The Pro-Equity Glossary is a collaborative vocabulary of keywords and terms that inform and enrich the Equity—Builder.
The alphabetical index consists of more than 100 commonly-used and emergent terms that serve as building-blocks for considering how we think about and practise intersectional justice. It exemplifies how language has the transformative power to go from harm to heal, lack to learn, and deficit to desire.
These glossary terms are non-exhaustive and were gathered through conversations and consultations with Arts House’s critical friends and advisory groups. We will make periodical updates to the index as language evolves.
Access intimacy is the nuanced or transformative feeling of trust that a person feels upon realising someone else understands their access needs. This experience can happen instantly or on-going, between friends or strangers, disabled and able-bodied people, institutions and the individual.
Access intimacy ranges from physiological relief (‘feeling seen’, eased tension, emotionally relaxed) to actions (receiving personalised care, actioning access riders, being driven to the hospital, sharing food). It is about recognising someone’s needs, vulnerability, anxiety, trauma or relief without the need to explain or validate.
Accountability means embracing responsibility for one’s behaviour and decisions, and their intentional and unintentional consequences. Accountability is a relational skill that requires self-reflection, honesty and willingness, especially when taking responsibility or making repairs for actions that have caused harm.
Accountability can be exercised within and towards oneself (intrapersonally), as well as with and towards others (interpersonally).
Extending from this, ‘centred accountability’ is the intention to move beyond apology for wrong-doing into proactive action that builds reflective and equitable connections and relationships. Centred accountability considers how equitable communities can thrive from shared accountabilities – such as between an institution and its staff or patrons, or between government and constituents.
Afrofuturism is an artistic, cultural and intellectual movement that imagines a liberated future for Black peoples.
Afrofuturism blends elements of technology, music, visual arts, history, speculative fiction, sci-fi and fantasy with cultural critique to expand possibilities and visions of the future, also shaping our experience of the present.
Terms like Afrocene, Afrosurrealism, and Afrocentricity also interrogate these concepts.
Afrofuturism has inspired various other futurist movements, such as Indigenous Futurism.
In social justice contexts, an ‘ally’ refers to a person seeking to support the plight of an oppressed group that they are not a part of. An ally is usually someone in a socio-political position of relative power, privilege or dominance to the group they seek to align with (ie. men as feminist allies; White allies against racism; able-bodied allies against ableism).
Allyship can be a useful entry point for those eager to use their privilege constructively. However, the framework of ‘allyship’ has many limitations. Allyship discourse often prioritises individual actions over collective organising. Moreover, allyship often places greater emphasis on the voices, anxieties, questions and education of dominant social groups rather than the calls to action, strategy, expertise and experiences of marginalised communities and their visions for justice.
Anti-Blackness describes how Black peoples, throughout global histories of colonialism, imperialism, enslavement and displacement, have been uniquely targeted, exploited and dehumanised.
Anti-Blackness is the pervasive and violent construction of Black people as the bottom of white supremacist racial hierarchy.
Anti-Blackness is a racist belief system that fundamentally denies Black peoples’ personhood in order to justify many forms of disposability, violence and subjugation. This is evident in Black peoples’ global experiences of hyper-incarceration and criminalisation, racial profiling, police brutality, over-surveillance, and racialised barriers to accessing basic necessities.
Anti-Blackness is broader than but closely entwined with colourism.
Anti-racism seeks to dismantle oppressive systems to create an equitable, just, and inclusive society for all.
To be anti-racist is to think consciously about racism and to take actions to abolish racial inequity, with the belief that people and communities from all socio-cultural backgrounds have an ongoing role to play in eliminating racism.
Anti-racism work includes organising, protesting, speaking up on behalf of marginalised communities, challenging racist systems and behaviours, and education about racialised policies and practices.
For White people, being anti-racist means putting in the work to understand the inequities of privilege and power. For non-White people, it means recognising instances of internalised racism and prejudice and working to interrupt this.
Autoethnography is the autobiographical genre of writing that presents multiple levels of consciousness to connect the personal with the cultural. This results in personal and embodied responses and reflections.
Usually, autoethnography entails a radical re-centering: from observing the ‘exotic other’ and their worlds to studying the environment or culture that the writer or researcher themselves inhabits and understands.
To belong is to feel and exist as an active part of a place, community of people, or cultural legacy. Inwardly, belonging can show up as a felt sense of being accepted, embraced, and included by others, or within a larger whole. Outwardly, people enact belonging by contributing to care and connection to one another, their environment and cultures.
Oppressive political structures often weaponise ideas of belonging to maintain control and conformity, with dominant group ideologies deciding who belongs, who does not belong, and the cost of belonging.
Black people are descended from African, Melanesian or First Nations communities, who are racialised as, and identify as, Black.
Black peoples’ struggles against oppression, historically and currently, show that we cannot flatten the experiences of Blackness with other People of Colour, for it sidesteps the truth.
Certain effects of racism disproportionately affect Black people, and Anti-Black discrimination is perpetuated by other communities of colour.
Through migration, mobility and displacement, Black peoples with ancestral connections to Africa and Melanesia form important and growing communities in our city.
‘Blak’ is an identity term used by many First Nations people.
Artist Destiny Deacon is widely recognised for using the term ‘Blak’ in her 1991 artwork Blak lik mi, and in 1994 Boomalli Aboriginal Artist Co-operative presented a group exhibition Blakness: Blak City Culture!, crediting Deacon’s coinage.
The term ‘Blak’ is used as a reclamation of the historical, representational, and stereotypical notions of Blackness — a word that has been associated with racism and oppression — by omitting the ‘c’.
The Blak experience is different from the racialised experiences of non-Indigenous and non-Black People of Colour, and its usage continues to evolve.
Care ethics consider how care is enacted and understood within civic culture.
Ethical care means valuing interconnectedness over individualistic needs, and can manifest through collective mobilising, social protest, sharing knowledge, and taking care of others.
