Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen the protests and civil unrest emanating from America in the news feeds and television screens in Australia. The murder of George Floyd has given way to a deep sense of sadness, grief and anger, mixed with a wide array of other emotions. While our context is different to our friends and colleagues in the tech and design communities in the United States, we are all examining our own biases and privilege at a deeper level.
In Australia, we see the effects of discrimination and deep-seated racism in our criminal justice system in the disproportionate number of young First Nations men and women who find themselves in juvenile detention and prisons across the country. First Nations people make up 3.3% of the Australian population, yet 28% of the prison population. The 437 Aboriginal deaths in custody that have taken place since 1991 are a stain on our community, our political and justice system and the privilege that so many of us unconsciously benefit from. Royal Commissions, tailored welfare programs and direct government interventions into Aboriginal communities have delivered us little in the way of the transformation required to make racism and violence disappear from our institutions. Our efforts at enshrining a First Nations Voice in the Australian Constitution have stalled politically. Are we really awake? How superficial is our awareness?
This introspection is important. These events must force us to confront our privilege. We are all implicated in the ongoing racism that structurally locks black communities out of the transformation required. If we stay silent, we are complicit. This introspection needs to turn into anti-racism self-education at an individual, personal level. (Here’s a resource to start with, compiled by Merrilee McCoy)
It also needs to happen at an organisational and institutional level. At Portable, we have a very clear mission: to seek out areas of policy failure and social need to directly make change. Through this mission, over the past nine months, we’ve directed our own self initiated research towards exploring youth justice and the associated challenges – such as overrepresentation of First Nations people in the prison system.
To create change of this scale is difficult. It demands a level of collaboration across sectors that are often under-resourced and fatigued by constant intervention with little progress.
And while we have actively engaged with Indigenous communities through our work with partners and clients, we have struggled to make our organisation into a workplace that can be supportive and welcoming to First Nations people. We have dawdled under the well-meaning guise of caution when it has come to establishing an internship and pathway program for First Nations people. We’ve held unconscious bias training. Cultural sensitivity training has been discussed but other priorities emerge and haze out those moments that we once discussed with passion and a sense of urgency. These types of failings, regardless of our intent, keep black communities waiting endlessly at doors to business across Australia. We now commit to stop dawdling.
We must direct our focus and intensify our efforts as a community of people who work together and individuals. But in doing so, there shouldn’t be any uncertainty about our values as an organisation and as individuals. To our friends, colleagues and everyone in BIPOC communities in America, Australia and around the world, we stand with you against racism, discrimination, violence and the systemic injustice that underpins our way of life. Black lives matter and we are open and ready to both support and mobilise in the interest of change. We are open to being educated. We are committed to taking action.
We will immediately start the work required to build our organisation into one that is better, that uses its privilege in positive ways. In our immediate response, we have donated $5000 to Change the Record (see below). Next, establishing an internship program for First Nations people is the first priority.
If you also want to get active and are in a position to do so, we’ve gathered this list of some of the ways you can lend your support.
Sign a petition
Change.org has set up a petition to seek justice for George Floyd. It aims to reach the attention of Mayor Jacob Frey and DA Mike Freeman to achieve justice. You can sign it here and show your support.
The Healing Foundation works with over 7000 members of the stolen generations and their communities to assist with ongoing and intergenerational trauma.
Yalari is an Indigenous education charity that offers full boarding school scholarships to Indigenous children from regional, remote or rural communities.
Change the Record works to to end the incarceration of, and family violence against, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The organisation invests in holistic early intervention, prevention and diversion strategies. These are smarter, evidence-based and more cost-effective solutions that increase safety, address the root causes of violence against women and children, cut reoffending and imprisonment rates, and build stronger communities.
Sisters Inside is a not-for-profit organisation that advocates for the collective human rights of women and girls in prison, and their families. You can find out more about their work and donate here.
World Vision is helping to support aboriginal communities who are affected by COVID19.
Kumanjayi Walker was shot by police three times in his home at Yuendumu on the 9th of November 2019. He was 19 years old. The police had not come to the house to resolve a dispute or because they had been called to deal with an emergency. They were simply there to arrest this teenager for breaching parole. Donate to a campaign to bring about justice for Kumanjayi.
In 2015 David Dujngay was held at Long Bay Gaol in Sydney, where he died surrounded by six police guards. Parts of the episode were caught on video and in his last moments he screamed “I can’t breathe!” as the guards continued to press on his neck. You can donate to a Gofundme established by Leetona Dungay the mother of David Dungay, to gain justice for David.