Welcome To Country
WELCOME TO COUNTRY: WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
To answer this question, we asked Joy Murphy Wandin. She is a Wurundjeri elder who has given Welcome to Country at numerous public events.
"For Wurundjeri it is about giving recognition to our ancestors for giving us the right to be here," Joy said. "It's paying respect, in a formal sense, and following traditional custom in a symbolic way.
"If you are looking for someone to give Welcome, it is very important that you identify carefully the traditional owners of the country, so that the correct elder can be invited. If you don't know whose country it is, you might not be applying the right protocols."
Every time a formal Welcome to Country is given it continues a tradition that has always been a part of Australian culture - except for a recent lapse of about 200 years. It was always given by way of welcome when permission was granted to visit a different tribal area.
What does it mean to Joy? A heck of a lot.
"It is one of the most proud moments in my life, each and every time I'm able to pay respect and acknowledge my people," she said. "I think I'm fortunate to be here at this time when the mainstream are inviting us to give Welcome to Country. If we can continue with it, it will help to put that respect into the entire community.
"Initially people were hesitant, not so comfortable, but now there are all these wonderful invitations. It's a very important way of giving Aboriginal people back their place in society, and an opportunity for us to say, 'We are real, we are here, and today we welcome you to our land'.
- Michael Winkler
HOW TO DO AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO COUNTRY
APAPDC's Acknowledgment to Country: This statement is used by Brian Giles-Browne in the work he does in New South Wales.
"We acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land and pay our respects to the elders both past, present and future for they hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia. We must always remember that under the concrete and asphalt this land is, was and always will be traditional Aboriginal land."
The following statement was used at the Dare to Lead national, state and territory launches. You are welcome to adapt it to your own situation (eg using the name of the people instead of the generic 'first people', changing the last line so it refers to your particular project, agreement etc).
"Paying respect to the first peoples on whose land we are,
Acknowledging the loss of lands, cultures and treasures,
Knowing the consequences for people, communities and nations,
Believing we can walk together to a better future,
We meet today, taking it on."
Other examples of Acknowledgement to Country
- "Before we begin the proceedings, I would like to acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the INSERT ABORIGINAL COMMUNITY NAME HERE people."
- "I would like to show my respect and acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, of elders past and present, on which this event takes place."
- "I would like to acknowledge the INSERT ABORIGINAL COMMUNITY NAME HERE people who are the traditional custodians of this land. I would also like to pay respect to the elders past and present of the INSERT ABORIGINAL COMMUNITY NAME HERE people and extend that respect to other Aboriginal people present."