In the context of the Equity—Builder, we believe that anti-racism, data healing, trauma-informed practices, and climate justice work are crucial for the sustenance of our ecology, beyond the arts sector.
Climate justice is an ongoing pledge for planetary care. It takes into account equity and fairness when working to regenerate ecosystems and communities affected by the climate crisis.
This issue is more than just environmental and ecological. In the context of the Equity—Builder, climate justice is about racial and social justice: it recognises the inequities between people living in vulnerable, conflict prone countries — who suffer the most from climate harm — and colonialist and wealthy economies and how they have contributed the most towards eco-destruction. The discrepancies between these countries and socioeconomic groups have led to environmental destruction, community displacement, food insecurity, eco-terrorism, and water shortages.
Intersectional climate justice works to find solutions and circulates their benefits and impacts equitably and fairly.
Examples of climate justice in action include: practising and supporting First Nations knowledge systems, taking climate-active measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, eco-focused policy changes, investing in green technology, divesting from fossil fuels or mass-produced waste, and recycling programs.
The Collective Bookmark is the Equity—Builder’s open-access platform. Powered by Are.na, it houses toolkits, templates, readings and case studies that spotlight equity from around the globe.
These ideas and resources expand on the E—B through the wider movements and change-work happening within the areas of representation, self-determination, cultural safety, solidarity-building, and reparation and harm reduction.
The resources in the Collective Bookmark are periodically updated by a constellation of Arts House critical friends and advisory groups, and draw from the well spring of grassroots, community organising, and institutional spaces locally and globally.
Colourism is the discrimination, bias, and harsh or violent treatment that darker skinned people face, in tandem with the preferential treatment of lighter skinned people. Colourism is about the demonisation of Blackness and African physical appearance, and the prioritisation of people more proximate to Eurocentric physical ideals.
Colourism informs how people are judged and treated based on not only their race or ethnicity, but skin colour, hair texture, facial and bodily features. Colourism functions within and across racial and ethnic categories and cultures, influencing who is portrayed as beautiful, desirable, trustworthy, intelligent, and deserving of respect and dignity.
Community / Communities
Community usually refers to a group of people who share a particular characteristic, or who live in a shared place.
Communities can be place-based, such as a neighbourhood community, suburb or region.
Communities can be formed on the basis of shared experience for example the international student communities or rural communities.
A community is often also identity based, forged through shared ethnicity, nationality, orientation, religion etc.
Community can also be defined by relationships of responsibility and reciprocity, meaning the connections sustained between people who know, support and help to sustain one another over time and often generations.
Continuous improvement is about adapting and refining processes and outcomes so that we can actively grow and learn from limitations, mistakes, challenges and conflicts.
For the Equity—Builder, we hope to foster a culture of continuous improvement between individuals, institutions, collaborators and the community — so that we can strive for equitable longevity within our work and ways of being and engaging with the world.
To co-opt is to take something for one’s own use, or to divert something from its original role into a new role.
Political co-optation is the process of one group taking and diverting something for their own benefit. Co-optation can involve tangible, physical resources, such as the co-optation of public housing into private housing; or intangible resources like language, ideologies and information.
In Elite Capture, scholar Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò exposes how powerful and elite institutions co-opt social justice concepts such as identity politics and social transformation, in order to entrench power and status quo, rather than
radically disrupt it.
Country, often capitalised as a proper noun, refers to an area of land associated with a culturally distinct group of First Nations people.
It is also used to describe the lands, skies, and waterways that Aboriginal people are connected to or have kinship with.
Broadly, the term also encompasses ideas about family, language, customs, spiritual traditions, cultural practices, material sustenance, and identity.
As a term used by disability justice theorists and disabled people and those living with chronic illness, crip time is a reorientation of ‘normative time’ by expanding its accommodations in an equitable way. The notion of ‘I’m running on crip time’ refers to the flexible approach to time a person might need to perform a task or action or travel somewhere due to their access requirements.
To be critical is to be able to evaluate and analyse information and generate evidence-based and rigorous insights about its accuracy, merits and faults.
‘Discourse’ commonly refers to discussion or debate on a specific topic, especially in a public or social forum.
Therefore, participating in critical discourse means developing the ability to critically question, interpret and analyse ideas exchanged about a topic, building both personal and collective rigour.
Cultural appropriation happens when a person from one culture adopts the practices, languages and iconography from another culture that they do not belong to, often for material or social gain. This includes misappropriating trends or styles extracted from oppressed or historically-marginalised people and communities.
Cultural load, also known as cultural labour, describes the unequally-distributed work that communities surviving cultural oppression are expected to take on as a matter of responsibility tied to their identity.
Cultural load operates on many levels of a person’s life at once, including professional, familial, community, care-giving, financial and health.
In professional settings, cultural load involves unfair and unreasonable expectations of workers from marginalised communities, that workers from a dominant White background are not expected to undertake. For example, explaining one’s cultural or religious practices in the workplace, or educating other workers about racism. This cultural work is often exploited, going unrecognised and uncompensated.
Cultural safety is the process of fostering an environment that is safe(r) for specific cultural groups. A person is culturally safe when they can embody and express their cultural identity fully and be received with understanding and dignity by others.
Even in spaces where prejudice and racist sentiments are not openly expressed, ignorance and incomprehension about a person’s culture can still subject them to unsafe treatment.
Cultural safety, like all forms of safety, is difficult to define because of the varied needs that people hold, both as groups and as individuals. What helps one person to feel safe may not support another person. The first goal of cultural safety is shared understanding about a person or group’s needs.
Cultural safety frameworks originated within First Nations-led healthcare and health advocacy, and have since been adopted by other sectors and institutions, such as Arts House.
Recruiters and workplaces often look for a ‘culture fit’ in an effort to be inclusive. However, writer Ruchika Tulshyan, through her book, Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work, calls for people to move away from a historic ‘culture fit’ mentality and shift towards ‘culture add’, which focuses on diverse lived experiences and inclusivity. Research shows that ‘culture add’ can reduce groupthink and lead to creative thinking and generative outcomes.
