Monday, May 27, 2013

IndigenousDX - Looking forward, looking back.

I've been thinking about the upcoming week's topic for the ongoing Indigenous Digital Excellence Agenda (IDEA) conversation... what are the most game-changing,exciting & innovative things happening in tech?

Obviously we live in an exciting time, and there are some amazing possibilities in applying digital tech to pretty much any area. Health, education, arts, employment, sustainability, politics.

Not only does digital technology have applications for all of these areas but it invariably leads to networking, friendships (and potentially rivalries), the development of new online and offline communities, and the strengthening of existing communities.

Since I have joined Twitter I have recognised the true strength and value of social media is not just what can happen when people come together sharing in a common goal, or interest, or opinion; it is the act of coming together in and of itself. Information sharing, story telling, networking, advocacy, activism, solidarity, education, promotion, humour, support, debate... all of these things all of these I have been able to engage in, often with amazing people I probably never would have met if not for Social Media.

I have also been able to raise issues that I believe are important, to have my voice heard, to meet others who share my views, or can add to them, challenge and improve them. I have been able to hear from, communicate with and better understand people whose perspectives and motives have been a mystery to me, and at times have been able to repay that favour.

I have been able to raise issues directly with organisations, politicians, journalists, and all sorts of people who otherwise I would have had no way of communicating with; sometimes I have even had a reply, and a few times I have actually even been heard and had some influence on these issues. As the youngest of three brothers I can assure you it was quite a novelty at first, being heard.

I barely knew what to do with myself... I think I must have spent the first two years on Twitter doing a non stop brain dump of every resource, every quote, every random thought that I always thought should be out there but that no one seemed to be talking about in the public eye.

I didn't really have any plan or purpose when I started, I don't even really remember why I joined. I didn't really know anyone who used Twitter, that I was aware of, but I suppose it was just a 'might as well have a look' moment. I'm glad I did, and I have never really looked back since then.

For various reasons, a fair few people seemed to respond to what I was saying. I felt encouraged and supported to keep going. A few small (but significant) accomplishments, a lot of laughs, and a lot of new friends and allies spurred me on even further. I started my blog, and while very scary at first, there were various detractors and naysayers, there was also a huge sense of gratification just in getting my voice out there, and even more so when I realised what I was saying seemed to strike a chord with a lot of others, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Friends and family in real life, who I had never even mentioned Twitter or my blog too were starting to hear about it from other places, going online and reading it, and they were liking it too. It was overwhelming.

I started to get asked to do media interviews, write articles, edit people's assignments, fight people's causes, advocate on behalf of individuals, connect people, liaise on behalf of people, and all sorts of other things that as a primary school was all quite new, exciting, daunting, exhilarating and exhausting.
I was flattered of course by so many people seeming interested in what I had to say, and it took me a long time to start to tell the difference between people who valued my perspective and were interested in what I had to offer, people who expected me to be able to speak on behalf of all Aboriginal people on any and all issue, people happy to exploit me or my views, people who were too lazy to look anywhere besides Twitter for an interview or a guest speaker, or to research their own assignments, and people who were truly in need and with nowhere else to turn. People who wanted to take, people who wanted to give, and people who understood the value and importance of reciprocity.

It was all very exciting and fast paced, but when I was able to slow down and think about what I wanted, and what I wanted to contribute, I realised that no amount of tweets, or amount of blogs could ever achieve what I was spending more and more time and energy talking about: recognising the strength, resilience, determination, diversity and excellence of so many amazing Aboriginal and Torres Strait people out there doing amazing things every day, fighting for what they believe in, and facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles with patience and commitment. This is where the desire for the @IndigenousX was born, the actual idea itself didn't come til a bit later, but this is what I knew I wanted to put my energy into. I wanted a voice for myself of course, but I didn't want to become another one of the very few select Indigenous individuals who are given a voice, online or offline at the expense of so many others. I wanted to contribute to breaking down that reality. I wanted people to recognise that Aboriginal people or views can never be reduced to one perspective, or two opposing views. I didn't just want to climb over the wall, I wanted to throw a rope over to those who were coming after me, and I wanted to encourage those who were already over the wall to help tear it down... or at the very least to stop building it higher.

