After appearing on the Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise, Brooke Blurton decided to use her fame in a positive way. (Instragram: @brooke.blurton)
Yamatji Noongar woman Brooke Blurton walks in two worlds — that of her ancient culture, to which she feels deeply connected, and that of her social media fame, thrust upon her after a stint on reality television.
- Brooke Blurton is one of many young Indigenous people using social media platforms to highlight her culture and its history
- Instagram, Tiktok, and Twitter are new forms of activism, both free and accessible.
- Indigenous influencers say educating their allies is proving a successful way to deliver messages about culture, history, and racial discrimination
Ms Blurton does not like the term ‘influencer’ and would prefer to be known for her day job, as a youth worker. She will soon begin a degree in psychology to further help people.
With 198,000 followers she could support herself by promoting teeth whitening products and going on luxury, sponsored holidays.
But Ms Blurton feels a responsibility to use her reach to educate the wider community about her culture and the issues Indigenous Australians face.
The 25-year-old who grew up in Carnarvon, 890 kilometres north of Perth, said she had a tumultuous childhood.
At the age of 11, Ms Blurton’s mother died in a car accident. A month later, her grandmother — her other primary carer — died.
“I think anyone who experiences trauma so young, you learn to be a lot more resilient,” she said.
“I think it has definitely made me more appreciative of life in general and also appreciative of whatever you have in front of you.”
While she also has good memories of her childhood, she grew up surrounded by the issues Indigenous people living in remote areas still face today.
“Aboriginal people are definitely overrepresented, and not in the most positive light,” she said.
“We are 3 per cent of the population and we experience the most psychological distress and mental health issues and drug and alcohol problems.
“There was a lot of drug and alcohol violence [around me],
“I was also taken and put into foster homes, I went through a few experiences that aren’t normal in a normal household.
“But coming out of it you realise those experiences teach you so much, teach you a life that you don’t need to be confined to.”
In 2018, Ms Blurton made Australian reality television history, becoming the first Aboriginal woman to appear on The Bachelor.
While Ms Blurton was looking for love, she said she never expected the fame that would follow.
While Brooke Blurton now lives in Perth, she was born and spent most of her early childhood in Carnarvon. (Instagram: @brooke.blurton)
“The followers and the media expectations afterwards, I didn’t really expect,” she said.
“The followers now come with a responsibility and I feel obligated to use my platform for a better use.”
While Ms Blurton is aligned with several brands, she also uses her platform to share messages about her Aboriginal culture and to encourage young Indigenous women to embrace their identity.
“Watching mainstream media, whether I was watching Home and Away or Neighbours, I didn’t have any women who represented me or young girls who represented me.
“I think now, having this platform, I think I am that and I have to actually take that as a responsibility that in a way this is positive for young girls… because once upon a time I didn’t have that.”
Rise of Indigenous influencers
Ms Blurton is among many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people using Instagram, Tiktok, and various other platforms to highlight issues Indigenous people face and share the history of their culture.
Blakbusiness educating wider community on whether it’s okay to wear Indigenous merchandise
Koori woman Olivia Williams runs the Instagram account @blakbusiness, which she initially started to promote Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs.
Over the past year her account has evolved as a tool to educate the wider community on topics such as wearing Indigenous merchandise, changing the date, and cultural appreciation.
“The more content I was putting out, the more I saw there was a need for basic education,” Ms Williams said.
“Things that within our community seem basic, but those out of our community didn’t know a lot about.
“I started creating content for that, mostly for allies. Allies are my biggest engagement now, but I still go back to the original purpose of Blakbusiness in promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesspeople.”
The 22-year-old said her engagement was mostly positive and while she did get the occasional negative comment, she regularly gets more questions about Indigenous culture.
All of her work is proofed by other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, to ensure the message is getting across correctly.
“It’s a lot more work that just putting words on pretty Instagram slides,” she said.
“I typically either research myself or I often call people. I talk to a lot of community members around me [and] a lot my friends are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“I talk with people older than me to try and get opinions that are inclusive because of course, like any community, we have lots of stances on lots of things.”
New type of activism
More and more young Indigenous people are taking to social media platforms, using funny memes and sarcastic videos to express their views on important issues such as changing the date or the racism they receive.
Professor Bronwyn Carlson says it is refreshing to see young people taking up the cause on different platforms. (Supplied: Bronwyn Carlson)
Bronwyn Carlson is head of Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University in Sydney.
She said using free, open platforms was an excellent tool to educate the wider community that Aboriginal people are just that — people.
“You can see in this Closing the Gap [campaign] at the moment, we’ve got Pauline Hanson coming out saying really derogatory things about Indigenous people,” she said.
To see Indigenous people doing everyday activities, participating in everyday things like shows, dating, and laughing is really important to outweigh some of the stuff.
“We don’t want to turn on the TV or radio and only hear problematic things; we actually want to see our own young people representing themselves in ways that they’d like to.”
Professor Carlson said more young people were using social media to share their everyday experiences.
“It actually makes me smile when I see young people out there, using these platforms, living their lives,” she said.
“You see people may be facing discrimination on Australia Day, for example, and I see on Tiktok young black fellas on there putting up funny videos.
“We just think it is really good to see they are still picking up the fight, even if it is on a different platform.
“There are many ways to be an activist and it’s not just holding up a placard in the street.”
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