00:00 Claire: Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge that these episodes are hosted and recorded on the Stolen Lands of Ngunnawal country, Canberra. I would like to acknowledge elders past, present and emerging and I would like to acknowledge the long-standing history of activism and advocacy here and the fight and resistance against ongoing colonization. All activism and advocacy that occurs on this stolen land must center decolonization. Always in solidarity and this always was and always will be Aboriginal land. 


Welcome to The Labeller Podcast, the place where we take back the label gun and talk about the labels inside, why they're there and how we feel about them. My name is Claire, I use they/them pronouns and I am your faithful host. This season we are looking at the label of "activist". 


In this episode, we are joined by Korra, a young person with a history of activism and advocacy and a flair for makeup extravagancy. We talk about the differences between activism and advocacy, the importance of self-care and what it's like being a young person involved in activism. 


Oh, by the way, this episode does contain explicit language. This is also a trigger warning for mentions of suicide and death threats. Please listen safely. So, buckle up and let's get labelling!


{upbeat intro music}


Hey, everybody, welcome back to the Labeller. Today I have a very special guest, would you like to introduce yourself, name, pronouns, are you studying, what do you get up to, all that kind of fun stuff.


02:05 Korra: Yeah. So, hi, I'm Korra. And my pronouns are she/they. So, I'm currently a diploma of community service, but I'm also doing VCE, so you know, that's a bit of a challenge. But what do I like to get up to? I like to do makeup and video games, yes.


02:29 Claire: Yes, amazing. I love that. Like, classic Virgo doing all that sort of stuff. 


02:39 Korra: I'm an over-achiever apparently, I decided I'm gonna get into Uni no matter what. 


02:47 Claire: I love that, no, amazing! So, welcome to the Labeller. As you know, we are investigating, looking at the label of activist and activism. And I really wanted to talk to you because you do so much work for the various communities that you're a part of. So, these questions I ask everyone because I love taking the thread of a word and unpacking it until they're just atoms in the sky. What does activism mean to you? 


03:25 Korra: So, I guess in my mind, when I think "activism", I think about creating change. So, that can be within a local community or state, or country-wide. When I think activism, I think it's like a group of people coming together to create change. Whereas advocacy, you're advocating for a group of people to impart change. 


But they're quite similar. I was just like, when I first read that question, I was just like, "Oh, it's kind of like advocating, but I think it's more like a group coming together." 


04:12 Claire: Yeah, okay. So it's like activism is kind of like unity I suppose, bringing people together, yeah. Okay, I'm just saying, I love that. And I guess my next question is, what spaces do you normally or usually see activism happen? 


04:28 Korra: I guess spaces that I normally see activism is I guess a lot of social media nowadays. Like Twitter and TikTok, you see very much community coming together to just create change, so like the Black Lives Matter movement, the Climate Change Movement, they all started on social media. And they became really big on social media. I think that's where I've seen most activism.


05:06 Claire: Yeah, me too. As well, it's really interesting to think about how social media in particular has impacted or influenced the way that we participate in activism and the amount of people who are able to participate in activism. Also perhaps who may not be able to, depending on their ability to access social media, like the internet and stuff. I'm so lucky to have been able to find the Instagrams and the TikToks and the content that has helped formulate my morals and beliefs and values. 


05:54 Korra: Yeah, social media is crazy. You have so much information at your fingertips. So, people don't have like, I guess, the right to ignorant as they are with the internet being available. 


06:08 Claire: Yeah. You know, this stuff exists, it's always existed. So yeah, I totally feel that, so hard. I do love and appreciate local activism, you know? Sometimes I feel like a lot of... I have to still continue to curate who I see on my feeds and stuff because it can be not local. Very overseas-based sort of activism and stuff. A love a good local shoutout.


I guess in your faves, do you see qualities of your favourite activists in yourself and what are they if you'd like to share? 


06:48 Korra: I do see like a few qualities. We really fight for our community. We'll really bust down, you know? And we just really want to make our community a better place and see ourselves represented more, which, we're so under-represented, especially like POC gender-diverse people. Like, if you're POC gender-diverse people, you know? You have a seat at my table. 


07:28 Claire: Yeah, there are chairs all around to go around. Firstly, shout out to all the transgender diverse folk out there, especially all our POC trans and gender diverse folk. We love you, we see you, oh my God, love, so much love! So much love for all of you. I just love being part of such a beautiful community. You know, just wanting the best for everyone and wanting what everyone so minimally deserve. 


