Welcome to Country and Acknowledgment

Aboriginal people are the original or Traditional Custodians of the land and it is important that this special position is recognised and incorporated into the official activities of a school. This enables the school community to pay respect to Aboriginal people, share in Aboriginal culture and build better relationships.

Acknowledgement of Country

It is now common to start school assemblies, major meetings and educational conferences where proceedings begin with either an acknowledgement of land and the original custodians by the first speaker; or a Welcome to Country, which is performed by an Aboriginal Elder or leader who is from the community in which your school is situated.

A Welcome to Country can only be performed by an Elder or leader who is from the community in which your school is situated. An Aboriginal person or group delivering a Welcome to Country or giving a cultural performance for an event must be remunerated accordingly.

This triptych (pictured below) captures the coastal people’s annual journey to the mountains to trade, and to feast on the bogong moths. It was created in 1988 at a CAP-funded celebration of NAIDOC Week.

triptych

It is advisable to prepare an acknowledgement to deliver at the start of the planned assembly meeting or gathering.

Example 1: ‘I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians, the Yuin people, on whose land we are meeting/gathering today. I would also like to pay my respects to Elders past and present, and welcome all Aboriginal people here with us today.’

Example 2: ‘I would like to begin our assembly by paying my respects to past and present Elders of the Yuin Nation and acknowledge their custodianship of the land on which this assembly/meeting/gathering is being held.’

Example 3: ‘I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians on whose land we are meeting today.’

Schools could also add to any of the above statements

‘I would also like to acknowledge the present Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who now live within this area.’

A Welcome to Country can only be performed by an Elder or leader who is from the community in which your school is situated. An Aboriginal person or group delivering a Welcome to Country or giving a cultural performance for an event must be remunerated accordingly.

Practical tips

  • When inviting an Elder or leader to provide a Welcome to Country, ask what the required fee will be.
  • Be mindful that a non-Aboriginal person cannot perform a Welcome to Country and to do so is considered very rude and disrespectful to the traditional custodians and to all Aboriginal people.
  • It is therefore important to ensure all staff understand what is an Acknowledgement and what is a Welcome to Country.
  • Check the Department of Aboriginal Affairs guidelines for agencies to consider when engaging Aboriginal people in cultural performances, or when conducting a Welcome to Country or other Aboriginal cultural protocol. These guidelines are available on the DAA website: click here.