What is a Welcome to Country / Acknowledgement of Country?

A Welcome to Country is given by Traditional Custodians of the land when visitors arrive or at the beginning of an event or ceremony. Protocols vary from place to place. The Welcome to Country is a formal process in which visitors recognize the Traditional Custodians of the land. It may consist of a speech, or it might include performance of a welcoming song or dance.

An Acknowledgement of Country is a way in which people who are not Traditional Custodians of the land acknowledge and pay respect to the Traditional Custodians of the place where an event or ceremony is taking place.

Here are some examples of how to make an Acknowledgment of Country ….

  1. The [insert name of group organizing or hosting event] and its members would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands of the [insert name of the appropriate Indigenous people e.g. Cammeraigal people] on which we gather today. We would like to pay our respects to the elders both past and present, and to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people present with us today / this evening [acknowledge by name any Elders or Indigenous people with significant roles]. We welcome you to [name of facility].
    (This Acknowledgment of Country is adapted from one used by the Metropolitan Land Council)
  2. I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land, the ______ people, and call on the Spirit Ancestors to walk with us today as we share and learn together.
  3. We acknowledge the traditional peoples of the land on which we stand. We pay our respects to them for their care of the land.
  4. I would like to begin by acknowledging the ________ people, the traditional custodians on whose land this ________ was built.
  5. I acknowledge the living culture of the ______ people, the traditional custodians of the land we stand on, and pay tribute to the unique role they play in the life of this region.
  6. I wish to begin by acknowledging that we are in the country of the ________ people. I pay respect to their tribal elders, I celebrate their continuing culture, and I acknowledge the memory of their ancestors.
  7. I would like to acknowledge the ______ people, the traditional custodians of the country on which we are meeting today. I acknowledge that they have occupied and cared for this country over countless generations and I celebrate their continuing contribution to the life of this region.
  8. We acknowledge and pay respect to the _______people as the original and ongoing owners and custodians of this land. We commit ourselves to actively work alongside Indigenous people for reconciliation and justice. (This acknowledgement could be said together)

(The suggested words of acknowledgement of traditional peoples in numbers 2 to 8 above come from the Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes NSW Social Justice Committee and were formulated after dialogue with Aboriginal Catholic communities.)

For more information on protocols for contact with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups, click here. (http://nswrecon.com/resources/resource_categories/protocols/)

What is NAIDOC Week?

In 2008 the MAGiS08 Week will coincide with NAIDOC Week. NAIDOC celebrations are held around Australia in the first full week in July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’. This committee was once responsible for organising national activities during NAIDOC Week, and its acronym has become the name of the week itself. For more information, visit www.naidoc.org.au

What is the Reconciliation Movement?

This people’s movement works for an Australia that recognises the special place and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians, values their participation and provides equal life chances for all.

To be reconciled, Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians need to come to an honest understanding of our shared history and to work together for justice, recognition and healing.

Click here for more information about the reconciliation movement.

Who are the Stolen Generations?

From the beginning of the colonization of Australia, Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their families and communities. They were taken for their labour, or to try to assimilate them into European society. Until the 1970s there was a government policy under which children could be taken from their Indigenous families simply because they were of mixed descent. Indigenous Australians refer to the children who were taken away as the Stolen Generations.

The Bringing Them Home report was issued in 1997 following a National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torre Strait Islander Children from their Families. Click here for more information.

What is Sorry Day?

National Sorry Day is observed on 26 May each year to commemorate the history of forcible removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their Indigenous families and communities and its effects. The establishment of this day was recommended by the Bringing Them Home report.

Click here for the website of the National Sorry Day Committee.

Action resources sheets for the commemoration of Sorry Day 2008 can be downloaded below:

What is Native Title?

Native Title refers to rights in relation to lands and waters held by Indigenous Australians arising from their traditional laws and customs. Some of these rights have survived the process of colonization and are now recognized by Australian law under the Native Title Act.

Click here for a more detailed explanation of Native Title.

What is the Dreamtime?

While the word ‘Dreamtime’ or ‘Dreaming’ is a poor translation into English of different Indigenous words and meanings, it refers to that cosmic world that existed before human beings came to live on the earth. It includes the stories and actions of the ancestral beings that shaped the land into what it now is. For many, the Dreamtime continues to have an active, living and continuing relationship with today’s life, law and community values.

Land, family and Dreamtime offer important values that continue to influence how Indigenous people live today but in new ways shaped by contact history and the many effects of secular western culture and Christianity.

What Does the Catholic Church Say About All This?

The Popes and the Catholic Bishops of Australia have issued a number of statements about justice for Indigenous Australians. Click here for links to a number of these teaching documents.