Be a good ally | Racism. It Stops With Me

Be a good ally

How to be a good ally

A good ally to people who experience racism is someone who actively recognises and addresses racial inequality around them – whether it’s at school or in their workplace, in their community or online, or among family and friends.

Being an ally is not about ‘saving’ people who are living with racism – it’s about being aware of inequality, calling it out where it exists, and above all listening to people who experience it, and elevating their voices.  

This page provides suggestions for how you can be a good ally to people from racially and culturally diverse backgrounds.

Educate yourself

The first step towards being a good ally is having a thorough understanding of the ways in which racism appears in society, and how each type of racism impacts people. It’s also about understanding your own privilege and unconscious bias.

This website provides an introduction to the different kinds of racism that exist. However, the factors that enable and perpetuate racism can be complex. There is always more to learn, and as you increase your knowledge and understanding, you will increasingly become a better ally. That’s why we’ve also provided a list of further resources that can help grow your understanding of the issues associated with racism.

Educating yourself about racism also includes learning about your own privilege and bias. Each of us engages in society from a different perspective, and with that comes certain experiences, beliefs and preferences. Often, we are not conscious of our own bias and privilege until we make the effort to become aware of them. Examining your own bias and place in society is a vital part of being a good ally.      

Everyone has unconscious bias. Researchers at Harvard University developed a method to help detect unconscious bias. It’s called the Implicit Association Test, and it’s available for anyone to do online. Take the test to learn more about your own bias.

Think about your privilege

Allies who recognise their privilege, especially those who have more privilege, are powerful voices alongside marginalised voiced.

A good ally, first and foremost, supports the voices of individuals and communities that struggle to be heard because of inequality or disadvantage, and promotes those voices instead of speaking for them.

Take the time to listen

No two experiences are the same. Unless you have experienced racism and inequality it is very hard to understand the experiences of individuals and communities who have lived with this reality.

We can however build our empathy for the experiences of others by actively listening to their stories and experiences. Truth telling and storytelling are two important tools to educate the broader community about inequality and disadvantage.

A good ally can listen to these truths and stories without being defensive or judgemental, and can help to address the underlying institutional and systemic barriers that contribute to inequality and disadvantage in our society.

Every person of colour and every Indigenous person has a story. Many activists, artists and others have shared their truths and stories. Some great examples of truth telling in action include Stan Grant’s landmark speech, The Australian Dream and Cally Jedda’s TedX talk about the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.  


Talk to your friends and family

Let's talk racism

Having conversations about race or racism may not always feel comfortable, particularly with family and friends – but shying away can mean that important opportunities are missed, because these conversations are a chance to change peoples’ thinking.

The Bystander Action page of this website provides advice on addressing racism if ever you observe it among family and friends. But conversations about racism do not need to be critical – they are often about sharing your own insights with the people close to you.

It’s important that any conversation about race or racism focuses on actions instead of individuals. We all have bias of some kind – it’s part of being human – and criticising people for their prejudices can make them defensive. That’s why it’s often more constructive to focus on your actions, and how they can impact others. 

Another good way to engage friends and family in discussions about racism is to share stories with them. Newspaper articles, TV programs, or content on social media is often a good way to prompt discussion or provide new perspectives.

Be an ally to Indigenous Australians

For advice on how to be a good ally to Indigenous Australians, we sought input from Summer May Finlay. She’s a Yorta Yorta woman, a writer, academic and public health practitioner. Here’s what she had to say:

  1. If you witness racism, say something

    It’s essential to call out racism, whether it’s racist jokes, stereotypes or negative attitudes. If someone says something inappropriate, speak up. Silence condones racism.

    Example: Challenge racist social media post via comments.
  2. Don’t expect Indigenous people to educate you

    Allies know Indigenous history through self-education. Indigenous people are only about 3% of the population, and have different levels of knowledge about culture history. Therefore, it’s not reasonable to expect Indigenous people to educate you.

    Example: learn about the impact of the stolen generations by watching Healing Foundation videos. 
  3. Appreciate the diversity among Indigenous people

    Indigenous people are not all the same. Differences may be based on age, gender, connection to culture, geography and nation. And remember, differences don’t make people more or less Indigenous.

    Example: appreciate that Indigenous people may have different views on the same topic.
  4. Please stick with us even when things are tough

    Championing Indigenous equity isn’t always easy. An ally stands with us at all times, not just when it is easy or fun.

    Example: Add your name to Indigenous-led campaigns and share them on social media.
  5. Promote Indigenous voices

    Allies allow Indigenous people to speak for themselves. Centring Indigenous people on issues impacting them means making sure that their voices are heard.

    Example: on social media, promote articles, infographics and videos by Indigenous people or their organisations.
  6. Be prepared to not be part of decision making

    Indigenous people live their culture, they experience the world as an Indigenous person and know their communities best. Therefore, a good ally appreciates Indigenous need to make the decisions impacting them.

    Example: Ask Indigenous people their views on matters relating to them rather than making decisions yourself.
  7. Don’t go it alone

    Indigenous people should be leading events or issues involving Indigenous people. This means non-Indigenous people need to support Indigenous people to take the leadership role.

    Example: If a NAIDOC school event is being organised, make sure you ask the Indigenous person who is leading what you can do to help.