I'm both proud an humbled that @IndigenousX has been able to contribute to that. It has by the sheer number of hosts given a taste of that diversity, of that excellence. Whether people agree them all or not, or connect with them all or not is irrelevant. They begin to broaden their perspective, to realise that the situation is not two dimensional. And for those who do engage, and do value and respect the range of hosts, they get to broaden their own perspectives, get to hear new stories, new information, new ideas, and often find new friends thrown into the bargain.

We have brought a digital community of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, of people from all sides of the political spectrum, from all walks of life together to celebrate and share in Indigenous Excellence. In the joy and the frustrations. The successes and the setbacks. The past, the present and the future through the eyes of people they would have never been otherwise able to hear from, or connect with.

Considering the diversity within the community, the level of respect and engagement that is maintained is phenomenal, and is something I am eternally grateful for. The learning (both ways), the stories that have been told, the knowledge shared, the connections made, the fun that's been had... is priceless to me, and I know to many others as well.

This to me is the most exciting thing I think about when I think about the future of Indigenous Digital Excellence. How will our online community develop? What other online communities will be able to link up and share with, like is happening now with the #IndigenousDX conversation? What other Indigenous communities will pop up elsewhere, and how will we be able to collaborate and support each other?

Recently I have been thinking that it must be getting time for the 4th annual #TwitterDeadlys and was wondering what the categories might be this year, who might win them, and who might host the various awards that are invented on the night. Each year it has been a spontaneous, fun, farcical, and community driven online event. It has not only been a fun evening for members of our online community, but it has been encouraged participation and engagement from more and people each year. It is helping our community to strengthen, and to grow, and to have a hilarious evening to boot.

I thought about #itriedtobeauthenticbut and #racistlikeafox and how they provided an opportunity not only to vent, but to educate, to challenge, and to connect - the amount of awesome people I had no idea were on twitter who popped up and have hung around during both of those hashtags was by far my favourite part of both of them. 

#DeadlyChoices promoting healthy living and celebrating positive life choices like exercise and eating right, but also doing the right thing, being a good person, standing up for what you believe in, looking after yourself and others.  

#IndigenousXto10k - it pissed a lot of people off, but it also raised $10,000 for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation in a single week, and gained a tonne of followers for the @IndigenousX account, most of whom stayed around long after the campaign was finished.

I think about #ProudToBeIndigenous #P2BI celebrating global Indigenous pride, and how suddenly the bar just got raised a whole lot higher, the potential just grew a whole lot wider, the opportunities grow more and more amazing every day.

I think about my mate @Moree_Mick who is going to start sharing some of what he has learned about his language, Gamilaraay, in weekly online Twitter lessons (starting this Tuesday from 8:30 - 9:30)  

And this is just what's going on in my circles on Twitter, who knows what else is going on on Twitter, or what will pop up next? What is going on over on Facebook, on Google+, Instagram, the Community of Excellence, and what platform will pop up next, and what will those communities look like? 

I am so proud to be able to be a small part of what has happened in the last year or so just on Twitter, but what the young people who come up after us will do I have no doubt will put all of this to shame. They will see all of this and more as 'normal', they will see the celebration of Indigenous Excellence as common place.

As they should!!

Their bar for 'excellence' will be much higher than ours... assuming that is, they are given the right support, training, education and opportunities to fully maximise this potential, to reinvent it, to reclaim it, to take it forward shaping the future of our nation, and to connect it back to their own histories, their families and communities and their own lives. 

So, for me, when I ask myself "What are the most game-changing,exciting & innovative things happening in tech?". The answer will always be: The most exciting thing happening in digital tech is that Indigenous Excellence is shining. and getting brighter. More people are connecting, engaging, listening, and talking every day without a media filter, without a spokesperson, without edit or restriction. People are connecting with each other to challenge the status quo, to tell stories that have long been ignored, to add depth to stories that have long been two dimensional, to fight against racism, injustice and discrimination, to shine a light on what would otherwise go unnoticed, and to achieve things that otherwise would have been impossible.


Today was Sorry Day, and the theme was "Still living on borrowed time'. So while I am excited about the possibilities for the future, I also know that this vision of the future is one that we will have to strive for, and create together. And that time is of the essence.

So please, join in the Indigenous Digital Excellence Agenda conversation.

Add your voice and your views.

Raise the issues that are important to you.

