Why is a Welcome to / Acknowledgement of Country Important?
What is a Welcome to Country?
A Welcome to Country is a ceremonial welcome completed by a Traditional Owner. Where the Owners are welcoming people to their Country and acknowledging that the gathering is taking place on their traditional lands.
This is done out of respect for cultural protocols that pre-date colonisation. There are many ways that the Welcome to Country is undertaken, depending on the local group, a Welcome to Country may be sung, spoken, or performed prior to visitors crossing the Country border.
These protocols are significant to Indigenous people and though these ceremonies have been adapted for contemporary society, respect for Country is still of upmost importance.
What is an Acknowledgement of Country?
An Acknowledgement of Country is an opportunity for everyone, non-Indigenous or Indigenous to take the time to show respect for the Traditional Owners, Knowledge Holders and Custodians of the land in which the gathering is taking place.
Today, with many of societies’ gatherings being online and over technology, you will see an Acknowledgement at the bottom of an email signature or a footer of a website.
Reconciliation Australia shares that “Taking the time to Acknowledge Country, or by including a Welcome to Country at an event, reminds us that every day we live, work, and dream on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands.”
Wiradjuri woman and Murawin Senior Consultant, Donna Ingram has shared her thoughts and experiences on the importance of Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country.
Our colleagues often give Welcome and/or Acknowledgement to Country and from their experience with individuals’ questions and the holdbacks non-Indigenous people have shared with them around Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country, here are some FAQS.
Q: Why do we do a Welcome to Country/ Acknowledgement of Country?
A: Aboriginal Australia is made up of over 300 nations, aka, Countries. A Welcome to Country has been a significant part of Indigenous Custom and it is continued today as a sign of respect.
A Welcome to Country makes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel included and comfortable and aims to create connection between non-Indigenous people and Country.
Q: What is the difference between a Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country?
A: A Welcome to Country can only be done by the Traditional Owners or Custodians of that land, whereas anyone can deliver an Acknowledgement of Country showing their respect to Country that is not theirs.
Welcome to Country is a custom that had been used by Indigenous Australians, where the Traditional Owners or Custodians are welcoming and inviting you onto their land. Someone who can give a Welcome to Country, is either a Traditional Owner of the area, or an authorised representative from a local organisation, such as a Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) or Elders group.
An Acknowledgement of Country is a way of showing respect to those Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land you are living, working, or exploring.
Q: How was a Welcome to Country traditionally used?
A: Throughout history permission was needed to travel to, or through another Country. Visitors would sit outside the Country boundaries and light a fire, letting the Traditional Owners and Custodians know they are seeking permission to enter their Country. Traditional Owners would discover the business of the visitor and then decide on granting permission to enter Country.
Q: If I am delivering an Acknowledgement of Country, do I have to say the whole thing? ‘I Acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of this land the _____ people of the _____ Nation and pay my respects to Elders past and present’.
A: While there is no set script for an Acknowledgement of Country, many people use an iteration of the above text.
If you would like you can simply say: ‘I would like to Acknowledge Country and thank Aunty/Uncle/ Persons name for their beautiful Welcome’, if applicable.
Q: What if I mispronounce the name of the Traditional Owners/Custodians or the Nation?
A: If you have asked the relevant person and attempted the pronunciation with respect, you will be forgiven. Some names can be difficult for people to say.