A Guide for International Event ManagersIn 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.
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.
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.
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.
Example Acknowledgement of Country
While there isn’t a set protocol for Acknowledgement of Country, it normally takes the following forms:
This is a general approach.
A more specific approach includes the name of the traditional custodians of the land:
For example, if you’re hosting an event in the City of Sydney area, it would read:
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.
Share this Post
- The Glossary of Event Terms is the Event Planner’s go-to for all the terms you need to know.
- Get a visual on all the people you’ll rely on to produce an event with The Periodic Table of Events.
- The people you deal with will make or break your event. Here’s how to choose and use the right event professionals.
Share this Post