Welcome to Country
1. What is a Welcome to Country?
Protocols for welcoming visitors to Country have been a part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures for thousands of years. Despite the absence of fences or visible borders, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups had clear boundaries separating their Country from that of other groups. Crossing into another group’s Country required a request for permission to enter. When permission was granted the hosting group would welcome the visitors, offering them safe passage and protection of their spiritual being during the journey. While visitors were provided with a safe passage, they also had to respect the protocols and rules of the land owner group while on their Country.
Today, obviously much has changed, and these protocols have been adapted to contemporary circumstances. However, the essential elements of welcoming visitors and offering safe passage remain in place. A Welcome to Country occurs at the beginning of a formal event and can take many forms including singing, dancing, smoking ceremonies or a speech in traditional language or English. A Welcome to Country is delivered by Traditional Owners, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have been given permission from Traditional Owners, to welcome visitors to their Country.
2. What is an Acknowledgment of Country?
An Acknowledgement of Country is an opportunity for anyone to show respect for Traditional Owners and the continuing connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to Country. It can be given by both non-Indigenous people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
There are no set protocols or wording for an Acknowledgement of Country, though often a statement may take the following forms.
General: I’d like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today. I would also like to pay my respects to Elders past and present.
Specific: I’d like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today, the (people) of the (nation) and pay my respects to Elders past and present.
Similar to a Welcome to Country, an Acknowledgement of Country is generally offered at the beginning of a meeting, speech or formal occasion.
3. Arranging a Welcome to Country
For assistance in identifying the appropriate Traditional Owners of the land in which your event is being held, please email your request through to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All Welcome to Country requests for the NQLC region are managed by the Chief Executive Officer. The Chief Executive Officer will respond to all requests in writing, confirming the appropriate Traditional Owners for the area you require. If the Traditional Owners are a group represented by the NQLC you will be provided with the group’s tribal name and contact person’s details. If the Traditional Owners are a group not represented by the NQLC, you will be provided with details of their legal representative.
Please note, the NQLC does not arrange Welcomes to Country but is able to put you contact with the Traditional Owners themselves, or their representative.