as a book that assists in developing a better understanding among all who might work in association with Indigenous peoples.
Dr Gary Foley
About the Book
Decolonizing Solidarity: Dilemmas and Directions for Supporters of Indigenous Struggles is a book written by Clare Land and published in 2015.
The thinking and learning of many community members and activists about how to work in support of Aboriginal struggles has gone into Decolonizing Solidarity. The book is based on interviews with 24 Aboriginal community members and non-Aboriginal activists, and includes what the author, Clare Land, has personally learned through her own activist work in southeastern Australia. The book was created in southeast Australia, but readers elsewhere will recognise the dilemmas explored and appreciate the directions offered.
Gary Foley, Tony Birch and Marjorie Thorpe provided direction and critical feedback for the research that went into the book. They are members of the political community that the work was created for. Robbie Thorpe is a key influence on the book.
See the contents of the book below. More information and additional resources are available on the Decolonizing Bookclub website.
- Foreword by Dr Gary Foley
- Chapter 1: Land rights, sovereignty and Black Power in south-east Australia
- Chapter 2: A political genealogy for contemporary non-Indigenous activism in Australia
- Chapter 3: Identity categories: how activists both use and refuse them
- Chapter 4: Collaboration, dialogue and friendship: always a good thing?
- Chapter 5: Acting politically with self-understanding
- Chapter 6: A moral and political framework for non-Indigenous people’s solidarity
- Chapter 7: Reckoning with complicity
- Conclusion: Solidarity with other struggles
Decolonizing Solidarity Resource Pack
The Decolonizing Solidarity Resource Pack is a comprehensive guide to setting up and running a Book Club to discuss the insights of Decolonizing Solidarity and working out how to put them into practice in your local context. It includes:
- background info about Decolonizing Solidarity and the book club
- discussion prompts and questions
- detailed guides for 6 sessions
- specific guidelines for facilitating legit, in-depth conversations on the challenging personal and political questions involved
The Resource Pack is a ‘work in progress’ as it will always need to be reworked and updated as we learn more.
Much of the Resource Pack was developed as part of the Decolonizing Solidarity Book Club project in 2017. Several self-organised groups met during 2017 guided by materials developed by Holly Hammond (Director of Plan to Win, a social movement learning organisation), Pru Gell (facilitator, mediator, educator) and the book’s author Clare Land.
You can start your own book club, or individual learning journey, at any time using the Resource Pack. Most groups meet once a month for 6 months. We have created 6 sets of discussion questions and 6 session plans as a guide for you. Importantly, we’ve produced Suggested Group Guidelines (below) to keep your group discussions on track.
Suggested group guidelines for each Decolonizing Solidarity Book Club
1. This is an opportunity to really focus on your thinking and actions related to practices of solidarity in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ struggles and your life long learning in this area. Try hard to remember this especially when conversations are veering off this track (see guideline 7 for more information on this).
2. People tend to learn best when they feel able to take risks, show themselves and be vulnerable. Therefore:
- If we run our groups in a way that polices or shames people that is likely to be counterproductive.
- We should challenge each other’s assumptions but in a way that recognises that we all have learning and growth to do.
- ‘Generosity’ and ‘eventual solidarity’ should guide you when challenging someone’s practice. On page 5 in Decolonizing Solidarity Clare mentions how she observed Gary Foley investing time in people whose behaviour he has named as problematic rather than writing them off.
- We are not here to be competitive and compare ourselves.
- Work towards developing trusting relationships within the group, trying to get to the point that you are collectively responsible for each others’ practice (pages 153 – 154 in Decolonizing Solidarity).
3. During book club you may experience discomfort. Please embrace and accept discomfort as part of learning.
4. For each of us our focus should be on what we are each doing ourselves (your own complicity) rather than critiquing the ‘other’ or bemoaning what others in the group or outside are doing.
5. Be as honest as you feel you can be. It’s highly encouraged to really deepen, engage with, reflect on and improve your solidarity work.
6. We are here to reflect on and improve how we engage in solidarity work, not finding ourselves bonding over complaining about fellow organisers or even Aboriginal people being ‘problematic’ or ‘difficult’ to work with.
7. Unlike other social justice groups you may have been involved in where a facilitator will validate all contributions, strong leadership is needed in groups discussing racism which are largely made up of people who are members of dominant groups (white folks, people with multiple privileges). Such groups can display the following tendencies which need to be disrupted:
- Collusion (eg, ask yourself whether the conversation is one you would consider totally inappropriate to conduct if you knew an Aboriginal person was present. If so, this may be a sign of group collusion so try to get back on track to challenging yourselves);
- Socially rescuing each other from discomfort or embarrassment about their mis-steps or complicity by jumping to diffuse feelings of shame someone might be expressing;
- Veering off track to avoid harder issues;
- Calling out in unsupportive ways;
- Race to innocence (eg by airing other identities or experiences of oppression in a way which does not leave any time for discussion of colonial complicity. As guideline 1 states, this is a particular opportunity to focus on decolonising solidarity – intersections are to be honoured and acknowledged but watch out to keep focused on deepening our understanding of local colonial dynamics).
You could consider giving permission to each other or a key facilitator (whichever suits your group membership best) to challenge you. Examples of how to do this are:
- Getting the conversation back on track: “Let’s get back to focusing on… [local colonial dynamics] or [reflecting on solidarity work]”
- “Let’s remember that it’s OK for each of us to experience discomfort in this discussion”.
These guidelines were written by the Decolonizing Solidarity Book Club coordinators Clare Land, Pru Gell and Holly Hammond. They are inspired by a range of people, texts and first-hand experiences.
- Aboriginal Australians
- Anti oppression work
- Indigenous peoples
- Movements_Campaigns - Self determination
- Movements_Campaigns – Racism_Racial justice