Cyberfeminism usually refers to the feminist practice of theorising, critiquing and disrupting the Internet, cyberspace and techno-culture. Although this term has morphed throughout history, its origins can be traced to VNS Matrix, an Australian artist collective who coined ‘cyberfeminism’ in 1991 by incorporating this into their seminal text A Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st Century. During this time, UK writer Sadie Plant birthed the term to define the feminising influence of technology on Western society. In Cyberfeminism Index, New York-based artist and technologist Mindy Seu addresses how this exclusionary term led to inclusive cyberfeminist movements around the world, such as Black cyberfeminism, Arab cyberfeminism, and transhack feminism.
Data healing considers how we reorient our engagement with social media by combining technology and spirituality to envision what joy, repair and belonging could look like in a digital age.
For the Equity—Builder, we are using data healing to collate and circulate knowledges that have informed our roadmap towards pro-equity and racial justice.
Data trauma is the psychological manifestation of experiencing harmful and triggering content online.
The term was created by media artist and programmer Olivia McKayla Ross to refer to the compounding effects of engaging with digital content designed to diminish, antagonise, or exploit.
Examples include cyberbullying, censorship, deplatforming, or being exposed to violent or predatory content. Its antidote is data healing.
Decolonial dreaming is the envisioning of an equitable and transformative world for Black and First Nations people and People of Colour — through the empowerment of collective imagination.
Restorative and subversive, this practice may materialise through movements to reclaim and continue ancestral and cultural knowledges (such as Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property), as well as originating new visions and creations in service of autonomy, dignity and possibility (such as Afrofuturism).
Decolonial dreaming instils the importance of keeping intentions of liberation, imagination, creativity and collaborative ingenuity ever-present, especially when facing oppression or discrimination.
Decolonisation is the political process of formerly colonised peoples becoming independent from the oppression and rulership of colonising forces.
Decolonisation means the tangible, physical return of land, stolen resources, and control of governance, to the First Nations/colonised people of a specific territory.
Because colonisation and imperialism are historically and globally vast forces, decolonial action may look different across time and place, but its goal is the restoration of land and power to colonised peoples.
A diaspora is a cultural group that is living away from their region of origin via migration or displacement. Diasporas are defined by their connection to an original homeland, at times neglecting cross-diasporic connections.
Building on the disability rights movement, disability justice acknowledges the intersectionality of disabled people who belong to additional marginalised communities. It aims to create ongoing change for people with disabilities by taking a comprehensive approach to help secure rights for people who identify as Black, First Nations, global diaspora and LGBTQI+ communities, as well as people experiencing incarceration, financial hardship and social exclusion.
Coined by disabled queer collective Sins Invalid in 2015, the term recognises these diverse structures of oppression and how they interact and impact each other, and finds ways to create ongoing change for multiple marginalised groups.
Diversity means variety and difference amongst a group of people or things. Diversity is a natural and essential state of all life forms and ecosystems.
In the context of equity and justice work, diversity refers to seeking involvement or inclusion of people of different social backgrounds. Diversity initiatives often aim to address lack of diverse representation at the level of visibility or inclusion, without addressing the power dynamics that led to exclusion and lack of representation in the first place. This often results in tokenism and high cultural load for people hired to diversify teams and organisations.
In First Nations communities, an Elder is considered a ‘custodian of knowledge’ and a revered counsel figure due to their wisdom, cultural insight and lived experience.
While the role of Elders vary depending on groups and clans, Elders are primarily committed to sharing knowledge systems, providing guidance, deep listening, and teaching communities to maintain connections to land and Country. Many First Nations communities look up to Elders as authoritative and revered figures, regardless of age.
Emergent strategy occurs when spontaneous actions arise in an effort to shape the future we want to live in — through self-actualisation, collaboration and embracing change.
The term is inspired by Octavia Butler’s writing on our social relationship to change and adaptation, exemplifying the way birds learn to flock together and fungi branch out into a multi-network as acts of collective survival. Emergent strategy assesses our present conditions and offers this framework for radical resistance.
The goal of equity is to achieve and maintain fairness and justice for all people. Equity takes into account, and aims to extinguish, systemic inequalities to ensure communities have access to opportunities, resources and outcomes.
Equitable systems and practices are based on safety, belonging, dignity, and access to equally-distributed resources.
Whereas ‘equality’ means providing the same balances for all, equity recognises that we do not all start from the same place and must make adjustments to address these imbalances. To practise ‘pro-equity’ is to take action to ensure intersectional safety, repair, belonging, solidarity and self-determination is embedded into our way of life.
A person is in the ‘fear zone’ when they do not feel comfortable, safe or courageous to explore new information and perspectives, instead reinforcing only their existing beliefs, assumptions and behaviour. Avoidance, denial, fragility and insularity are behaviours common to the fear zone.
This is in contrast to the growth zone. Our articulation of growth and fear zones here is influenced by Ibram X Kendi’s model of moving from racist to anti-racist actions in How to be an antiracist.
First Nations refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who belong to the oldest continuing living culture in the world. In so-called Australia, First Nations is a collective term that describes hundreds of First Nations groups who have their own distinct set of cultural traditions, languages and stories.
Food politics addresses food production, distribution, consumption, as well as cultural, health, agricultural, and trade practices.
Food security unpacks this further by focusing on the rights of people to access healthy and culturally appropriate food, and the self-determination to shape their own food and agriculture ecologies through sustainable or ethical methods.
This term can also assess food waste, unsustainable livestock production, commercial agriculture, world hunger, and proposes solutions for equitable access and sustainability — through food banks, community gardening, fair trading, and equitable pay. For example, food-growing businesses would take steps to ensure they farm, seed, procure, trade, dispose of, and educate about, the sources of food in ways that honour a relationship with Country, culture and history.
