A guide to the First Nations Resources topic in the Commons Social Change Library.
The Commons Social Change Library would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, and community. We pay our respect to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today. We acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded.
The Commons Library staff reside on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation (Victoria Australia), while the author hails from Wadjuk Noongar country in Boorloo (Perth, Western Australia). Refer to AIATSIS: Map of Indigenous Australia to discover the country in which you reside.
The Commons Social Change Library has a commitment to justice for Indigenous people, understanding of history, and knowledge of present struggles.
Please note: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons in photographs, film, audio recordings or printed material.
Welcome to the First Nations Resources topic in the Commons Social Change Library. This article guides you through a wide range of materials designed to inform and educate people engaged in social change on topics important to First Nations people. Many of the resources in this topic are particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander campaigners. These and other resources will also be beneficial to people acting in solidarity.
Although this First Nations topic mostly has an Australian focus, we would like to acknowledge the importance of Indigenous struggles for sovereignty, self-determination and justice all around the world. International struggles for First Nations justice often reflect, support, and inform First Nations movements and issues here in Australia and elsewhere in the colonised world.
To help navigate this topic, we’ve outlined examples from four broad types of resources:
- resources describing First Nations campaign stories both within Australia and internationally;
- resources that amplify First Nations voices and perspectives;
- resources for First Nations people engaged in social change;
- resources for non-Indigenous allies that encourage solidarity and decolonisation in the area of social change.
This topic in the Commons Library will continue to grow and evolve. We welcome your suggestions and contributions – contact the Commons Librarians.
To explore the topic follow the suggested links below. Alternatively, visit the full First Nations Resources topic. You can also narrow down the results according to your interests by using the ‘Refine by Format’; ‘Refine by Topic’ (for crossovers with other topics eg Organising); ‘Refine by Author’; and ‘Refine by Collection’ functions.
Here are a number of case studies of current and historical First Nations campaigns from Australia and overseas.
The Mirarr people have fought to protect our country and people from uranium mining for many years. Now we are defending our country against the proposed Jabiluka uranium mine. We invite you to come to our country to join our struggle to uphold the cultural and environmental values of Kakadu – Mirarr Clan, March 1998, quoted in The Jabiluka Blockade – 22 Years On
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Timeline of Resistance
The Timeline of Resistance was produced by Original Power as a training aid for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities as well as allies aiming to work in solidarity. The timeline summarises a history of campaigning and organising since invasion.
- The Freedom Ride
The Freedom Ride through western New South Wales towns in February 1965 drew attention to the racism in these towns. Aboriginal student Charles Perkins was, by the end of the journey, a national figure in the fight for Aboriginal rights.
- Gurindji Land Rights Struggle: Case study & training guide
In August 1966, Aboriginal pastoral workers walked off the job on the vast Vesteys cattle station at Wave Hill in the Northern Territory, sparking the Aboriginal land rights movement. A summary of the campaign case study is included along with a process for use in training workshops.
- The Aboriginal Tent Embassy
The Aboriginal Tent Embassy was established in 1972 when the Coalition Government failed to recognise the land rights of Indigenous people. From its inception, the Embassy has been interwoven into Canberra’s physical and political landscape, blending black politics, symbolism and theatre that opponents have found difficult to counter.
- The battle for Aboriginal heritage on Perth’s foreshore 30 years on
Thirty years ago from January 2019 Noongar activists set up a protest camp at Gooninup, the site of the derelict Old Swan Brewery on Perth’s foreshore. This marked the beginning of a four-year long struggle to secure recognition of an Aboriginal sacred site.
- Australian Black Lives Matter Rallies
Articles, videos and podcasts related to Black Lives Matter & Stop Aboriginal Deaths in Custody rallies in Australia, early June 2020.
- The Jabiluka Blockade
- The Jabiluka Blockade – 22 years on
Do you know about one of Australia’s most effective anti-nuclear blockades? The Jabiluka blockade in 1998 stopped the Ranger Uranium Mine in Australia. This article includes the campaign timeline and many further resources.
- Jabiluka Fight for Country
In 2005 the Mirarr succeeded in halting the development of the proposed Jabiluka mine. It was the culmination of an extraordinary decade-long campaign which saw people across Australia and the world stand up and support Mirarr in their opposition to uranium mining on their land.
