Students from Tetahi Ke Tua pose for a picture with a banner during their weekly gathering at the AUT campus meetinghouse. This image, along with many similar images across the globe, is being uploaded to social media accounts to raise awareness and show support for Aboriginal communities in Australia. (Photo by Victoria Nechodomu/Nechodomu Media)
On April 1, students from Auckland University of Technology’s Maori student organization, Tetahi Ke Tua, chose to contribute their voices to a growing social media movement they care deeply about: #sosblakaustralia. Approximately 50 members from the student organization posed with a banner in front of their campus marae, or meeting house courtyard, to show support of Aboriginal communities in Australia.
Waimihi Rota Matchitt is a second year Maori Media student at AUT and member of Tetahi Ke Tua. “We feel their pain. And so, we want to support them as much as we can,” explained Matchitt. The pain she is referring to is that of about 150 Aboriginal communities in Western Australia facing forced closures in the next year, a concept many Maori communities can relate to.
Awa is also a second year Maori Media student and Tetahi Ke Tua member. “We’ve all been through something similar,” She explains. “We’ve all gotten our land taken off us, we’ve all fought for what was. Now they’re getting kicked out of their own communities, their own land area, it’s disheartening for us to see.”
- There are 274 remote Aboriginal communities throughout Western Australia.
- 2014: the Western Australian (WA) government announced plans to close up to 150 of those communities for cited reasons such as economics, sustainability, and social issues.
- March 2015: Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbot, supports WA Government’s plans, stating, “it’s not the job of the taxpayer to subsidize lifestyle choices.”
- March 2015: Aboriginal communities put out a call to action to “Stop the forced closure of Aboriginal Comunities,” prompting rallies, protests, and social media movements.
- March 19: Thousands attended rallies throughout Australia to protest closure of Aboriginal communities.
- May 1: Global Rally is planned to take place in many communities throughout the world.
Making a Stand
Social media provides an outlet to take a stand, spread awareness, and show one’s support. But even more importantly, Kingi hopes that the social media support will have an emotionally empowering impact on the Aboriginal communities.
“It is good that everyone’s taking photos and that, because it gives them courage, you know… because other people have their backs,” explains Kingi.
“If you can feel their pain, then just help them out,” adds Matchitt. “If you can do simple things like us, and take a photo and hash-tag #sosblakaustralia, then do that. You don’t have to be there in person, physically, to protest with them or anything. But I reckon them knowing that there are people out there who have support for them… they’ll know that it’s not just them fighting. There’s many other people in the world that actually care about them.”