Generative tension is when the presence of friction between two or more people’s opinions, feelings or perspectives can be harnessed to create new possibilities in their relationship. Tension is part of all learning processes and relationships, however it is not always appropriately nurtured to become generative.
Unequal and unnamed power dynamics, fear and fragility are barriers to generativity in relationships and dialogues, whereas care, reciprocity, growth and accountability are enabling factors. Instead of viewing conflict, tension and disagreement as inherently negative or harmful, we can learn to engage in generative tension as an essential process for forging new possibilities and ways of being and collaborating with people different from oneself.
Grassroots describes the most foundational level of an activity, cause, group or organisation. In the context of social justice and political movement-building work, grassroots refers to action at the level of a local community, often (but not exclusively) without the funding or support of larger organisations and institutions.
The growth zone is a stage of learning where one is ready to apply their learnings into their relationships, work, community and daily life. The growth zone is exemplified by courage, sharing, experimentation and trial and error learning.
This is in contrast to being stuck in the fear zone. Our articulation of growth and fear zones here is influenced by Ibram X Kendi’s model of moving from racist to anti-racist actions in How to be an antiracist.
Harm is damage or injury caused to a person or being. People can experience harm to different parts of their being such as physical harm or psychosocial harm.
Harm can be inflicted deliberately or unconsciously, or as the result of an accident. When we are trying to predict harm that could happen in the future as a result of certain behaviour or course of action, we call this a risk or hazard.
Harm and violence can be very similar and interrelated terms, but they are not equivalent. One could say that all forms of violence are harm, but not all forms of harm are necessarily violence. Violence, especially systemic acts of violence, involve exerting power or control over others. By contrast, harm can be caused without the means to exercise significant power or control over others (eg. harm caused to a person by their substance use; or harm resulting from a single misunderstanding or argument).
Its antidote is harm reduction.
Harm reduction, also known as harm minimisation, refers to a range of intentional practices and public health policies designed to lessen the negative social or physical consequences associated with various human behaviours.
Harm reduction is grounded in justice, human rights and positive change and is the antithesis to harmful actions, which involves damage or injury caused to a person, whether deliberate or not.
It can also be intra-personal, inter-personal or societal, since we can harm ourselves, harm others, and also experience harm collectively.
To hold space is to show up for someone and to listen deeply, without judgement or critique. It is about being present and providing a space for the person to be heard, seen and held, or feel loved and supported — rather than finding solutions to fix a problem or to move on. People can also commit to holding space for their own empowerment as a practice in self-care.
Inclusion is the process of allowing someone to share in an activity or privilege.
In the context of JEDI work, inclusion is strongly connected to diversity initiatives, whereby organisations seek to rectify the exclusion of marginalised groups by inviting their presence and involvement. Inclusion frameworks do not address the fundamental power dynamics that created an exclusive environment in the first place, and therefore are not sufficient to address inequity and injustice within organisations or societal groups at large. Furthermore, many communities are seeking self-determination and autonomy rather than inclusion into the very institutions and systems that cause harm.
Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP)
In law, Intellectual Property (IP) refers to knowledge or ideas belonging exclusively to an individual person or business. Ownership of one’s Intellectual Property is protected by various legal rights such as copyright, trademarking and patenting.
Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) goes beyond individual Intellectual Property to recognise and protect First Nations peoples’ collective rights to their cultural heritage, including sacred cultural material, traditional knowledge and resources. ICIP is not fully operationalised in Australian law, therefore only some facets of ICIP are able to be protected, leaving other aspects of Indigenous cultural heritage susceptible to exploitation.
Intersectionality refers to the ways in which a person’s identity or circumstances – such as age, race, culture, disability, gender, location or religion – can overlap and combine to affect their life experiences and beliefs. This takes into account their entangled experiences of discrimination, marginalisation, and privilege.
Intersectionality is a way of recognising that the various parts of a person’s experiences and identity cannot be considered in isolation, but are connected to complex social power dynamics.
JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion)
JEDI is an acronym used within the field of organisational change, standing for Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. JEDI approaches to change endeavour to make companies and organisations more inclusive and more appealing places for staff and service users from a diverse range of backgrounds to participate in.
Some argue that JEDI work within corporations and institutions has become commodified, becoming a brand, label or virtue signal that many institutions are eager to be associated with, rather than deeply disruptive or radical change seeded to oppose injustice and oppression in society at large. One way in which JEDI could be seen to lean towards a commodity or branding endeavour rather than structural change intervention is that justice, equity, diversity and inclusion all have very distinct and divergent meanings, yet are framed as part of the same package.
It is highly intentional that the Arts House Equity—Builder is focusing on racial justice and equity as the most salient principles for structural change at an organisational level. For the internal audit before we started work on the Equity—Builder, we got an external consultant specialising in anti-racism training and consultation, HUE to conduct a JEDI audit of our internal operations.
At its most basic, justice is the quality of being morally righteous and fair. People are treated justly when they are treated equally, with neither favouritism or discrimination.
Because justice is a moral concept, there are many different ways to interpret, define and apply justice in real social situations, institutions and systems. Most States exercise concepts of justice through their legal system, however legality does not inherently equate to fairness. Many forms of oppression and violence are or have once been legal, which complicates the idea that legal systems are inherently just.
Kinship is the state of being related to others. Kinship is often defined as blood relationship, but can extend much broader, to sharing affiliations with a specific cultural group, origin or identity.
Kinship works differently in different communities. Queer and trans communities often emphasise the importance of building ‘chosen family’, forming structures of support outside of cisgender and heteropatriarchal norms of biological family.
Many cultures and ethnicities hold intricate kinship systems that extend far beyond Eurocentric nuclear family norms, and may incorporate entire communities, clans or tribal groups.
First Nations communities of this continent and globally are custodians of kinship systems that encompass the non-human world, or Country, as relatives and kin.
