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What does Welcome to Country mean?

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 Welcome to Country at 2018 Commonwealth Games

Welcome to Country at 2018 Commonwealth Games Source: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images


Published 30 June 2022 at 8:39am
By Melissa Compagnoni
Presented by Shiela Joy Labrador-Cubero
Source: SBS

Increasingly at the beginning of an event, we see a formal ceremony performed by Aboriginal Traditional Custodians. This welcoming ritual is called ‘Welcome to Country’.


Published 30 June 2022 at 8:39am
By Melissa Compagnoni
Presented by Shiela Joy Labrador-Cubero
Source: SBS


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What does Welcome to Country mean? image

Increasingly at the beginning of an event, we see a formal ceremony performed by Aboriginal Traditional Custodians. This welcoming ritual is called ‘Welcome to Country’.

SBS Filipino

29/06/202207:09


Welcome to Country ceremonies are only performed by Traditional Custodians.

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They are the descendants of the Aboriginal people who cared for Australian land before colonisation.


Highlights

  • A Welcome to Country ceremony differs from an Acknowledgement of Country
  • Only the Traditional Custodians of a particular area can perform a Welcome to Country
  • Resources are available to help you prepare an Acknowledgement in your own voice

Rhoda Roberts is SBS’ Elder in Residence. She coined the term ‘Welcome to Country’ in the 1980s and helped develop modern ways to deliver the welcoming.

“The Welcome to Country is done by those Custodians from that land base that you’re on, or indeed the Elders of that community.”

The welcoming usually takes the form of a speech, dance, or smoking ceremony. 

Welcome to Country before Super Netball, Melbourne 2022
Welcome to Country before Super Netball, Melbourne 2022 Source: AAP Image/James Ross


Jude Barlow is a Ngunnawal Elder from the Canberra region. She educates people about the significance of Welcome to Country.

“Being welcomed to Country means that you are talking to your spiritual ancestors and you’re saying ‘Just let this person come through.

We trust that they’re not going to do any harm to this Country so do not harm them’. So, for me, the significance of being welcomed to Country is about ensuring your spiritual safety."

Be careful to include the Country you’re meeting on, and to use the Traditional name.

Always name the Traditional Custodians if they are formally recognised, and pay respects to the Elders, past, present and emerging.

Kerri-Lee Harding is SBS’ Indigenous Lead.

“I perform Acknowledgement of Countries in many ways in my life, and I do so on-air at SBS Radio, at work for meetings, and also in other settings in the community as well. It holds a very special significance for me as an Aboriginal woman.

It’s so important that I acknowledge the Aboriginal land which I’m working on. It actually enables me to share with others whose land we are on, the knowledge of the Traditional Owners and acknowledge them.”

If it’s not clear who the Traditional Owners are, it’s wise to give acknowledgement to the Traditional Owners more generally. Paul Paton explains.

The most respectful thing to do, says Kerri-Lee Harding, is to give an Acknowledgment a try.

“Go ahead and be positive and do an Acknowledgement of Country, as it’s one positive thing I think we should all be doing to pay our respects to the local Custodians of the land.”

 


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