Share the ideas that you think can help create a future where young Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander mob can thrive in the digital world; and hopefully even teach us older ones a thing or two along the way.

Follow @IndigenousDX on Twitter

And as always, thanks for taking the time to hear my thoughts.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"Ignorance and intent" or "Apology 101"

I just went & tweeted myself in the Delta kerfuffle... I guess you'd call it an occupational hazard for me. Not quite the same as saying stupid racist shit is for celebs, but it is what it is.

I'm not writing an anti-Delta article, because I don't have any particular interest in her celebrity.

I'm not boycotting the show because I've never watched it... so that seems a bit moot.

I'm only mentioning this one because it's the one that made me come to a realisation... well, not even a realisation, perhaps just a new articulation of it. One which I currently feel like writing down.

Her fauxpology in regards to tweeting that some nobody painting himself black to impersonate Seal for a party was "hilarious" is just one in a long line of similar incidents. Those guys on Hey Hey, those kids at some uni in Qld somewhere, those other kids more recently at that other uni in WA, that footy announcer dude, various politicians (looking at you in particular, Den!) and various celebs... all have found themselves accused of being racist, or of doing or saying something racist - which is actually not the same thing, think about it. (If you're a Delta fan, just substitute her name for one of those other ones that you were more upset with and it'll still work fine for all intents and purposes. It's makes no difference to me, but it might make this more palatable for you)

And like Delta, all of them are 'horrified to be viewed as racist'.

There is a very notable break down in communication and understanding at this point. From the individuals themselves, their supporters, and more often than not from the journalists who report on it too.
Those who do not understand the offense taken often don't seem to be aware that anything else exists beyond the individual's intent - and they are upset as these offended people, for some unknown and seemingly elusive reason, are mistaking them for racists! How could anyone imagine such a thing?!

"I don't even own a white hood! How could I possibly be, or do or say anything, racist?!"

"These overly sensitive individuals simply just don't understand that I am not racist, because I didn't 'intend' to be racist!!"

"Some people just like to say that everything is racist."

"I have lots of black friends!"

"I don't understand what all the fuss is about."

"Just relax, we didn't mean to be racist."

"I didn't realise the mic was on."

And so on... If we're lucky they might throw in a "sorry IF anyone was offended in some way". 

Unlike that lot, many of us actually do understand.

We know you don't burn crosses on lawns. We know you don't own a white hood.

We know that you don't take pride in the 'racist' label. We know you don't consider yourself a racist. 

We know that many of you sincerely don't know, or understand what the issue is.

And as for 'our' intentions, eg why do we call you the 'R-word' if we know that you 'didn't mean it'?

I'll start by crossing a few things off the list of possible reasons which you have by now amassed just by living in this society, and listening to the wrong people.

It's not because we want you to 'feel guilty', and we aren't 'playing the victim'.

We aren't 'too sensitive', and we don't 'just need to get over it'.

We aren't 'playing the race card', and we don't 'misunderstand'.

And we sure as hell don't 'call everything racist'. 

We call you the unspeakable 'R-word', because you did something... 'R-word'-y.

Whether or not you see it, you did.

That is our interpretation and it deserves just as much recognition as does your intention.

If you spit in my eye, my first consideration is not if you meant to do it or not. It's that you did it.

And how do you think I'm gonna feel about it?  

But you don't think about it. Instead you respond by telling me that you are not the sort of person who spits in people's faces, and you've certainly never done it before.

You tell me that you have lots of friends who you haven't spat in the face of.

You are not apologising, you are excusing yourself.

You are ignoring my interpretation of events, and the actual impact of the event on me. 

You are not acknowledging the level of insult, of outrage, that is being justifiably experienced. That many people are experiencing. Not just by who has been spat on, but those who watched on with shock and horror, and who are standing there waiting, expecting you to do something to rectify this situation. To fully recognise the impact of your actions, irrespective of your intentions, and apologise.

Profusely. Repeatedly. Passionately. Unreservedly.

I'm not interested in acknowledging your intentions for saying or doing something racist if you deny the validity of my interpretation. You get no acknowledgement from me that you do not extend to me in return.

And if I don't think your apology is sincere, or if I don't believe you understand why you are even apologising, then how can I accept it?

We're at a cross roads, and I don't even plan on giving you right of way, let alone let you drive right over the top of me.

