Acknowledgment of Country

“I’d like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the (enter name) land on which we meet today. I would also like to pay my respects to Elders past and present and those upcoming.”

You hear it in schools, conferences, meetings/gatherings, on tv and radio – but why? And what is it? And who can do it?

An Acknowledgement of Country is a great opportunity for people to show respect for the Traditional Owners of the land and to connect the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the country in which they have lived for at least 65,000 years. Australia is made up of many First Nations tribes or groups, each having their own country, culture, language, beliefs and customs.

When doing an Acknowledgement of Country, there are no set protocols or wording. And anyone can perform it – Indigenous/non-Indigenous. It is usually said at the beginning of a meeting, speech or formal occasion – and those usually running the event are encouraged to start with the acknowledgement as a way of welcoming people.

When preparing your Acknowledgement of Country, if you are unsure about what land you are on you can also contact your local land council, check out the interactive AIATSIS map to see what land you are on, contact groups like the AECG (Aboriginal Education Consultative Group) or one of the regional network offices to find out more about acknowledging Traditional Owners in your area.

What about a Welcome to Country?

Welcome to Country is only allowed by (formally recognised) Traditional Owners/Custodians of their land on which the event takes place. This can be an Elder (they may be referred to as Aunty and Uncle) or could be by an adult or a child (depending on the protocols of their community) that belong to the land you are on.

The Welcome to Country speeches can vary, be spoken in traditional language, and can be accompanied by ceremonial dance and smoking ceremonies.

What is a Smoking Ceremony?

Smoking ceremonies involve a live fire and have been performed by Aboriginal people for thousands of years. These are unique to each region and use local plants and materials.

The smoking ceremonies have been used to cleanse people and places of bad spirits and to treat sickness. These ceremonies encourage good health and wellbeing through connection to culture and health. Smoking ceremonies are also only performed by traditional owners (or authorised representatives).

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