Acknowledgement and Welcome to Country
Traditionally, when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people travelled, they would not enter another’s Country until they were welcomed by Traditional Owners of the land. Aboriginal people have a unique relationship with the land, involving the responsibility to look after the environmental and spiritual wellbeing of their Country.
“Country is a living entity with a yesterday, today and tomorrow.” Deborah Bird Rose, Nourishing Terrains.
What is a Welcome to Country?
Welcoming people to Country is a traditional practice, which has special significance. The Welcome to Country should only be delivered by Aboriginal people in their own local homelands and community. This could be an Elder, or an adult who belongs to that Country.
For tens of thousands of years, protocols for welcoming visitors to Country have been part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Traditionally there were clear boundaries separating their Country from that of other groups and crossing into another area required permission to enter. When permission was granted by the hosting group, they would welcome the visitors and offer them safe passage during their journey.
The essential elements of the Welcome to Country remain today. The Welcome to Country usually occurs at the beginning of an event and can include singing, dancing, a smoking ceremony, or a speech in traditional language and/or English.
A Smoking Ceremony is an ancient Aboriginal custom in which native plants are burnt, producing smoke to promote the wellbeing of people and guests on Country, acknowledge ancestors and pay respect to the land, water and sea.
Those present will typically be invited to walk through the smoke. A smoking ceremony is often used as part of a larger Welcome to Country ceremony.
What is an Acknowledgement of Country?
An Acknowledgement of Country is an opportunity to pay respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander custodians of the land and their continuing connection to the land, sea and sky.
An Acknowledgement of Country can be performed by an Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal person, including both adults and children. It is generally offered at the beginning of a meeting, speech or formal event.
Please watch this short video of a National Acknowledgement of Country by Reconciliation Australia.