- Stop Jabiluka Mine Handbook
Stop Jabiluka Mine handbook gives a fascinating insight into an important part of Australian social movement history as well as an overview of the kinds of issues to consider when organising a large-scale direct action convergence. Over 500 people were arrested in the course of an eight-month blockade at Jabiluka in 1998.
- The Jabiluka Blockade – 22 years on
- Camp Walmadan / James Price Point
- Camp Walmadan Booklet
The struggle to protect James Price Point was a multi-faceted, organic campaign, fuelled by creativity, ingenuity and a fierce sense of independence and justice. The Camp Walmadan booklet gives an insight into a recent successful community campaign.
- James Price Point/Walmadan: A Huge Win
In 2013 the people of Broome stopped the development of a gas plant and port at iconic James Price Point (Walmadan). They had substantial political and corporate interests arrayed against them but prevailed with a strong sense of community and creative strategic campaigning. This short case study shares some of the keys to success and strengths of the campaign.
- Camp Walmadan Booklet
- The Mau movement: Samoan Independence
Case study of the long struggle for Samaon independence which was ultimately successful in 1962. The Mau movement had its origins, in 1908, in a dispute between the German colonial administration and the Maloa o Samoa, or Samoan Council of Chiefs, over the establishment of a copra business owned and controlled by native Samoans.
- How defeating Keystone XL built a bolder, savvier climate movement
From frontline battles to large national mobilizations, tar sands resistance developed new tactics and organizing strategies for the larger climate struggles ahead.
First Nations Perspectives
Self-determination is a key principle that asserts the right of First Nations people to determine and pursue their own interests. Disability activists have popularised the term ‘nothing about us without us’ (as explained by Carly Findlay in Centre the voices of people with disability) which is relevant for all people with lived experience of oppression. This means it’s crucial to listen to First Nations perspectives directly and follow their leadership. The following resources provide an opportunity to do that. We also encourage you to pay attention to the Traditional Owners and First Nations led organisations where you live and work.
Aboriginal people have lived here for more than 40,000 years and cared for this country, but now its being turned into a sick and evil place. Myself, and others around this country, were born to be peacemakers. We mustn’t be frightened to educate others and fight, but not in a warlike way, to protect the earth and let everything run free. I don’t want to shoot or bomb the people from BHP and the others who are destroying this country because two wrongs don’t make a right. I think if I can help them to wake up to what they are doing then that will be punishment enough. – Kevin Buzzacott; an excerpt from the book How to Make Trouble and Influence People by Iain McIntyre.
- Interview with Kevin Buzzacott
Kevin Buzzacott is a key figure in the opposition to the South Australian Olympic Dam mine and the nuclear industry in general. In this interview he outlines a number of the creative actions he has taken part in as part of a series of campaigns addressing the issues of dispossession and Aboriginal sovereignty.
- First Nations Justice
Hear from three First Nations leaders about the health and justice systems crisis, over policing and incarceration of First Nations people.
- Performing Political History: An interview with Gary Foley
An interview with Professor Gary Foley about using creative practice to bring attention to the political challenges facing Aboriginal people in Australia.
- Podcasts About Decolonisation, First Nations Justice and Invasion Day
A list of podcasts and radio shows.
- Reset 1: First Nations Resistance & Climate Justice
Reset Reading Group resources for discussion curated and introduced by Karrina Nolan from Original Power. Includes Indigenous Principles for Just Transition, interviews, videos, podcasts, campaign links and prompts for discussions.
- TED talk: Black women – Tipping the balance | Michelle Deshong | TEDxJCUCairns
Many Indigenous women possess the qualities that have made a huge impact on civil & Indigenous rights in Australia, these same qualities give Indigenous women a unique perspective that enables them to tip the balance & provide genuine political leadership.
- Aboriginal Memoirs as Social Activism
Telling your own story is powerful! This article includes excerpts from papers related to Aboriginal memoir, links to four memoirs by Aboriginal Australians, and where to find more.
These resources include First Nations speakers, films and articles among many other perspectives.
- Films about Women & Social Change
An inspiring list of feature films and documentaries about women and social change including Women of Steel, Suffragette, Mission Blue, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry and more.
- 19 must-see historic Australian peaceful protest docos
James Price Point, Jabiluka, Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Franklin River, Wave Hill walk-off, Green Bans, Freedom Rides and more – an amazing list of docos put together by Galilee Rising.
- Imagining a Future We Can Create Together
Hear from amazing speakers about First Nations Justice, rebuilding our economy, democracy and creating a safe climate for all.