Really, sometimes activism just feels like you're just wanting people to see you in your full self and your whole self and treat you with the respect that you deserve as being your full self. 


08:13 Korra: Yeah, definitely. I mean, being a part of the POC community has taught me that my voice deserves to be reimbursed and my story and my time, I deserve to do this because that stuff can be really hard to talk about. And it's almost re-traumatizing and I'm doing the talk for free. 


08:43 Claire: For free!


08:44 Korra: I don't think so anymore. 


08:47 Claire: No way, yeah, absolutely not. Especially in an environment where living under capitalism and stuff. You can't just expect people to under the guise of creating change and you know... It's such a farce. It's such a play, oh my God.


09:14 Korra: You're just like, "Oh, you really want to create change? Well, why don't you do this? Talk about some of your trauma for free and then go back home and feel horrid for like a month." 


09:27 Claire: Oh my God, that's so real, though. That is so real. I'm sure that there are a bunch of people who have been exploited in that way by, especially organizations I reckon. Organizations in particular, but also by individuals who may have good intentions, but you never know because by the end, you know what I mean, by the end of their sentence, you're already exhausted. Doing activism in any sort of way or in marginalized communities is exhausting. 


10:01 Korra: It is exhausting. Me and my mom, we really went into it fighting because we wanted to create that change. And by the end of it, we just needed a break. So we've been advocating and doing activism for almost six years. We felt like a break.


10:24 Claire: Oh my God!


10:23 Korra: So my mom, who's done more than me, because I'm a little anti-social potato. And she just helps create and navigate through really discriminatory systems and she's amazing. Oh my God, the stories she could tell you. I love my mom so much.


10:51 Claire: Yes, shout out to mom! 


10:55 Korra: Shout out to mom, I hope you can hear me! 


10:57 Claire: It's like, you know when you see live TV recordings, it's always like, "Hi, mom!" This is it, hi, mom!


11:06 Korra: People are recording and my mom pokes her head in, and she's just like, "Are you in a meeting?" And I'm just like, "Yeah, I'm doing a podcast." 


11:16 Claire: Podcast, let's go! Yeah, I guess firstly, incredible, your mom is incredible. I guess this kind of links in with my next question. I guess you straddle so many different things, jobs, opportunities, roles and I believe that one of the roles that you have is being a part of different councils or doing work in different councils. 


And I guess I wanted to ask, because you've been doing this work for so long, you are a young person for the foremost, what it is like being a young person in the spaces of councils? In these institutions, what is it like being a young person, doing the work that you do? 


12:20 Korra: Yeah, so I'm a part of the Youth Advisor Committee in my local area, so we're like a group of young people that are quite diverse. So there's people of color, people that suffer from chronic illnesses, carers, and we basically come together every couple of months and we will go in on a topic that we want to see change or that we want to see added into our local community. 


So the first one is how do we get young people to do activities outside, which is a bit ableist, but you know... So some of the suggestions are gyms closer to train stations, so it's easily accessible for people. More playgrounds, more walking tracks. So we'd dive really deep into a topic and I've called out some systems which I don't remember because I'm just like, my brain, COVID brain, everything--


13:34 Claire: Yeah, blur. I guess have you found, are there barriers in being a young person in these spaces? And also how do you find the experience, is it something that you love doing? 


13:53 Korra: I guess being in the space, it can be a bit challenging. So sometimes I feel like my opinion isn't taken seriously. And you can get taken advantage of quite easily because we are really like gung-ho and we just wanted to make change. But that's probably bad, because other organizations like ABC take advantage of that and it's a bit wild.


As a gender-diverse young person, you're really at the center of being targeted. So Pauline Hanson, she made a comment about gender-diverse young people, specifically trans young people should be taken away from their families which is a fucked up thing to say. It's a horrible thing to say, who thinks that? That's disgusting! 


And knowing the fact that, like suicide rates and self-harm rates, they will go up because of this and just like any activism that is going on... So the birth certificate reform, those will rise up and that's horrible to know that my community is at high risk. And politicians will target us, like fuck off. Don't push your colonial-ass gender views onto me, baby. 


15:30 Claire: Right, right. I guess that's where it becomes exhausting, because you do it not just for the people around you, but also for yourself, you know what I mean? And in a way, it can make me feel self-serving, but also in a way, that's just your safety. That's just your existence being called into question when regardless of how people are arguing about it, you still exist. You can argue against it, you can say all this sort of stuff, but at the end of the day, you're here, you're real. 


16:05 Korra: And we aren't going to disappear. 