Intent vs interpretation, while acknowledging history, power, privilege, and the ongoing impacts of personal discrimination reinforced by societal norms and institutional discrimination is where it's at.

Not understanding why something is offensive, and has been for over a century, doesn't make your actions not offensive, it just makes you ignorant.

Ignoring or dismissing the views of those you offended doesn't make you right, it just makes you more ignorant (ignoring - ignorant... get it?!).

Being supported by media commentators doesn't make you right, it just makes them as ignorant as you.  

The story doesn't finish once you feel you have cleared up the 'confusion' or 'misunderstanding', or just because the media stop reporting on it. There is no confusion to clear up. We know exactly what's going on.

In short:

A sincere apology is a good start, but taking appropriate action to address the issue, make amends, and prevent a repeat of the incident is important too. Get educated... I'm happy to help if I can.

A fauxpology is a horrible place to start, and an even worse place to declare the matter finished. Get stuffed... I've got no time for you.


"White people’s ignorance of Aboriginal people is so pervasive, so profound, that it exhausts the Indigenous who are forced to argue every point: well, yes we did live here before you came, no, we didn’t eat our children, yes, my grandfather was murdered by your grandfather, yes, my father went to both world wars alongside yours, no he didn’t get a soldier settlers’ farm like yours, no, we didn’t invent the wheel…or the jail, or the rack, boiling oil, or instruments to pluck out fingernails, white collar crime; there were a lot of things we didn’t invent."
Convincing Ground: Learning to fall in love with your country (Chapter 16, Native Born) Download from AIATSIS
Bruce Pascoe
And the first person who jumps in and says 'not all white people' in response to that quote, look out! 
In fact, consider that your after blog quiz. 
See if you can work out why I'll be pissed off at anyone what jumps in with that comment.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013



Hey peeps, sorry I've been off the blogosphere for a while, but I've been pretty busy lately. One of the things that has taken up a lot of my focus is @IndigenousDX & #IndigenousDX - no, there's no typo @IndigenousX/#IndigenousX fans. @IndigenousDX stands for 'Indigenous Digital Excellence' and is a new initiative of the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence (NCIE - the mob who first coined #IndigenousX*) in partnership with the Telstra Foundation.

It's pretty huge too.

This is straight from the website and gives a good overview:

"The Indigenous Digital Excellence Agenda (IDEA) is a wide-reaching research, consultation and collaboration project that will inform a National Indigenous Digital Excellence Strategy co-developed by the NCIE and the Telstra Foundation. We’re engaging with thinkers from all corners of Australia to provide considered and focused ideas and solutions that draw on and contribute to:

*A discussion paper exploring Indigenous digital inclusion led by Professor Lester-Irabinna Rigney from the University of Adelaide, commissioned by the Telstra Foundation.

*The face-to-face consultations with Indigenous leaders from the Torres Strait Islands to Tassie, led by Lauren Ganley, Telstra’s General Manager National Indigenous Directorate.

*The Online Collaboration (IDEAcollab) co-led by the NCIE and the Telstra Foundation and guided by Luke Pearson. Facilitated through the IDEA website, social media, and Trello Board (now until late June, 2013).

*The Indigenous Digital Excellence Summit, co-led by the NCIE and the Telstra Foundation (June 27 and 28, 2013 learn more).

The IDEA research, consultation and collaboration process will lead to an actionable National Strategy and a movement of people with a shared vision for Indigenous Digital Excellence and  how we can best move forward as a nation to ensure all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples thrive in the digital world.

For much more detail, download the Online Brief for Collaborators and start contributing your ideas!"
As you may have noticed in there, I'm mentioned, which is always nice :)

As stated I am guiding 'the online collaboration', which basically means I'm hoping to gets lots of yarns started with lots of people, and to encourage as many people as possible to engage in the ongoing IDEA conversation. I'll also be having lots of yarns with the @IndigenousDX crew about how it is all going, and how we can engage with as many different people as possible, especially IndigenousX mob obviously, but not exclusively! This is a process that anyone who is interested, or who has a solid idea, can join in on and those ideas could potentially help shape the future direction of the IDEA!!

