An ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ is an opportunity to acknowledge, and pay respect, to the Traditional Owners and ongoing custodians of the land - the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Acknowledgements are often made at the commencement of an event, such as a meeting, speech or formal occasion. An acknowledgement can be made by anybody, Indigenous or non-Indigenous. An Acknowledgement of Country will often highlight the unique position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australian culture and history.
There are many variations of what can be said by the person undertaking the Acknowledgement of country. The following wording is appropriate to use, though many people create slight variations to create a more personal and individual acknowledgement.
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.
If you know the name of the group of Traditional Owners on the land on which you are meeting, you can acknowledge them directly. For example, in the CBD of Sydney, the traditional owners are the Gadigal people, of the Eora nation. If you were to conduct an Acknowledgement of Country at an event in Sydney's CBD then, you might say: 'We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the country on which we meet today, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and recognise their continuing connection... (etc)'.
A Welcome to Country is undertaken by a Traditional Owner, custodian, or Elder for a particular local region. This can be done through speech, dance, song or ceremony.
‘Welcome to Country’ is an important ceremony and inviting a custodian or elder to perform it helps non-Indigenous people recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and history.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have experienced significant exclusion from Australian society for many years. Further, many non-Indigenous Australians have not had the opportunity to learn about, and celebrate, the rich cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This contributes to a disparity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians that persists today.
Acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in events is one part of ending this exclusion. It recognises the place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first custodians of this land and, importantly, promotes awareness of the history and culture of Indigenous people. This increased awareness will help us create a more united Australia, that celebrates and embraces our First Australians.