Land Back means the return of sacred lands, waters and skies to First Peoples in fulfilment of their original and inalienable Sovereignty. Land Back is a decentralised campaign as part of the global Indigenous Lands Rights struggle, across settler colonies such as so-called Australia, Canada and the United States.
Language loss can occur due to many factors, such as colonialist erasure, the circulation of another dominant language, and the halting of intergenerational practices. Language revival is the process of reversing or pausing the decline of a language or resurrecting an extinct one.
In 1993, the Australian Indigenous Languages Framework created three types of language revival as an attempt to standardise the way we understand this practice. Revitalisation extends a language group predominantly spoken by older people, to younger generations. Renewal identifies language and its heritage, even though the language itself is no longer active. Reclamation connects the gaps of minimal linguistic heritage through archiving and documentation. This framework also distinguishes language revival from language awareness, which refers to learning about a language but not communicating with it
Lifelong learning and listening
We live within systems of oppression that have taken centuries to engineer and unfathomable power and wealth to maintain. Building alternative worlds is intergenerational work that requires continuous effort, dedication and an abiding sense of responsibility towards those alongside us and those to come after. Maintaining a commitment to life’s work rather than short-term markers of ‘progress’ can help us to resist the narratives and pressures of White supremacy and capitalism that promote individualistic thinking and false urgency.
A manifesto is a public statement by a person or institution about commitments and aims to elicit change or state a cause. It is usually presented as a text and strives to educate, align, and mobilise audiences.
The Equity—Builder’s Manifesto provides an overview of Arts House’s 10 year commitment and roadmap to antiracism and justice in the arts, as well as its function as a knowledge-sharing platform for envisioning a culturally safer ecology for artists and arts workers who experience inequity for various reasons.
In everyday use, ‘marginalised’ means anyone or anything treated as peripheral or insignificant.
When we say an entire social group is ‘marginalised’, this means that dominant social groups systematically exclude, erase or disenfranchise them through historical and everyday workings of economy, culture and politics.
While the forms of oppression that marginalise people are real and violent, it is important not to conflate people’s identities with their marginalisation. The language of ‘marginalisation’ can end up defining oppressed peoples by their oppression, and continuing to focus on how oppressed peoples are seen by dominant groups, instead of the fullness of how different communities see themselves.
Mutual aid is the symbiotic relationship between human beings based on the principle that everyone has something to contribute and that everyone has something that they need. Mutual aid is anchored by solidarity, and is distinct from charity, which often deals with hierarchies between givers and recipients of aid.
NAUWU (Nothing About Us Without Us)
NAUWU (Nothing About Us Without Us) is a political slogan advocating for self-determination of communities impacted by paternalism and external control. NAUWU calls for those who are most affected by a certain issue, policy, regulation, law, or change, to have full and autonomous participation in decision-making on that issue.
The principle of NAUWU has existed for hundreds of years, but its modern lineage is widely recognised through global disability justice movements of the 1990s.
A broad range of causes utilise NAUWU in their struggles for self-determination and equitable decision-making, from First Nations rights activists to sex worker advocacy.
Oppression is the state of being treated with control, cruelty and injustice over an extended period of time.
While individual acts of violence and abuse can be cruel and unjust, oppression describes violence that has become systematic, institutionalised or operational in a particular society or area of society. Oppression is the result of structural violence. Part of continuing oppression often involves making it invisible, which explains why it can be difficult to recognise the oppression and violence resulting from widely held social systems perceived as normal and natural.
Pay the Rent
Pay the Rent is a grassroots reparations movement advocating for non-Indigenous occupants to contribute directly to Indigenous communities in solidarity against the intergenerational impacts of settler colonialism.
Pay the Rent is primarily associated with monetary reparations, but it’s also important for non-Indigenous people to consider this alongside supporting self-determined treaty, advocacy, and land justice.
People of Colour
A person of colour is usually considered someone who does not self-identify as White and has ancestral connections to African, Asian, Latinx, Arab and Pasifika communities. Some Black and Indigenous people also self-identify as People of Colour. Although this term can sometimes be contested for its all-encompassing quality, we think it is important to acknowledge the experience of racial marginalisation on this continent.
A portmanteau (blending) of ‘play’ and ‘labour’, playbour refers to the muddy boundary between work-time and socialising or down time. Playbour manifests in many ways and may include: attending work-related events outside of paid hours, volunteering on arts boards, extra time spent working from home, replying to office emails during holidays, taking on cultural load outside of your paygrade or scope because you enjoy the work.
‘Play’ in this instance refers to the notion of loving your job or being passionate about what you do because ‘work does not feel like work’, which reflects the neo-capitalist and 24/7 work economy mindset.
Institutions and individuals play a crucial role to advocate for, and practise, equitable workflow processes to encourage better work-life boundaries.
Pleasure activism is the belief that everybody deserves pleasure and that social constructs must service and reflect this. Pleasure activists focus particularly on people who are impacted by oppression and scarcity mentality, believing that if we harness the good within ourselves, we can practise for the world we want—abundant with generosity, justice, equity and healing.
Politics of refusal
Black and First Nations scholarship in particular has advanced language around refusal in order to name and expand on global legacies of radical resistance, cultural and intellectual inheritance.
In essence, refusal is a powerful stance to take against injustice and violence. Refusal is not about withdrawing and retreating, but rejecting participation in the same logics and behaviours of inequality, indignity, injustice and violence that one is fighting against.
Power is commonly defined as the ability or capacity to carry out an act, or the capacity to influence others. Power can also be associated with strength and force, whether physical power or used figuratively in the sense of a ‘powerful’ artwork.
In the context of the Equity—Builder, power has social, political, economic and cultural dimensions. Power can be used to exert control and influence over others, as in situations of violence, oppression, and in the formation of systems and structures that command authority over people. Power can also be held with others instead of over, fostering dynamics of mutual collaboration, support, reciprocity, solidarity and care. Power to is an essential component of agency whereby people can carry out self-determined courses of action for themselves and within their communities. And lastly, power within is used to describe a person’s capacity for self-worth, self-knowledge and self-efficacy.