This is why I am so keen to be involved, and why I really hope as many people as possible take the opportunity to join in the conversation. Plenty of us have seen consultation processes that already have the master plan drawn up, and are just ticking the boxes along the way via 'consultation'. I am very excited to say (although not surprised, this is an NCIE joint after all!) that is not one of those. You wouldn't say we are starting with a 'blank slate' as there are already so many amazing things happening in terms of Indigenous Digital Excellence (and hopefully you'll agree that @IndigenousX is amongst them!), but there is nothing locked in stone. Whoever joins in has the opportunity to have a real influence over what happens next, and 'whatever happens next' is going to have a huge impact on all of us, I cannot stress enough how important it is that you get your voice heard!

At the moment the future of Indigenous Digital Excellence is waiting at our feet.

All we need to do now is pick up the ball and run with it.

As most of you will already know from my work with @IndigenousX, I'm not looking to just engage with people who say what I want to hear. And I only have an interest in being involved in a process that is engaging, open and valuable, and I believe this is.

I want people to share whatever they think/feel/believe. There are some amazing things happening out there, and there are some amazing things that NEED to happen. This is a convo that recognises, and welcomes all of this. Just as IndigenousX is there to celebrate Indigenous Excellence, we don't hesitate discussing what needs to happen to bring out excellence, and speaking up when we feel things are not moving in the right direction for this to happen. We often do so in no uncertain terms, and I see this process as no different. I want people with passion, with experience and insight, who know the positives and negatives, and who want to engage in a process of finding meaningful solutions and positives outcomes in the path that lay ahead.

I want to help make this an open, engaging and challenging process for all who participate.( I should also point out that if you're like me, and you've already pondered IP issues by now, definitely check out this, because it is ALWAYS important to read The Legal Stuff.) We want those ideas of things that you'd love to see happening with #IndigenousDX and that you're happy for someone like the NCIE to potentially run with. I've got heaps of them, not just on #IndigenousDX though - I've been trying to get someone to run with my idea of an Indigenous education version of the Life Be In It/Healthy Harold vans for years, and if you can make that sucker work, go for it! I happily place that concept into the public domain. I'm not gonna do it within the next 10 years and I think it would be an awesome way to reinvigorate Aboriginal education in schools, and to ensure appropriate cultural knowledge was made available to students AND teachers... but I digress. Wait, actually, no I don't, let's tie in some whizz bang digital tech heads and I'm sure we can make this an #IndigenousDX idea too - let me know what you reckon, boffins!

Anyhow, there are three key goals for this process:

·  Connect  deeply and broadly with people with an interest in the Indigenous Sector and in the Digital Sector to start a conversation, begin shaping ideas, and decide how to best deliver effective solutions.

·  Learn more about the opportunities and challenges around Indigenous engagement with digital technologies and build genuine momentum to deliver outcomes that improve wellbeing.

· Co-create a National Indigenous Digital Excellence Strategy by the end of 2013 and lead its implementation in 2014.

One of the key things that jumped out at me with that was 'outcomes that improve wellbeing'. There has been some really exciting things in terms of Indigenous 'wellbeing' models and frameworks (eg this!), and I think looking at how digital spaces can contribute to Excellence, "strengths, empowerment, resilience and achievements" is not only essential, it is very exciting!

Anyway, that's probably enough blog ranting for one day... I'll go back to Twitter ranting instead :)

See you there!

(And remember, follow @IndigenousDX (& @IndigenousX of course too, in case you somehow follow my blog, but not @IndigenousX, which just seems implausible to me quite frankly!) and join in the conversation happening on the #IndigenousDX hashtag!)

* Some people have been a bit confused by the IndigenousX/IndigenousDX similarity (if you don't understand twitter symbology then this will make no sense whatsoever, but then, if you don't know twitter symbology, you probably won't care either), so to explain the difference, it is important to look at the history.

IndigenousX began its life as the hashtag #IndigenousX, which was coined by the NCIE with the idea that it would let us connect & celebrate stories of Indigenous excellence. Sometime later I created the account @IndigenousX, and got the blessing of NCIE to begin the #rotationcuration account IndigenousX that we all know and love :-)

@IndigenousX & @IndigenousDX share obvious etymological roots, but they are separate entities. We obviously have quite a lot of overlap not just in terminology, but also in the philosophy of what we stand for.

Even though we are separate we are more than happy to support each others work and to collaborate on appropriate projects, such as this :)