Acknowledgement of Country Welcome to Country

Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country

6 min read
A Guide for International Event Managers
In Australia, it’s common for events to include an Acknowledgement of Country or Welcome to Country. Learn about the ceremony’s history and importance, when your event should include one and how to arrange it.

Learn about the long history of the tradition, Australian events that should include a Welcome to Country or an Acknowledgement of Country, and who should preside over them.

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It’s important to understand the significance of Welcome to Country for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Click To Tweet

What is an Acknowledgement of Country?

The Acknowledgement to Country is a way of formally respecting the traditional custodians of the land for more than 50,000 years, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

It thanks the ancestors for allowing events to take place on that land, and is based on the welcoming ceremony that’s been a part of Aboriginal culture for thousands of years.

This acknowledgement is especially important to Aboriginal people because of the impact of European colonisation and the ensuing period where their culture was largely denied. It’s a meaningful way to honour Australia’s traditional cultures, in particular their deep, spiritual connection to the land we now inhabit.

The Difference Between Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country

You may have heard two different terms, ‘Welcome to Country’ and ‘Acknowledgement of Country’.

Both have the same purpose – to officially welcome guests to the land of the traditional custodians and to thank the ancestors for their permission – with the key difference being who conducts the ceremony.

A Welcome to Country must be offered by an Aboriginal Elder, or an indigenous person who has been endorsed by their local Aboriginal community.

The Acknowledgement of Country can be performed by a non-indigenous Australian, and is the more common version of the ceremony.

When your Australian event should include an Acknowledgement of Country and how to arrange it. Click To Tweet

An Australian Tradition for Thousands of Years

Welcoming visitors to Country has been part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures for thousands of years. Although there were no fences marking boundaries, the Aboriginal people would always request permission before entering another group’s Country.

The host group would grant approval and welcome the visitors with a ceremony of singing, dancing and feasting, offering safe passage and spiritual protection whilst on that land.

They would also tell them where to find water and alert them to any hazards. At the same time, the visiting group would respect their host’s rules and protocols.


Australian Native Title and Mabo
The Native Title movement and the Mabo decision formed the groundswell for bringing the Acknowledgement of Country to mainstream events and meetings in Australia.

Since 2010, the Federal Parliament has opened sessions with Acknowledgement of Country and is now official protocol.



In Australia, an Acknowledgement of Country thanks the ancestors for allowing events to take place on that land. #respect Click To Tweet

When to Include an Acknowledgement of Country

It’s appropriate to include an Acknowledgement of Country at any event or gathering. For smaller events, you may opt for speech only, using the example below as guide.

For more formal and larger events, it’s best to include a more detailed acknowledgement ceremony that includes didgeridoo, dancing and singing:

  • Larger conferences
  • High profile sporting events
  • Events with international delegates
  • Formal events with politicians present
  • Events for heavily scrutinised industries, such as finance, banking and development

A good speaker bureau will be able to help you find indigenous Australians who are experienced, specialist performers in Aboriginal dance and music, and can also offer the spoken acknowledgement.

What better way to welcome international event delegates than with an Acknowledgement of Country? Click To Tweet

Example Acknowledgement of Country

While there isn’t a set protocol for Acknowledgement of Country, it normally takes the following forms:

“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.”

This is a general approach.

A more specific approach includes the name of the traditional custodians of the land:

“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.”

For example, if you’re hosting an event in the City of Sydney area, it would read:

“I would like to acknowledge the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of this land and pay my respects to the Elders both past and present.”

Paying Respect to Traditional Cultures

Including an Acknowledgement of Country – or a Welcome to Country – is an important expression of respect for Australia’s first inhabitants. It is refreshingly educational for many the non-indigenous Australian adults – above the age of 30 or so – who did not learn at school about our traditional cultures.

For international event delegates, what better form of welcome than one that originates from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures that are thousands of years old.

At Enhance, we aim to create an inclusive, respectful environment that invites participation from people of all races, abilities, gender, age, ethnicity, creed and sexual orientation as outlined in our diversity policy.


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About the Author

Jo Tilgals

From managing a Tokyo restaurant to establishing a catering business, the customer has always been at the heart of Josephine’s career. Jo’s high-level communication skills, broad experience and caring manner are the perfect match for your event projects. She handles all details of contracts, invoicing and briefing, freeing up your valuable time and assuring your event will be a huge success.

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