Welcome to Country
What is a Welcome to Country?
A Welcome to Country is a protocol where Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owners welcome others to the land of their ancestors.
The Welcome to Country ceremony is carried out at significant events and formal functions involving people from other parts of the country or from overseas. This practice shows respect for the Traditional Owners and Elders of a particular area or region.
When is a Welcome to Country required?
A Welcome to Country should be conducted at major public functions. Appropriate functions include government organised, funded and co-funded events such as:
- openings of festivals
- award programs
- significant community engagement forums.
A Welcome to Country should be incorporated into events where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, programs or services are being promoted.
What is an Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners and Elders?
The Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners and Elders differs from a Welcome to Country in that it can be delivered by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
This practice demonstrates respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and recognises the importance of acknowledging Traditional Owners of the land and/or sea.
A master of ceremonies either introduces the Traditional Owner representative to provide a Welcome to Country or makes an Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners and Elders. Other key speakers and participants may wish to take the opportunity to also precede their discussions with an Acknowledgement.
A short pause should be taken after the acknowledgement as a sign of respect, before proceedings continue.
An example of an Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners and Elders
“I would like to respectfully acknowledge the [Name of the Group if known] Traditional Owners of the land [and/or sea] on which this event is taking place and Elders both past and present.
I also recognise those whose ongoing effort to protect and promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures will leave a lasting legacy for future Elders and leaders.”
Is there a fee for a Welcome to Country?
Most Traditional Owner groups or representative groups will require a nominal fee to cover the cost of conducting the Welcome to Country ceremony.
A Welcome to Country that includes a traditional dance or smoking ceremony will generally involve a more substantial payment.