By Jacob Hunter, a proud Gumbaynggirr man living on Dharug land. Passionate about all things media, Esports and mental health advocacy.
Connecting with your local community is a great way to support your social and emotional wellbeing. Making connections with people who understand your culture can be helpful in grounding yourself, because whatever challenges and hard times you face in life, your community understands what’s going on for you and can support you in ways that may not be possible for people who don’t share your cultural background.
But sometimes it can be hard to find out how to connect with your community, even when you really want to. That’s why we’ve put together this guide. It will help you to get involved with your local First Nations community in a way that feels natural and fun for you while also teaching you more about your culture.
Have a yarn with your mob
A great place to start is to talk with those people who are close to home. If possible, have a yarn with your family – be it your Aunties, Uncles, Elders or just your mob in general – about how to get involved with your community. Have a think beforehand about what sorts of questions you might want to ask them and what you might want their help with. This is a great chance to learn more about your culture too, as you’re likely to get suggestions in your own local community.
If you don’t know who your mob is and want to try to find out, there are plenty of resources that may be able to steer you in the right direction. For instance, groups such as Aboriginal Affairs NSW do a great job of helping Aboriginal people in New South Wales to access records relating to both themselves and their immediate ancestors.
Here are some other useful resources:
- First Peoples – State Relations VIC
- Family History Search – RBDM QLD
- National Link-Up Network
- AIATSIS Family History
- Find & Connect (Australian Orphanages & Other Institutions)
Finding out what land you’re on
If you’re keen to find out what’s going on in your local area, a good place to start is to know what land you’re on. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) has you covered with its map of First Nations Australia.
A great way to find centres, events and organisations to get involved with is by checking your local council’s website (especially during NAIDOC Week) or community notice boards. Social media, especially local Facebook groups, can be a valuable tool for this. You’ll also find a lot of useful information simply by googling ‘Aboriginal Events’.
Check out some events at NAIDOC Week
NAIDOC Week is an annual community celebration of the history and culture of Australia’s First Nations communities.
This year, NAIDOC Week will be held on 2–9 July. The theme is ‘For Our Elders’, which encourages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to pay their respects to their Elders, both past and present, and to draw strength from their knowledge and experience.
During NAIDOC Week, First Nations people from across the country meet together at community-driven events. There are many different ways to get involved and have fun during the week.
Some of these events can include:
- family fun days (including performances, petting zoos, art displays and more)
- art exhibitions (visual and audio storytelling from the perspective of First Nations artists)
- Dreamtime story retelling (both books and speakers)
- group dinners/lunches
- First Nations public speakers sharing their experiences or stories.
To find out what’s on this year’s official schedule, have a look at NAIDOC’s website.
Find some cultural groups near you
Throughout Australia there are many different open community groups that First Nations people can join to learn more about different aspects of their culture. Often these groups are local, so you may have to do some research into what’s going on in your area. But here are a few examples:
- If you’re in Sydney and fancy yourself as a dancer, whether you’re experienced or just wanting to learn the basics, groups like Brolga Dance Academy run contemporary Aboriginal dance classes.
- If you’re in Perth and into singing, community choir groups such as Madjitil Moorna meet up regularly to sing First Nations songs in both English and their local Noongar language.
- If you’ve ever thought about getting into DJing, producing or presenting on the radio, Koori Radio is a community radio station in Sydney that offers young First Nations creators the chance to get involved in the industry.
Have a think about your interests, and try googling these within your local area. If you can’t find anything, check with your local Aboriginal community centre or medical centre.
Join a First Nations sports team
Joining a sports team can be a great opportunity to make friends and connect with people with similar interests to you. Plus, when you’re focused on a game, it can often lessen the pressure of socialising with new people.
- Aussie Rules: There are heaps of different football clubs for young First Nations people throughout Australia, such as the Fitzroy Stars. Plus, groups like AFL Victoria have some great First Nations programs and tournaments to check out. If you're into AFL, be sure to watch Yokayi Footy, a panel show on NITV that explores the game from a young, First Nations perspective.
- Basketball: Groups such as Indigenous Basketball Australia (IBA) run a grassroots-level program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aussies who are interested in improving their skills and having fun with a new group of people. The IBA also holds higher level competitions for those selected to represent their region.
- Rugby League: When it comes to NRL, there are First Nations clubs all over the place, including the Illawarra Titans and the Bourke Warriors. There’s also large annual events such as the Koori Knockout and Murri Rugby League Carnival to check out.
- Netball: Netball NSW puts on gala days and tournaments. There are also lots of clubs specifically for First Nations players that you could check out, such as the Didjurigur Netball Club, Murri Taipans and the Deadly Dragonfliez.
- Soccer/Football: The most popular sport in the world has events and teams you can get involved with. The NSW First Nations Football Festival features many First Nations teams, such as the Northern Nations FC, while the Moriarty Foundation runs programs across Australia for First Nations people.
Plus, don’t forget to check out when the Indigenous Round is being held for your favourite sport and go along. There’s usually lots of community there, and chances to meet athletes and to celebrate your culture.
Head to an Aboriginal Education Centre
Over the last 20 years, heaps of progress has been made in providing First Nations students with opportunities to connect with their local communities.
For information about First Nations programs at your local TAFE, you can start your search here:
If you’re a First Nations student who is studying at university, you’ll have access to Aboriginal Education Centres. These centres help First Nations students to learn about their culture, get together in a relaxed and comfortable setting, and become involved in all areas of university life. If you’re not sure what’s available at your uni, you can check out this list.
It’s a big world out there, and it can be hard to know what steps to take to get connected with people like you. If joining groups and putting yourself out there socially feels daunting to you, another great way to connect with people is online.
There are amazing First Nations TikTok content creators like Emily (@howdoidelete1), Nich (@nichrichie) and Joey (joey_alt) for you to check out. If you look up hashtags such as #aboriginaltiktok #aboriginalgamer and #firstnationstikok, you’ll be able to browse for First Nations content creators to relate to or who might inspire you.
In the gaming world, there are platforms such as Discord or Twitch where you can find communities and interact with streamers/content creators and players of games you may be interested in. First Nations gaming content creators to check out could include Gonebub and her Discord community, and Lupawold152 and her Discord community.
These are just some of the ways in which you can connect more with your local First Nations communities and meet new people. Connecting with your community as a First Nations person can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, as well as great fun.
What can I do now?
- Check out our Yarn Up collection for more articles and videos about young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people staying safe and deadly.
- Watch our video with Sonboy, an Aboriginal hip hop artist, on how role models changed his life.
- Have a look at what courses on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture are on offer at your local TAFE.