Building foundations for equity and justice requires people to be in touch with and learn to share and mobilise different forms of power in generative and anti-oppressive ways.
Privilege describes special advantages, rights or immunities granted to specific people or groups.
Systems of oppression marginalise and disadvantage certain groups and classes of people, while uplifting dominant groups or classes as beneficiaries of that system. For example, under patriarchy, the political, economic and social power of men is systematically privileged over that of non-men. Under colonialism, non-Indigenous people, regardless of personal circumstance, are beneficiaries of Indigenous dispossession.
Privileges are conferred by political systems, not individuals, however they are nonetheless observable and palpable in the behaviour, choices and circumstances of individuals.
Derived from the term ‘queer reading,’ queering is a queer theory technique that questions and challenges heteronormative practices by analysing movements, content and strategies that use binary concepts and identities.
Queering employs a porous and fluid understanding of gender spectrums and attitudes and considers the intersectional representation of queer people historically, socially and economically.
Questioning refers to people who are questioning or exploring their gender or sexual orientation. For a variety of reasons, they may wish not to apply a social label to themselves during this time, or they might prefer to be called non-binary or non-heterosexual.
The idea that race is a biological or physical group characteristic originates from white supremacist pseudo-sciences such as eugenics and phrenology which aimed to create so-called ‘evidence’ for the inferiority of non-white peoples. In other words, race and racism are inseparable.
Since white supremacy is a pervasive social structure, race remains an important concept and experience to engage with, despite being biologically disproved.
Racism is the prejudice, discrimination and antagonism inflicted onto a person or group based on their race or ethnicity. These beliefs, systems, and actions result in inequitable opportunities and outcomes for people, and are often accompanied by the power to oppress or limit the rights of the targeted person or group. While racial prejudice and racial discrimination focus on individual interactions, racism reinforces systemic and sociopolitical superiority.
Internalised racism is a result of the racially-targeted group believing in, acting on, or enforcing racist ideas and stereotypes about themselves and members of their own communities.
Structural racism pertains to the inequalities and barriers that prevent people from accessing equitable opportunities within a society.
The antidote is anti-racism.
Radical means relating to the most fundamental part or nature of something. ‘Radical’ shares the same Latin origin as the word ‘radish’: both stem from radix meaning ‘root’. In matters of social justice and change, radical proponents are those who advocate for thorough and complete social change, as opposed to both conservative maintenance of the status quo or reformism.
Radical libraries are knowledge-sharing repositories and gathering spaces dedicated to circulating content on social justice, critical literature, cultural archives, pleasure activism, and radical politics. An example of this is Pagbasa Archive, frontyard library, and Melbourne Art Library.
Reciprocity is the principle and action of giving in return to those who have given to you. Reciprocity fosters mutually beneficial relationships, whether with other people and groups, or with other beings and the natural world.
In principle, reciprocity can be an antidote to extractive dynamics where contribution (whether knowledge, talent, insight, critique or otherwise) flow in a one way direction from one person or group to another, or from one person or group to an institution.
Reparation is the act of repairing something, especially the act of making amends for wrongdoing.
In the context of injustice, reparations are often financial or material compensation paid by a State to individuals or groups in compensation for harm caused or rights infringed by government policies or actions.
One local example is the successful decades of advocacy by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Queensland to be compensated for wages stolen by the State throughout the racism of mid-twentieth century ‘Protection Acts’.
To represent others means to speak or act on their behalf in accordance with their interests.
In matters of governance, consultation, community engagement, and programming, it is imperative that organisations consider whose interests, identities and intersections are represented and not represented within leadership, decision-making processes, and workforce.
Oftentimes, organisations conflate visibility with governance and leadership. When people, communities or identities are granted representation within an organisation’s work, this does not necessarily equate to influence or power in decision-making or governance.
This Equity—Builder seeks to build representative processes on the inside-facing operations of the organisation that reflect the local communities Arts House serves.
Rest is the act of pausing, slowing down and engaging in nourishing activities to replenish one’s emotional, mental, physical and spiritual resources in a concerted effort toward liberation.
In justice-oriented spaces, rest is also configured as a resistive act to capitalism and a healing device for transgenerational trauma inherited by racialised bodies.
In the context of the Equity—Builder, restoration refers to the cultural and political process of reinstating conditions of dignity, respect, agency and autonomy to marginalised and colonised peoples who have been historically stripped of these birthrights. Restoration acknowledges the cultural lineages and lifeways of Focus Communities, before and beyond the impacts of systemic harm and violence, and seeks to support communities in exercising and reclaiming their cultural resources.
One example of restoration common in arts and museum contexts is the repatriation of ancestral possessions and cultural belongings back to their original communities and descendents.
Restoration is closely related to reparations.
Safety is a foundational human need to be free from physical, emotional and psychological degradation, harm, insult or threat.
While ethical and aspirational, the promise of cultivating a completely safe space within public or institutional settings can be unrealistic for several reasons. Firstly, systemic injustice, which is inherently unsafe, permeates all social environments. Secondly, each individual person’s sense of safety is complex and impacted by their unique life history, needs, identities, environments and values. Finally, safety is established through trust, integrity and reliability in relationships, which is not always possible to establish with all members of public spaces and relationships such as workplaces, social events, and institutions.
Within the Equity—Builder, Arts House embraces the process of building safe(r) spaces.
While it is not possible to guarantee total safety of all people at all times, it is possible to embed rigorous safety practices (physical, emotional, cultural, spiritual) within all levels of policy, practice and engagement; where interpersonal grievances, feedback, improvements and critiques can be sought with care and receptivity; and institutional change made to accommodate various needs.