16:08 Claire: Exactly. That's it, isn't it? 


16:10 Korra: It's very much like, I love being a part of activism and advocacy, but I also don't because just the amount of pressure and targeting you get is horrible. I remember my mom used to literally get death threats from people. 


16:35 Claire: Oh my God... 


16:36 Korra: And it was like, it's wild. But it's extremely needed, so that's why I do it, because it's needed. 


16:44 Claire: That's a thing, people don't just do this work to do this work. Okay, some people do. Some people's priorities, not it, not it. But you know, for the most part, there are people, like we were saying before, right? It's like, this is existence, this is life, this not just some trend. Oh my God, this is not a trend, these are people's livelihoods and existences and you know...


17:18 Korra: That you're putting at risk, and if you want to come at us, we're not just going to sit by and let you do this, I'm sorry.


17:29 Claire: Yeah, yeah. That's the thing. It's like, it's interesting to think about the different forms of activism that can happen and what people's expectations are when it comes to what activism should look like. And it's hard because no one can win. 


If people don't want you to win, they're gonna find ways for you not to win, you know what I mean? If it's hard, then it's too hard. If it's soft, it's too soft. It's like you can't, it's hard to find a balance that will please everyone and I guess it's the thing, when you're fighting for your community, not everyone is gonna enjoy the way that you fight for your community.


18:08 Korra: Definitely. I'm very big on, I guess just fighting as hard as you can, even if it requires more drastic measures. Sometimes riots are required and they're continuing to ignore the outcries, then baby, I'm sorry. There's a place for it.


18:31 Claire: Yeah, I think that's the reality. When people just tell you, "You should just talk about it more, etc, etc..." It feels, it's gaslighting, because people have been talking about it forever. 


18:46 Korra: We are talking about it. It's been discussed, it's just they're not willing to listen. Look at climate change, the government has barely done anything and they're also destroying First Nation places and they're not doing anything about it. 


19:09 Claire: Yeah, 'cause it's also when we talk about climate change in particular, it's like who are we listening to when we have these conversations because there are some voices we should be listening to and there are some voices that honestly, are not as important to listen to in that time and space. You know? When we talk about climate change, it's like you either center First Nations voices or what is this convo for? 


19:39 Korra: Yeah. They were here first. And this is their land. So let them lead this because they've been taking care of this land forever. And look at what the white man has done. 


20:01 Claire: That's it, though.


20:02 Korra: That's the T. Look at it, coral bleaching, extinction, deforestation, bush fires... Somebody needs to take it out of their hands because they obviously can't handle it.


20:17 Claire: Exactly. And I guess that's the thing, as part of activism I guess or as part of wanting change, it's also understanding and knowing the spaces that you're needed and the spaces that you're not. It's knowing is my voice required in this conversation, who am I listening for, all that kind of stuff. I very much love talking about intention and purpose because that's something that I think about a lot. 


20:47 Korra: Yeah, because they're so silencing you need to take a back seat and let other people come to the forefront and speak. So, I don't speak on climate change much, I will support it, but I'm not gonna be on the forefront speaking. I think First Nations people should be in the forefront speaking. 


21:14 Claire: For sure. I guess we spoke about this already, but yeah, in your various roles that you carry, because I know that you carry many outside of just being Youth Advisory Committee, I've seen you on panels, I've seen you on events, all that kind of good stuff. How important is activism in these spaces and does much activism take places in these spaces and in these roles that you carry and that you participate in? 


21:44 Korra: I think it's kind of like half and half. So some parts are like activist. I'm part of like an LGBT Youth Group which, they ran the first LGBT Rainbow Summit. So for all students in our area and school. They came along and learned about the LGBT community, we had Queerspace come along and the other organizations. I guess outside that was activism because we're getting a group together and teaching them about our community.


And it was all organized by young people, LGBT young people, yes. And stuff like the panels that I've been a part of, they were activist, activism since we were calling out white privilege, tokenism. But then there's some other stuff that I've done like, the Dance of Rainbow which was just like a disco night, and Wear Purple Day, which was super-cute.


I'll say some of the stuff I do is like activist, and then some other stuff is not activist. And then there's stuff that I do that is advocacy, because it's me representing the gender-diverse community through my story.


23:18 Claire: I guess that's the way it is, right? When you're wanting change, you tend to carry and juggle many different roles and spaces. I guess, how important is that balance between those different spaces for you? Do you find yourself engaging in activist work or advocacy work? Almost like subconsciously, sometimes you just want to represent? 


