Welcome to Country
The SSTUWA proposes that at the commencement of meetings there be an Acknowledgement of the Traditional Custodians of the Country in which the meeting is being held. Union members are encouraged to use this Acknowledgement of Country at the beginning of all meetings in schools and TAFE colleges.
The SSTUWA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Committee feels this is important and should be an integral part of promoting the reconciliation process. This document is meant to be a guide to those who wish to Acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Country.
Why do we do it?
The process of Acknowledgement of Country and Welcome to Country recognises the unique position of Aboriginal people in Australian culture and history.
Aboriginal people are the original owners of the land and it is important this unique position is recognised and incorporated into official protocol to enable the wider community to share in Aboriginal culture and facilitate better relationships between Aboriginal people and the wider community.
Official events and ceremonies engage the attention of participants and observers. Incorporating Aboriginal ceremonies into official events provides the opportunity to recognise and pay respect to Aboriginal people’s culture and heritage. It also communicates to the broader community the cultural heritage of Aboriginal people and helps to promote development of mutual respect and understanding.
How do we do it?
The type of ceremony performed should be appropriate to the nature and size of the event. When planning an event you should consult with Aboriginal staff within your school or workplace or District Office Support Staff to provide advice on:
• the appropriate level of Aboriginal recognition;
• the appropriate ceremonies and performances; and
• a community representative who should be contacted. Two ceremonies can be performed.
• Acknowledgement of Country for non-Aboriginal people
• Welcome to Country by local Aboriginal people of that land
Acknowledgement of Country
As a minimum requirement an Acknowledgement of Country ceremony should be undertaken. An Acknowledgement of Country is a way that non-Aboriginal people can show respect for Aboriginal heritage and the ongoing relationship of the Traditional Owners of the area with the land.
A Chair or Speaker begins the meeting by acknowledging that the meeting is taking place in the country of the Traditional Owners. Those who Acknowledge the Country can Acknowledge all the Traditional Owners of the land or can Acknowledge the Traditional Owners of this land without naming those people. Acknowledging Country this way will not cause offence where there is some potential of actual dispute around ownership.
The Local Aboriginal Land Council as well as the Department of Indigenous Affairs can provide advice as to who are the Traditional owners of the specific country.
An example of Acknowledgement of Country could be:
• I would like to show my respect and acknowledge the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land on which this meeting takes place.
• I would like to respectfully acknowledge the ______________________ people who are the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land on which we stand.
Welcome to Country
The Welcome to Country ceremony should be undertaken by the local Traditional Owners of the land (usually a senior representative of the local Aboriginal community) however, this is dependent upon the location of the event and the practice of the community. Steps should be taken to ensure that the appropriate Aboriginal representative is invited to undertake the ceremony. The local Aboriginal Land Council and the Department of Indigenous Affairs Office are key contacts for representatives who can undertake a Welcome to Country.
There is no exact wording when Welcoming to Country. As such, the content of the Welcome to Country Ceremony should be negotiated between the schools or workplace and the Aboriginal representative with reference to the nature of the event and community practices. However, representatives will generally provide the participants with information about Aboriginal history and will go on to welcome those present to the country.
SSTUWA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Committee (The assistance of the New South Wales Teachers Federation is acknowledged in the drafting of this document) November 2003.