Scarcity mentality is based on the perception that there are insufficient opportunities to circulate fairly so that everyone’s needs are met. This could be due to a lack of resources, inequitable systems, or micromanaged environments.
Scarcity mentality can lead to feelings of missing out, competitiveness, anxiety and stress. It can also result in the tendency to hoard or gatekeep resources, especially if it is in your favour, for the fear that this opportunity might not last.
The solution is to shift from scarcity thinking to an abundance mindset by understanding, and working to provide, a paradigm of equity so that everyone has access to resources. Examples of this are succession planning, operating at the speed of trust and moving into a growth zone.
Self-determination happens when people feel empowered to take action to shape their own lives according to their social values and beliefs. Self-determination is a fundamental right of people to pursue personal, economical, cultural and social development.
Settler colonialism is when a colonising force invades an Indigenous territory and does not leave, instead making claim to permanent land ownership based on the original violation.
Settler colonialism is a political structure of continuous dispossession, aiming to strip Indigenous people of their ownership of land and culture through the effacement of genealogical relationships and knowledge systems.
Settler colonialism in action includes cultural extraction, land exploitation, racism and white supremacy.
Settler solidarity involves the reparational work between settlers and descendents of colonisers and Indigenous people.
This involves non-Indigenous people first recognising their own biases and settlement histories, in order to become and also remain actively open to the life-long learning, unlearning and advocating alongside Indigenous people.
Being in solidarity with a particular group, struggle or cause, means to mobilise in unified coordination with others against injustice. Solidarity is a political act often grounded in shared principles, values and interests. Solidarity and allyship can overlap, however solidarity often requires deeper investment of time, energy, resources and risk than the former. Where allyship often revolves around individuals expressing their support, solidarity could be seen as the tangible actions, relationship-building and behind-the-scenes efforts it takes to mobilise groups of individuals and redistribute resources towards justice.
As a potential tool for hope, speculative fiction is concerned with envisioning equitable and brighter futures through thought experiments that celebrate an open-ended vision of reality. Considered a specific type of non-realist writing, speculative fiction is different from science fiction because it freely explores future-making through the multiple realities of the possible and impossible. As a writing genre, this term is often voiced by people from the Focus Communities: an example is the book This All Come Back Now: An anthology of First Nations speculative fiction, which includes stories by Evelyn Araluen, Hannah Donnolly and Laniyuk about kinship, truth-telling and respect for Country.
Speed of trust
The speed of trust is a principle that individuals, collectives and organisations can apply to create robust relationships where all involved become confident in the others’ integrity and capacity to achieve desired and agreed results.
The term originated in the corporate sector with Steven Covey, emphasising the economic returns that trust creates in businesses, however it has evolved to take on a more nuanced meaning for social justice workers. Political communications specialist Mervyn Marcado and organiser-author adrienne maree brown have highlighted moving at the ‘speed of trust’ as an antidote to false urgency and extractive relationships.
Succession planning is when organisations prepare for the movement and turnover of staff in advance, to support continuity or expansion of the organisation’s vision, values and talent.
Succession planning should ideally be about both the organisation – furthering its legacy and mission – as well as evaluating and refining the professional development pathways available to workers. It is the role of organisational leadership to drive succession planning. Succession planning is as much about stewarding change as continuity, and often is neglected in environments or workplace cultures that foster permanency and legacy tenure in leadership roles, to the detriment of adaptability and shared power within an organisation.
Systemic / Structural
Both ‘systems’ and ‘structures’ are built to achieve specific functions by arranging complex parts into a cohesive whole. In the context of social justice and oppression, these words are often used interchangeably.
Physical systems can be biological (eg. the nervous system or solar systems) or artificially constructed (eg. public transport systems or computer software). A system can also be a set of principles and processes (ie. the decimal vs. metric systems of measurement, or a judiciary system).
Similarly, socio-political structures can be physical (a courthouse, a university campus) non-physical (eg. the institution of marriage). Physical and non-physical aspects of systems and structures work together to shape our social worlds and power dynamics. For example, a court of law is both a physical location, as well as a site of legal ideologies and traditions that have taken centuries to develop, morph and disseminate throughout culture.
Tokenism is the practice of engaging with a person from a racial, ethnic, or gender minority group and including them in a policy or action that gives the impression of inclusivity. In reality, these groups are not welcomed or treated fairly and are portrayed in a stereotypical fashion, or in a performative way that does not take into account their individual characteristics and lived experiences.
A Traditional Owner/s is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person or people directly descended from the original custodians of a culturally-defined area of Country. Traditional Owners have a cultural and spiritual association with their Country that derives from the customs, traditions, observances, kinship or history of the sovereign Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities of that area.
Transformative justice is an abolitionist political framework aiming to respond to, and ultimately prevent and transform violence. Transformative justice highlights that oppressive systems (i.e. ableism, capitalism, colonialism, heterosexism, patriarchy, transphobia, white supremacy, etc.) create conditions for interpersonal violence to thrive in societies.
Furthermore, the social systems we use to deal with violence (policing and prisons) claim to administer justice yet subject people to further forms of violence and stigma.
Transformative justice focuses on equipping people with principles, tools and approaches for strengthening community practices of repair, mutual accountability, trust and connection as an antidote to both interpersonal and structural violence.
Trauma is defined by the impact that an experience, or series of incident, has on a person, rather than by the event. Trauma results in lasting adverse effects on a person’s psychological, spiritual and physical well-being. Trauma has the capacity to disrupt or betray our inherent need for belonging, safety and dignity.
Trauma can manifest as intimate partner abuse, refugee and war trauma, toxic work environments, and parental neglect.
Trauma exposure can be acute (single incident), chronic (prolonged or repeated), and complex (multiplied and often invasive and relentless).
People who experience trauma are inadvertently re-traumatised due to systems and spaces that are not equipped with knowledge or training to deal with these triggers and vulnerabilities.
