When Britain colonised this country, bringing their own economic and political system with them, Indigenous people have been subject to live in a capitalist society.
While we continue to advocate for structural change— one that redresses the inequity within Australia —through pursuit of self-determination, treaty and political policies that bring about distribution of opportunities, we do so with the knowledge that you cannot unscramble an egg. Contrary to mainstream media depictions, we are not vengeful people seeking to displace the many non-Indigenous that now call this land home.
This country is home to many and we, as a people, would love to see it flourish. But not necessarily in the way that our governmental powerbrokers would.
When you’re not in the country's powerful category of the wealthy sector, you are vulnerable. Yet policies that are implemented by the government have much greater implications for you than those in these privileged positions. While they are provided with tax breaks, those on the opposite end of the spectrum are facing higher taxes, lower wage growth, higher living costs, while simultaneously continually defending our rights.
Those who grow up in poverty are likely to continue to be marginalised in adulthood. This has flow on implications that those with wealth simply do not consider. The working poor who are unable to afford annual dental check-ups to address any dental issues early, eventuates in a costly root canal or extraction. The casualised workforce and uncertain conditions giving rise to people fighting illness without any safety net or support, being denied governmental support while contending their own mortality.
Due to the fact that Indigenous people have only been earning wages since the late 1970s and therefore do not have generations of wealth and inheritance like so much of the non-Indigenous population does, most of us do not have the individual wealth required to make an impact that will have big business paying attention. It is this vulnerability that gives us the opportunity to flip the coin. Pun intended. We can collectivise in the way we think and spend to ensure that, together, our impact is material.
We can do the opposite of what powerbrokers want us to do. Instead of giving in to the competitive ‘dog-eat-dog’ world narrative they want us to believe, we need to set our sights on the top end of town and start making them accountable to us. After all, the government work for us. They are responsible for spending our tax dollars in ways that make us feel like we are a generous and safe society. One in which we can have comfort that if anyone falls on hard times, they will be taken care of so they can come out the other side stronger, not destroyed.
As December approaches and we head into the time of year when consumer consumption reaches excess, we need to take a moment to consider what we are contributing to the festive season, despite our desire to spoil our families.
Shopping “small”, for example, is a significant disruption of the capitalist model.
By opting for a local, small business— say, an independent coffee shop or café, above a chain store conglomerate —is disrupting. By shopping at local markets and swap meets, instead of variety stores that are concerned with profits, you are disrupting the corporatocracy.
A particularly significant impact for us is not only spending small, but also—where possible —at Indigenous businesses. We are now off the back of Indigenous Business Month (October), so it’s is well-timed to give thought to approaching festive spending and finding ways to redirect to businesses that are not only Indigenous owned and operated, but are likely employing a considerable number of Indigenous people.
Look for things made or sold by Indigenous people. Jewelry, clothing, even activewear; we have a wealth of talented entrepreneurs out there and we can help by supporting them. When we lift each other up, we are all lifted up.
Think about your daily life and whether you can change the way you spend to reduce the amount of money that gets distributed as end-of-year profits for big corporates. Can you support a local Indigenous hairdresser or barber? Can you get your nails done by a small business? Can you get a cake made by a local stay-at-home Mum doing her side hustle while raising her kids? Can you head down to the markets to buy something for that birthday party your child was invited to?
When we live in a world where almost every product is treated as replaceable and everything can be purchased for a price, we have landfills reaching capacity with our waste and an environmental catastrophe.
We need to switch our way of thinking and make decisions daily that thwart these issues continuing into the future.
While we may be the most vulnerable group of people in this country, many would argue that we are the most generous and we should be helping each other out when and where we can.
We can support reusing, repurposing and recycling. If you have something good that can be used, talk to your communities online and see if anyone could use it and pay it forward. Tapping into the networks on social media and local circles will be an invaluable resource in our resistance of the repetitive spending and waste that this society has become.
If you know there is sorry business, try to organise carpools for travel or a ‘passing of the hat’ to help out with fuel costs for elders. If you know there are members of the community doing it tough, even if you don’t have much yourself (most of us don’t), invite them around for a feed or drop off a feed for them.
If you work for a business that is upgrading, don’t let them get rid of office furniture and supplies without checking in with local Indigenous not-for-profit organisations to see if they could use them.
If you have baby clothes, pass them on to a new Mum or local women’s centre.
If you have books that have been read and are collecting dust on the shelf, contact schools in remote communities and see if they could use them.
It’s important to know that with your decisions, you are disrupting. You are putting food on the table for an Aboriginal artist when you buy some hand-painted earrings. You are supporting the cost of footy boots for a family when you support a local Aboriginal barber. You are also going to, eventually, be that source of frustration for big business, and that of itself is a reward, right?
Without question, this country and our system of governance requires whole scale reform, but this is something that will be resisted by the powerful because they stand to ‘lose’ from their perspective of power. While we continue to agitate for change, we can make an impact to disrupt the capitalist system by simply using our money in an organised way that flies in the face of Australian corporatocracy.
Natalie Cromb is a Gamilaroi writer, Indigenous affairs editor of Independent Australia, social justice activist, legal professional and mother. Follow Natalie @NatalieCromb