Yorta Yorta artist Allara walks with integrity in everything she does. Here, Allara tells us more about what this idea means to her.
Bank Australia: You talk in your People Australia Needs video about walking with integrity. How can we all walk with integrity in our daily lives?
Allara: Education is the key. In challenging situations I aim to learn. In my day to day life, I use all sorts of opportunities to keep an open mind and listen with compassion before sharing my perspectives. I think critically and approach with compassion. I try my best to treat people and Country with respect and continually have to investigate what that means. That's my way of walking with integrity!
I always work with integrity within my art form. I always extensively research, so I have a thorough understanding of the subject I am writing about. Research, however, can take many forms: yarning with Elders, friends, family; online; reading; watching and listening. I like to think my integrity comes from a place of honesty and authenticity. From there, comes acceptance and change, always evolving, always adapting, always changing in response to new information and to the sound of my intuition. I try to admit when I don't know enough about some things and I encourage others to do the same.
For me, it's simple. I ask myself lots of questions, eg; how am I decolonising? You might ask; do you know what structural racism is? Do you know what prejudice is? Do you understand the difference between equality and equity?
It's one thing to use your power by showing up to a Blak Lives Matter rally, but what power do you have in your job, in your home, in your friendship group? Are you calling out racism and how are you using your power or privilege? Are you being vulnerable and showing up? Do you have gut feelings or intuition that you don’t listen to? Question everything, and trying to understand who you are and how you fit in the world is a good place to start. Everyone is on a different place in their journey of understanding, and that's okay.
Can you tell us a bit about what your writing process is like?
Murnong Farm was commissioned for the 2019 Refuge program at the Arts House, North Melbourne. The song is an ode to displacement, sovereignty and the Murnong, a native edible plant. At the time, I was reading Bruce Pascoe’s ‘Dark Emu’. I found myself grieving the destruction of Country and our traditions over and over again, since the beginning of colonisation.
During the writing process, I looked into where Murnong grows. I went to chat with the Indigenous tour guide at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Then prior to the first performance I had four local Elders look over it to make sure everything made sense and was culturally appropriate.
The song wasn’t just about the Murnong plant, but about how long we've been here, and how we are connected to this land. “We made this Country, this Country made us”; that's about the dreaming, Songlines, our lore, and the way we care for Country and everything within it. I questioned what my own sovereignty as a Yorta Yorta person living within the Kulin Nations means.
How do you use your art as a vehicle for raising awareness around First Nations culture and climate issues?
My art isn’t about raising awareness about First Nations culture and climate… my art is a form of First Nations Culture, and in many ways I am representing climate, country and identity in song. Telling stories through music, art and dance are just a few ways First Nations people are sharing our culture today. Music is the tool I have, so I use it as a vehicle to tell my stories. It's my cultural obligation to use my platform to share knowledge and ideas, pass on knowledge to the next generation, and to share with those who have been denied Australia’s true history, stories and cultures.
I didn't write until I knew what I wanted to say. I want people to understand our spirituality, science and art, and how incredibly valuable it is. I want people to respect First Nations knowledge, deeply. I want Australia to love First Nations people, in our magnitude of existence. I want safety for our kids, from climate change to Aboriginal deaths in custody. It’s our responsibility to create that world, the one we dream of. Find your superpower then use it to do the same. We all have a responsibility. What's yours?
Tell us about Seed and the work they're doing in the climate space.
Seed is the first network for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people fighting for climate justice. Their network is all across the country, from the southeast of Tasmania, to up in the Torres Strait.
The term climate justice shares the sentiment that the people who have done the least to contribute to climate issues are the people whose Country is most at risk of destruction caused by extraction of coal, oil and gas, and are the people who feel the impacts of climate change first. This means we as young First Nations people need to be at the forefront of the fight to protect Country from the potential risks. Protecting Country and caring for Country are part of our culture too, so again, it’s a welcome weight on my shoulders, as it is my cultural obligation and responsibility.
It’s important to remember that First Nations people have been fighting this fight already, since the beginning of colonisation, and have always lived in harmony with Country and our environment. We are leaders in this revolution, which is not just about climate, but also about social equity. Blak Lives Matter for example is not a separate issue. It is all connected.
Seed brings young mob together. We teach each other skills, share knowledge and support each other on how we can effectively make change to protect Country and to create a safer and more just future for everyone. To get involved, find out more, or donate click here.
We’re proud that Allara is a Bank Australia customer, and one of our People Australia Needs in 2021. Hear more from Allara and the People Australia Needs here.