Trauma-informed care is about recognising the signs and symptoms of a person’s trauma and seeking to understand pathways of recovery without re-traumatising the person. This practice shifts the focus from ‘what’s wrong with you’ to ‘what happened to you’, guided by the principles of care, awareness, sensitivity and empowerment.
In organisations, trauma-informed practices involve communicating to staff about trauma and horizons for healing, creating safe(r) spaces, avoiding triggering situations, and training workforces to become trauma-informed.
In psychology, a trigger is a stimulus that prompts an involuntary and strong emotional response of distress in a person’s body and mind. Being triggered is a common experience for many people with a history of trauma or abuse, as well as for those experiencing mental health conditions.
In recent years, it has become common to see ‘trigger warnings’ used in media to notify audiences of potentially distressing content in advance. Smells, behaviour, sounds, sensations, memories and more can also trigger distress. It is not always possible to predict what will trigger a person, even with sufficient warning.
Uluru Statement from the Heart
The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a collective statement from First Nations people that calls for significant reform for First Nations rights and advocacy, and a commitment to acknowledge and listen to First Nations people when it comes to governing laws and policies that affect them.
The Statement is an invitation from First Nations people to all Australians to ‘walk with us in a movement for a better future’ based on justice, equity and self-determination.
Circulated in 2017, the Statement was a culmination of 13 Regional Dialogues between First Nations people and comprises three key components: Voice (providing a platform for First Nations voices to be amplified in the constitution through a Referendum), Treaty (determining national acknowledgements of, and legal protection for, First Nations rights and interests), and Truth (committing to truth-telling about Australia’s history, including the recognition of First Nations culture and knowledge systems and acknowledging settler-colonialism conflict and oppression).
Urgency is the state or sense of requiring rapid action.
In Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups, Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun identify false sense of urgency as a manifestation of white supremacy culture in workplaces.
While there are some undeniable emergencies in life, working in a perpetual state of urgency where every task or outcome of one’s efforts is pressurised, has dire consequences on our health, work and cultural landscape. Urgency prioritises speed over thorough decision-making, reflection, deliberation, relationship-building and learning from experience.
Violence is often defined as physical force used to intimidate, deprive, injure, or even end another person’s life. In 1984, in the field of domestic and family violence, the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project created ‘the power and control wheel’ as a tool to understand how people use violence on sexual, emotional, psychological, financial, spiritual, technological and social levels. A cycle of repeating violence is abuse. Just as violence between individuals can involve many different behaviours, complex forms of violence occur at communal and structural levels within societies. All forms of group oppression involve structural violence.
Furthermore, cultural violence occurs when violent beliefs become entrenched through institutions and systems (eg. education, policing, law, government, economy). Structural and cultural violence are often so deeply indoctrinated that they are unconscious to many people, or viewed as natural, normal and permanent parts of life. In this way, structural and cultural violence deprive the collective from accessing alternate, liberatory ways of thinking and behaving.
Virtue signalling involves efforts to appear ‘good’ or morally upstanding in public, often in a somewhat disingenuous, hypocritical or self-serving way. Individuals and organisations may use virtue signalling to demonstrate strong character, ethics, or relevance of their viewpoint on a particular issue.
Virtue signalling often starts and ends with public disclosures that are not effective at mobilising action or contributing to a solution for the issue at hand.
By contrast, genuine support and solidarity focus on making tangible impacts and contributions to the issue at hand and the people most affected.
Reactions such as avoidance and stonewalling, denial, defensiveness, deflection, false equivalences, projection, minimisation of the issue, self-victimisation, and weaponising emotion (AKA ‘white tears’), are common displays of white fragility. People who experience and/or challenge racism often come to be able to predict and anticipate these behaviours.
White supremacy is a eugenicist political ideology that racialises White people at the top of a self-constructed racial hierarchy, justifying domination over people racialised as non-White. White supremacy is the building block of both race and racism.
Worldbuilding is the process of creating an imaginary world or universe that is a divergence from the immediate world we exist in.
Worldbuilding can incorporate real-life elements — such as language, history, geography, politics, and customs — and be merged into a speculative realm that can be considered fantasy, lore, or near-future.
Artists, activists, and philosophers use worldbuilding to present alternative modes of living, creating and mobilising in order to shape cultural perceptions and limitless social possibilities.
For the Equity—Builder, we aim to worldbuild a brighter and more just future through our roadmap and knowledge-transfer platform.
Xenophobia is discrimination towards foreigners; people from countries or cultures different from oneself. The Greek roots of the term are xenos, ‘stranger’ and phobos, ‘fear’.
As with homophobia, xenophobia is not a genuine state of fear, but rather a sense of contempt and prejudice against a group.
Xenophobia often occurs alongside, but is distinct from, other forms of prejudice such as nationalism, racism, islamophobia, colourism, antisemitism etc.
Xenophobia is different from racism because people from the same racial group can still experience or perpetrate xenophobia on the basis of their culture, custom, language and ties to place. For example, many European migrants have experienced xenophobia on migrating to Australia (eg Greeks, Italians, and others), despite being racialised as White.
Youth is a life stage from adolescence to young adulthood.
While the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a ‘child’ as anyone under 18 years of age, there is no internationally standard definition of the ‘youth’ age category.
In general, children and young people are vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination on the basis of age.
Using the framework of intersectionality, we can understand how children and young people from oppressed groups bear the dramatic impacts of oppression (for example, due to colonisation, climate crisis, violence, poverty or intergenerational trauma) as well as responsibility for structural change in upcoming generations.
The zeitgeist is often referred to as the defining spirit or essence of a generation, as evidenced by the beliefs and ideas of its era. It can also pertain to an invisible force that demonstrates the characteristic of a moment — by way of mood, flavour, smell, and cultural tone.
Artists are often considered zeitgeists for their ability to create art that reflects the culture or revolutions of their time, as well as their ingenuity to forecast the future and engage in truth-telling by looking at our present conditions and speculating on radical principles for a near-future.