No idea what to do on January 26 in Australia? Visit IndigiTUBE – an online media platform preserving First Nations language and culture for future generations

The debate about “Australia Day” comes back every year like a boomerang. Ironically, this national holiday still divides Australians more than it unites them. Some Aussies enjoy their barbies, while most Aboriginal people mourn their ancestors.

There are different approaches to moving forward: from changing the date to abolishing it altogether. But nothing concrete has been done to implement any of them yet.

So here’s an alternative idea for 2023. No matter what side you’re on, instead of talking about it, learn more about the First Nations of Australia. The resources on IndigiTUBE can help you with that.

PART 134 OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE / THE SILLY & GREEN PROJECT

Before anything else, I’d like to make one thing clear. I’m not Australian. However, I lived in the country for more than two years not long ago.

It’s true that it’s not my place to lecture anybody (especially First Nations) on the history of the Land Down Under or suggest a course of action. But I’ve been following the debate about the problematic national holiday from both sides long enough to form an educated opinion.

I also know where to find useful information. If you’re a non-Indigenous person looking to expand your knowledge, like me, this article by NITV (National Indigenous Television) is a good way to start. It lists practical things you can do to be “a good Indigenous ally”. 

But back to January 26.

A national holiday should be a celebration for all groups in any society. Sadly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people don’t really have a reason to clink glasses on that day.

Although in December 2022 a significant political change called “The Voice” (no, not the singing competition) was proposed by the Prime Minister (“Australians will have their say in a referendum on whether to update the Constitution to include an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament”), the process is still fairly slow. 

I believe the reason why the January 26 holiday sparks so much controversy in Australia is still mostly due to a lack of knowledge or simply ignorance. That is, unfortunately, closely followed by a lack of compassion.

I recognise that I also come from a privileged white community. In my case, however, that means I take interest in learning about other cultures quite seriously.

That’s why I confidently recommend IndigiTUBE as a reliable source of knowledge about the First Nations culture. Because it’s made by and for Indigenous people, first and foremost. And because it’s funded through the Government’s Indigenous Language and Arts Program.

Why does it matter?

IndigiTUBE is a fairly new project. It was launched as a national platform in Sydney on November 23, 2018, but its history is a bit longer. It was first established in 2008 “in response to increased access to the internet and high uptake of mobile phone technology in remote First Nations communities”.

I’ve been visiting the platform for a couple of years now and can see how it’s grown. That tells me the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people appreciate and see value in it.

It sits within a broader structure, though. It’s a part of the First Nations Media – the peak body for First Nations not-for-profit broadcasting, media and communications. But it’s much more than radio, a song repository or an educational project. It’s the First Nations’ “Digital Meeting Place”.

Here is how the media organisation explains its mission: “First Nations managed media and communications are an essential service in our communities. They provide access to locally relevant information services, support health and wellbeing, provide meaningful employment and skills, strengthen cultural identity and support social and economic development.”

I see IndigiTUBE as a practical implementation of that mission. Just like YouTube, it contains a wealth of resources on different topics: music, news, everyday life, health, wellbeing or sports. Those subjects are offered in various audiovisual formats, like music clips, audio playlists, video tutorials or podcast episodes.

Now, the sceptics might say YouTube is full of unverified, self-indulging and tasteless rubbish these days. It’s hard to argue with that.

But thankfully, IndigiTUBE has managed to steer clear of that unwanted aspect of the global video-sharing platform. On the contrary, it has carefully curated content that shows First Nations’ rich history, cultural legacy and contemporary impact.

The video format also lends itself very well to promote the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s creativity in the arts and entertainment sectors. Especially since many First Nations communities are located in remote regions, off-limits for visitors. So, many times, it’s the only way to get a glimpse into their lives, customs and practices.

Naturally, as a music blogger, I’m drawn to that side of the platform. One of my main objectives since the beginning of the Silly McWiggles project has been uncovering and supporting First Nations artists.

I can’t get enough of IndigiTUBE! I come across a new act every single day. And I’m stoked to see some names I’ve worked with over the years, too, like rapper ChillCheney.

Aside from the discovery side, you’ll also find First Nations artists whose names are well-known all over the country. I’ve spotted Electric Fields, The Merindas, BARKAA or Xavier Rudd on the platform with their music releases, for example.

And if you’re a podcast fan, check out this episode of The REAL Podcast with pop singer Jessica Mauboy.

I have to admit that before spending time in Australia, my perception of First Nations was quite erroneous. I assumed there was one fairly universal and standard way to pass the knowledge on and communicate with different communities.

I was sooooo in the dark because around 250 Indigenous languages existed originally Down Under, with about half still being spoken today. Sadly, most remaining ones are endangered, too, so it’s super important to preserve them. And that’s what IndigiTUBE does very well.

When you browse their music content, you’ll hear many different tongues. That way, you’ll also familiarise yourself with Aboriginal names for geographical regions and famous landmarks, which we mostly know by their English equivalents.

And if you ever thought Indigenous-led cultural institutions, educational radio stations or creative projects are virtually non-existent in Australia, the Contributors part of IndigiTUBE will prove you wrong again. I kept scrolling down, and the list didn’t seem to end. 

A fun fact: 27 broadcasters are streamed through the platform. So knock yourself out – that’s a new station for (almost) every day of February.

There’s another aspect I’d like to emphasise here. Indigenous people are the traditional custodians of Australia. I get the impression that the word “traditional” is frequently and incorrectly associated with something outdated.

In this context, IndigiTUBE is a testament to the contrary. The content it promotes, like contemporary hip-hop artists, and the way the platform is designed clearly show that technology and innovation are at the forefront of this valuable initiative.

Plus, it’s available in an app format. Not all cultural projects communicate with their audiences through this means.

Last but not least. I know IndigiTUBE is primarily created for First Nations folks. But my experience tells me the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people always warmly welcome respectful non-Indigenous visitors willing to learn about their culture. Even if the community’s meeting place is virtual.

So if you’re still pondering what to do on January 26 this year, I guarantee that IndigiTUBE’s content will make it a day well spent.


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