A ‘Welcome to Country’ or an ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ – What’s the difference?
A Welcome to Country is a ceremony performed by Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people to welcome visitors to their traditional land. It can take many forms, depending on the particular culture of the traditional owners. It can include singing, dancing, smoking ceremonies or a speech in traditional language or English, and is only performed by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
An Acknowledgement of Country is a way of showing awareness of and respect for the traditional Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander custodians of the land on which a meeting or event is being held, and of recognising the continuing connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to their Country. This ceremony is performed by non-indigenous people and Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people who are not traditional owners of the land that is being acknowledged.
How to perform an ‘Acknowledgement of Country’
There are no set protocols or wording for an Acknowledgment of Country, though often a statement may take the form of the following examples:
‘I wish to acknowledge the custodians of this land, the [Aboriginal group/clan] people of the [Aboriginal nation] nation and their Elders past and present. I acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.’
‘I am honoured to be on the ancestral lands of the [Aboriginal group/clan] people. I acknowledge the First Australians as the traditional custodians of the continent, whose cultures are among the oldest living cultures in human history. I pay respect to the elders of the community and extend my recognition to their descendants who are present.’
‘I would like to acknowledge the [Aboriginal group/clan] people who are the traditional custodians of this land. I would also like to pay my respects to Elders past and present of the [Aboriginal nation] nation, and I extend that respect to other indigenous people who are present.’
If you are unable to identify which Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander clan or nation should be acknowledged, use a generic form of acknowledgement such as:
‘I acknowledge the traditional custodians of country throughout Australia and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and community. I pay my respects to them and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.’
A ‘Welcome to Country’ or an ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ is a small yet significant step we can take at the commencement of our meetings and events. It shows that we respect the important heritage that our wider nation has been founded upon and that we want to be part of the ongoing reconciliation between all peoples of this vast nation of Australia.
To help identify which Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander nation/clan is located in your area, contact your local council.
This interactive map can give you an idea to start your search.
Sources and for more information and examples see:
Reconciliation Australia’s ‘Welcome to and Acknowledgement of Country’ Fact Sheet
The Creative Spirits website on ‘Welcome to and Acknowledgement of Country’ info