23:47 Korra: I think it's super-important. It's just, activism can take a really big toll on you, it's good to have that balance. Especially I guess in COVID times. Because I'm already pretty stressed out about COVID-19 and the lockdown. And I'm sure like a lot of people are feeling that effect. 


I've been focusing on more non-advocacy and non-activism, like rolls and events or ways to better myself. So I was like a leader. So that's kind of just, yeah, but it's always good to have a balance. As much as you want to push, push, push, and make change, it will really take a toll on.


24:48 Claire: I think that's very fair. And what you mentioned, definitely COVID has had an impact on this work because it is so exhausting, especially if you are in another lockdown. That is definitely mentally taxing. And what you mentioned before too, the ways that other people respond to your activism isn't always positive. 


Sometimes it's very negative and a lot of times it's violent. Even if it doesn't seem violent to other people, it's still violent. I guess I wanted to also ask, how has COVID changed the way you participate in activism and advocacy? 


25:33 Korra: So I guess, taking more of a back seat. With the Black Lives Matter movement, I've been really signing petitions, but I'm letting more... Because I'm privileged in the sense that I have a lighter skin tone. So I'm letting people that are more visibly Islander or Black have a voice because I'm privileged, because I can pass as a white person. 


So I've taken a back seat, but I've been really pushing it. I've been looking at all the horrendous stuff that's happened to Black Lives Matter protesters and I've been signing petitions. Following black creators, just trying to push up others. And that's just kind of the activism that I've been involved with. 


26:38 Claire: Yeah, to all, another PSA I suppose. It's so important to look after yourself and what feels the best for you because I guess self-care is radical in a space that doesn't want you to care for yourself. Because, you know, existing or being in a space that doesn't value you is resistance. 


27:07 Korra: I definitely feel that with doctors. I'm there to get help and then they tell you, "Oh this is causing this, this, this." And no, baby, it's not. 


27:24 Claire: You cannot tell me that my runny nose is because I am not some arbitrary weight. 


27:36 Korra: My weight does not cause my nose to run. 


27:39 Claire: Oh my God, so true. I guess we kind of talked about this a little bit already, but I've been, I'm also asking this to everyone who comes on. How do they draw the lines between advocacy and activism and I guess particularly for this convo, for your community. How do you see it as a difference? Because some people use those words interchangeably. 


Like for myself, I don't know how I see the two of them, I see them in the same sphere, but I don't know how to define them. Yeah, so advocacy versus activism for your community. 


28:28 Korra: They're really similar. And when I was looking at it, I was just like, "What's the difference?" But I think with me, when it comes to advocacy, it's representing your community. As a Youth Advisory Committee member, I'm representing the gender-diverse community and the Pacific Islander community. And advocating for them. 


And when it comes to activism, it's more like a group of people coming together to invoke change, so that could be like, with the birth certificate reform. A lot of gender diverse people came together and were in the court, like wow, this whole debate went down and just to show support of it and just to know that even if you say this, and this and this, we are here and we are not going to be silenced. 


29:40 Claire: As you mentioned, you're part of various youth committees in particular and I guess for you, is it important that young people engage in activism and why or why not?


29:56 Korra: I don't think they have to, because it can be really taxing and really difficult. Just showing your support to those that do activism and do bring together the community. Just showing support to what's happening within our community. 


Because yeah, activism can be really difficult and some people just, it might take a bigger toll than others. And it can cause mental health problems, which every activist will probably face. And getting death threats, that's horrible and really difficult to deal with.


30:45 Claire: And terrifying, for sure.


30:46 Korra: And it's terrifying, yeah.


30:49 Claire: I think educating, if you have the access to educate yourself or if you can help educate others about the various issues that exist, that may affect you or may not, that doesn't matter. Your relation to different issues that pertain in our existence and society. I don't know, yeah, you just got to do it. 


31:17 Korra: Supporting a movement is a form of activism. You don't have to be at the forefront or fighting, you can be silently supporting or you can be out there with us, supporting. There's so many forms of activism. It's not just speaking. Or creating this movement, it can be support. 


31:47 Claire: People who are at the forefront, everyone needs a little bit of care and love when it comes to this work, because it is what it is, it's work. It takes a toll, it takes effort, it takes time, like showing compassion I suppose to people who are frontlining or not. If you're in it, you're in it and you're in it together. 


Because, like you mentioned at the start, it's about bringing people together and that sort of unity. I know you mentioned at the start that you're doing a diploma in community services. What brought you to the diploma? 


