Why we need to highlight First Nations voices on social media

This week was National Reconciliation Week and we used this opportunity catch up with one of our favourite influencers, Sari-Ella Thaiday. Sari shares with us her experiences as an Indigenous Australian woman on social media, opens up about trolling, and talks about some of her favourite First Nations content creators.

How long have you been active on social media? What do your social platforms means to you?

I’ve been active on social media just like everyone else, first starting off in high school, however, my social media only took off early 2020 when I created TikTok. Since then I was able to grow my platform to what it is now. My social media platforms mean a lot to me because it’s helped amplify my voice as well as my communities voice. It’s special because I know through my platform, I have the potential to be heard on a larger scale and try to utilise that to speak out on relevant issues. 

Why do you think it’s important to highlight First Nation’s voices on social media? 

It seems as though social media is our only outlet to highlight First Nations voices. We obviously have NITV or ABC Indigenous, but I feel like most of their viewers are Indigenous. In regards to mainstream media and television, there’s little to no Indigenous representation, and I also find that the only time Indigenous issues are discussed in the media, we’re depicted in a negative light, and issues exclusive to First Nations people, are up for debate and discussion with the non-indigenous majority, who wouldn’t understand what it’s like to live a single day as an Indigenous Australian

With the lack of representation, there’s no one in the media to better educate or explain important issues, often you find that the media will only include an Indigenous person in the discussion if they’re palatable and share the same views so that they can be used as a “defence” for others to justify that being offensive to the Indigenous community is okay. Jacinta Price is a good example of that. 

These reasons above, are a good example as to why highlighting Indigenous issues on social media is so important. You would know that for a fact, all the information, is coming directly from an Indigenous creator with lived experiences, or an ally supporting Indigenous Australians. The social media accounts that amplify Indigenous voices, are not owned by people or organisations with biased political agendas, and are purely there to raise awareness on equality. And, most importantly, these social media accounts amplify Indigenous Australians, are not afraid to sugar coat the issues as well as history, which many of Australian politicians, media and education system try so hard to deny or cover up.

Social media accounts seem to be the better option, especially when it comes to education. This country won’t do it, so creators on social media will.

Have you had experiences being trolled online?

Yes, every single day. In fact, I turned it into a little series on my Instagram where I’d paste a racist troll comment in a pic and troll them back. It happens so often, it’s not even shocking or saddening anymore. It’s just understanding that people genuinely have no empathy or simply aren’t educated. I’m often called all sorts of slurs and racist/ ignorant stereotypes are thrown my way all the time. I generally just troll them back and block afterwards. In some cases though, and it’s happened on multiple occasions that some people have dedicated a lot of their spare time to harassing me, a troll account will go through my content and say horrible things, I’d end up blocking the account, only for them to come back and do the same with a new account. Someone did that to me this morning actually, and went through the trouble of making three fake accounts. I just think to myself, who’s got the time and energy to do that?

Do you think being an indigenous Australian makes you more susceptible to trolling? 

Without a doubt. As soon as you post a video, you don’t even need to be discussing an issue, you could be putting on makeup and someone will call you a “gorilla” or “poo skin”. 

I scroll through my social media content and see a cute video of an Indigenous baby that the mother had posted, and when I open the comment section I expect to see people talking about how cute the baby is. But, instead, all I see are troll comments saying things like “Centrelink”.

As well as that, there are a lot of people out there, whose only purpose on social media is to troll Indigenous creators. I often get a lot of hate comments, so I do a lot of blocking, but I’ll often screenshot the comments, especially if they’re outrageous. Sooner or later I’ll see one of my friends send a message to our group chat talking about how a racist troll just attacked them. I’d have a look at the username and realise, oh my gosh, this person’s harassed me too! I’d then scroll through social media and see other Indigenous creators making video replies to troll comments, and I’ll see that they’re also replying to the same accounts that I’ve blocked. It seems to me that these particular people create fake accounts, with no face or name and go on to social media platforms and scroll through relevant hashtags we use e.g “always was always will be” “Aboriginal” “Torres Strait Islander” for the sole purpose of finding mass amounts of Indigenous creators to harass. 

Do you feel there is enough indigenous representation on platforms like TikTok and IG?

Not enough in my opinion. If you were to ask me how many verified Indigenous creators there were on TikTok, I don’t think I could even name 5. I feel as if we’re only just starting to be recognised as a lot of the Indigenous creators came into relevance in the past year or so. 

Even still, when it comes to representation, we need to be mindful of the fact that brands and companies who want to work with us are not doing it for their own benefit to receive a few diversity points. I often find that when NAIDOC or Reconciliation comes around, that’s when people and brands reach out to me the most and want to use my platform. It’s good to see representation, but what about using Indigenous people all throughout the year just like they would for any other non-indigenous creator?

I am still waiting to see my Indigenous friends, who have just as much following as I do and post more than me, become verified so that they can be seen and heard more. But, so far that hasn’t happened, yet brands and companies are still so eager to exploit them for nothing in return.

Who are your favourite content creators/people that you follow?

I have so many but I’ll list my favourites on tiktok:
@meissa.com.au
@bala_wolz
@officially_underrated
@asmallrash
@howdoidelete1
@tilly.gov.au
@nichrichie
@balaclint
@ianz95

What does National Reconciliation Week mean to you?

It’s a tough one because sometimes it feels like it’s pointless. When you want to close a gap between one side and another, both sides need to contribute. There’s an entire week dedicated to reconciliation, welcoming the non-indigenous community to step in and embrace Indigenous culture. But, we’re often hit with nasty comments and complainers, asking why do we get a whole week etc.. Well, it’s not about one community. This is for ALL communities to come together. And if people don’t want to come together, then they’re contributing to widening the gap.

What would you like to see businesses and individuals do to take action this NRW?

I’d personally like to see businesses not only recognise Indigenous issues and people this week, but rather include us throughout the year. 

What would you like to see the government do this NRW? 

Out of all things, it’s the government that should do the most. I have a lot to say about this one but I’ll keep it short. 

Ideally, for me, reconciliation would mean not actually acting like a racist. Learning to accept the fact the system is corrupt, and implement changes. But it’s unlikely that would happen.

I’d personally like to see them do the BARE MINIMUM and raise our flags and not just their own. 

But the ultimate goal would be constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians to better protect us. As well as a treaty. Why is there no treaty? 

Furthermore, raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 and actually protecting Indigenous Australians from deaths in Police Custody. 

Why do you feel the work of JustSoicale is valuable for indigenous communities?

It’s extremely valuable because Indigenous Australians are often forgotten about and aren’t as protected as we’d like to be, that extra bit of support, although small, may just help someone out.

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