- Reset 6: Centring Justice & Care
Reset Reading Group resources for the Centring Justice & Care theme introduced and curated by Roj Amedi.
- Activist Inspiration and Learning in Lockdown
The COVID-19 pandemic is keeping many of us at home. Without the usual forums, film nights, and other campaign activities how can we connect to inspiration and continue learning? Here are films, podcasts, webinars and online courses.
Resources For First Nations Campaigning
The following articles and training materials have been developed by Original Power to support collective action by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Each resource is an excerpt from their Building Power: A Guide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Who Want to Change the World. Find out more about Original Power in this Introductory Presentation and visit the website.
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. – Karrina Nolan, an excerpt from the Campaigning to Solve Our Issues process guide.
- Campaigning to Solve Our Issues
This is an introduction to campaigning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Campaigning involves activating, mobilising, and organising people to make change and influence others to make change.
- Making a Positive Change: Training guide
This is a training process guide to identify local stories, people, experiences, values, skills and knowledge that have made a contribution to positive change in the local community.
- Naming the issues: A training guide
This is a training process guide to provide people with space to start focussing on one of the issues that may be among many they are dealing with in their community or context. This process is also about starting to think about problems and solutions.
- What makes a good leader for social change?
A training process guide to provide a space for people to think about the role and qualities of leaders in social change. Leaders for social change model the way; inspire a shared vision; challenge the process; enable others to act; and encourage the heart.
- Cyclone Warning A training guide for solving problems
This is a training process guide to explore different approaches to solving community problems, investigate how different problems require different approaches to change to solve them, clarify the differences between community organising, community development, advocacy and service delivery.
- Community Resistance Timeline: A training guide
This is a training process guide to introduce participants to each other, connect their own history to a larger history of social change, identify local tactics, and to rethink what success looks like.
Acting in Solidarity with First Nations
Strong movements are made up of diverse participants, and are particularly powerful when people directly impacted lead the way and other people leverage their privilege in support. Non-Indigenous people who are seeking to act in solidarity are encouraged to listen to the First Nations voices elsewhere in this guide, as well as the following resources that are particularly related to allies.
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 on Decolonizing Solidarity by Clare Land.
- Decolonizing Solidarity Bookclub
Decolonizing Solidarity is a book by Clare Land which offers directions (and knotty dilemmas) to people seeking to support Indigenous Struggles. This article includes suggested guidelines for book clubs discussing Decolonizing Solidarity which are also beneficial for other groups doing anti-oppression and ally work.
- Advice for pro-Indigenous white activists in Australia
These four short videos, two featuring Gary Foley and two featuring Robbie Thorpe, are essential viewing for non-Indigenous people seeking to act in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- Supporting Indigenous Leadership in the Climate Movement
This article looks at connections between Indigenous rights and climate change and the legacies of genocide and oppression. It is directed at non-Indigenous people to encourage better allyship.
- Resources About Police Violence and Racial Justice
The murder of George Floyd by police in the US has sparked a powerful response from the Black Lives Matter movement and communities of colour. The following resources give context to the US situation as well as related struggles in Australia.
Looking for more?
I expect us to aspire towards excellence, and towards what many Indigenous professionals inherently understand as best practice: nothing about us without us. – Luke Pearson via The Guardian; Founder of IndigenousX.
- Browse additional topics on the Commons Social Change Library which contain a lot of crossover information for people engaged in social change activities.
- Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)
Australia’s only national institution focused exclusively on the diverse history, cultures and heritage of First Nation Australians.
ANTaR is an independent, national network of organisations and individuals working in support of justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia.
- Koori Mail
The Fortnightly National Indigenous Newspaper – 100% Aboriginal-Owned 100% Self Funded.
IndigenousX is a 100% Indigenous owned and operated, independent media, consultancy, and training organisation.
- Aboriginal History Archive
Digital collection of materials covering half a century of Aboriginal activism, collected and contributed by activist/academic Professor Gary Foley.
NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture & achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Thanks to Georgia Almond, Commons Library volunteer, for putting together this comprehensive guide. If you have additional materials that should be included in this topic please contact the Commons Librarians.
- Aboriginal Australians
- Indigenous peoples_First Nations
- Movements_Campaigns - Land rights
- Movements_Campaigns - Self determination
- Movements_Campaigns – Racism_Racial justice