32:31 Korra: Probably from like all the work that I've done since I was like a baby. So, I think I've known for a while that this is kind of like the field that I wanted to be in. And yeah, definitely, I want to be creating that space for young people, to voice their thoughts, opinions and create movements and create change. I want to give young people that opportunity. 


33:07 Claire: And you will, let's be real. Let's be honest.


33:12 Korra: We're gonna fight the big man. 


33:17 Claire: Yeah, I wanted to ask you because I was like, I wonder how... All of us, the two of us are working kind of in that sort of sector of community and I guess, yeah, do you find that there is an element of activism or do you have an expectation that there will be an element of activism in your diploma and in the work that you do in future? 


33:44 Korra: Yeah, I mean I've already kind of done my activist mindset. I normally feel like some of the stuff I support in conversations or I mean, even with posts. I will I guess focus it on a movement. So, with the Cook Island movement, today's post and I would like to do future posts like that, just highlighting and making a difference. 


34:27 Claire: Amazing. I love seeing the work that you do because I think it's so cool and international. And I guess, yeah, if you were to tell someone else who is considering following or going on a path of activism, especially young people, what are your top three things that they should be putting in their bag of activism? 


If you were to package up three tips that you follow yourself or that you wish that you followed when you were younger? What are your core three things that you want to gift to someone else if they were like, "Hey, Korra, I really want to go down this path of activism." 


35:18 Korra: If any of your work will be posted up on the social media, don't look at the comments 'cause there's trolls, there's hurtful people. It's really upsetting to see. And it can be really triggering. So I would say avoid comments. Second is, whatever you say isn't done. Your voice is needed and what you say is valued and should be voiced. 


Because I know sometimes I will feel like, "Oh, why did I say that, I'm like, ta-ta-ta-ta..." But I just need to take a step back and remember that what I brought up is important. And the third one, have a strong community around you.


So make sure to make connections within the community or have friends or family or guardians by you, because you need that connection, even just in general. Because sometimes life can get hard. 


36:46 Claire: Community is powerful. It's so powerful, if you're able to make connections in community, you never know, you literally can be building your chosen family around you.


36:59 Korra: Yes, and even if you might not have the support of your biological family, there is a family waiting out there for you. Just because you don't have your blood family, doesn't mean you can't have a family. 


37:15 Claire: That's the power of community. It's wild! 


37:20 Korra: It's really powerful. Today I saw people from my community on ABC, I might just call them out. 


37:34 Claire: It is what it is. 


37:34 Korra: It is what it is, but they were promoting a show that they've done which is the Bent Spoon. And I literally went to my mom crying, I was like, "They made it!" You just love them and we just, even I could meet somebody from my community today and I'm just like, "I love them." 


37:59 Claire: Yeah, like at the end of the day, obviously we knew activism work, some of it can be for yourself and for your existence. And a lot of time you think beyond yourself and you think of the other people that this is gonna impact. And you think of community. You know what I mean? You think of the people who brought you to that point, and you're like, "Dang." As if I wouldn't do this for them.


And I guess this is a question that I like to ask to wrap everything up in a nice little package. Are you an activist? 


38:32 Korra: I'll say that I'm an advocate and an activist. So I'm a bit of both.


38:39 Claire: Korra, thank you so much for having this conversation with me. You inspire me so much, honestly. I don't know if I tell you this enough, but you really do. I cannot wait to see all the things that you get to do. This has been such a beautiful and important conversation and I feel honored that you got to share your thoughts and your feelings and experiences with me and the people listening today. 


39:07 Korra: Yeah, thank you for having me. It's been amazing and powerful. 


39:10 Claire: This is what I mean! Is there anywhere else that people can find you online, if you feel comfortable sharing, is there anything you'd like to plug? Please plug away!


39:26 Korra: Yes, you can find me on Instagram. Let me just pull it up because I tend to forget it. So you can find me @korra.ivy on Instagram. And that's it kind of. I mean, you can find me on Facebook, around (in)visible. My Facebook is private, but you can friend request me if you want.


39:54 Claire: Yeah, play safe all of you, please. Yeah, thank you so much again, Korra. I appreciate you. If you'd like to follow Korra, we'll make sure that we have all of her deets on Instagram at voicefest.thedrum. This has been The Labeller. I am Claire, your delightful host. I will see you all very soon. 


The Labeller Podcast is supported by the Freeza Grant Program, Drummond Street Services and the Drum Youth Program. For more information, please visit thedrum.org.au/thelabellerpodcast.