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, 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.
When does the Welcome to Country take place?
A Welcome to Country occurs at the beginning of a formal event. It can take many forms including:
- smoking ceremonies
- 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
An Acknowledgement of Country is an opportunity to show respect for:
- Traditional Owners,
- and the ongoing connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to Country.
Who can deliver an Acknowledgement of Country?
Anyone can deliver an Acknowledgement of Country. The protocols or wording for an Acknowledgement of Country are not set.
Often a statement may take 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."
"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."