- What is a Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country?
What is a Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country?
Welcome to Country
A Welcome to Country is a ceremony performed by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person who is a Traditional Land Owner. It is performed to welcome visitors to their own traditional land. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have very diverse cultures so a Welcome to Country will be performed in many ways and will depend on the particular culture of the Traditional Owners of any given area of land or ‘country’. For example, a Welcome to Country may include singing, dancing, smoking ceremonies or a speech in traditional language or English. It may include some information about the history of the peoples who lived on that land before European settlement and or their current customs and traditions.
Acknowledgement of Country
An Acknowledgement of Country can be performed by anyone. It is a way to show awareness of and respect for the traditional Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander owners of the land on which an event is being held. It is one way of recognising the continuing connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to their country.
- Why is it important to perform a Welcome to Country or Acknowledgement of Country?
Why is it important to perform a Welcome to Country or Acknowledgement of Country?
A Welcome to Country and or Acknowledgement of Country demonstrates that we recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australia’s first nation’s people and custodians of their land. This symbolic act demonstrates our awareness of past wrongs and promotes reflection and the ongoing connection to land for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
What does the Early Years Learning Framework say?
Principle 4: Respect for diversity outlines the need for “…Educators to recognize that diversity contributes to the richness of our society and provides a valid evidence base about ways of knowing. For Australia it also includes promoting greater understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing and being.” (p 12)
- What words do you use in a Welcome to Country or Acknowledgement of Country?
What words do you use in a Welcome to Country or Acknowledgement of Country?
There is no set wording or protocol for an Acknowledgement of Country. It could take the following form:
“I would like to acknowledge that we are meeting on the traditional lands of the (appropriate group) people, and I pay my respect to Elders past, present and future.”
- Spend some time thinking about how you can personalise and localise an Acknowledgement of Country to make it as meaningful as possible to your service.
- Research who the Traditional Land Owners are for the land on which you are meeting or working. A good place to start is the Aboriginal languages map, however this should not be your only source.
- Check with local Elders appropriate for the area in which your activity is happening.
- Helping young children to appreciate Acknowledgement of Country
Helping young children to appreciate Acknowledgement of Country
Giving young children an opportunity to participate in Acknowledgement of Country is an important step towards reconciliation and will establish lifelong learning about Australia’s first nation's people. Early childhood educators need to spend time making sure that the Acknowledgements that they create allow for children to understand and actively participate in the experience. The following story was provided by Ranu James an Early Childhood Educator as an example of the way that Acknowledgement can be taught to very young children in a meaningful way.
An Educator's story: Creating actions for an Acknowledgement of Country
"I developed this Acknowledgement of Country when I watched a young girl on YouTube. She was about 3 or 4 years old and she was doing the Acknowledgement of Country that she must have learnt in her Early Childhood Service. It occurred to me that, young children can do this if we teach it in a way that is accessible to them, like a nursery rhyme, with finger actions. When I do an Acknowledgement of Country with the children and educators I work with I try to make sure it is an enjoyable and interactive experience for everyone. I have structured my acknowledgement into 3 parts - past, present and future."
Everyone bends down and with flat hands we touch the ground and say: “I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the (insert name of land) land that we stand on today. Those Elders who have come and walked this land before us.”
Everyone stands up and stretches to the sky and we say: “I acknowledge the future traditional custodians and Elders of the (insert name of land) land that we stand on today for they will carry the dreams of their Elders into the future.”
Everyone touches their hearts and we say: “I acknowledge everyone who is here today. Thank you for joining us. There is much we can learn from each other”
OR, If I’m working with children I might say: “Good morning everyone! I’m so happy to see you all today! Let’s have a great day of learning with each other!”
- Sharing stories of Acknowledgement of Country in early childhood services
Sharing stories of Acknowledgement of Country in early childhood services
Here are some examples of how other early childhood services have incorporated an Acknowledgement of Country into their programs. These stories come from Queensland early childhood educators.
An Educator's story: Introducing Acknowledgement of Country to the children
“When first introducing an Acknowledgement of Country I have found that, depending on the children in your group, it can sometimes lack meaning and commitment when introduced on the very first day of term. Sometimes this might put you at risk of having the Acknowledgement become a bit like housekeeping, part of the routine, up there with marking the role, something that we do by rote without any understanding of the purpose of the Acknowledgement of Country.
For me, I prefer to start the children with “Good morning dear earth” and do that for a couple of weeks and talk about where we live and this beautiful country. Then, depending again on where the children are at, and on the children’s level of understanding, I introduce Australia as the country we live in. After a week or so of this activity, many children are now ready to think and talk ‘country’. They begin to recognise the care and wisdom of Traditional Owners. Last year I had Indigenous children who very much identified with country whereas, this year I found in our first two days of discussions that no children even knew about ‘Australia'. Every group is different and you really need to meet the children where they are and then build on the knowledge that they have.”
Watch Elle Hughes share her story of how she has found opportunities to celebrate our diversity and a sense of belonging for all.
- Acknowledging Australia's diverse communities
Acknowledging Australia's diverse communities
In any country there are usually important and respectful protocols for acknowledging first nation's people. Australia is a diverse multicultural country you have probably considered some ways that you can acknowledge ALL of the people who have made Australia their home. Perhaps it’s about finding out how we all say “G’day Mate” or “Welcome, come and join us”. Here are some different stories from practitioners in early childhood services who have found ways to welcome their local communities into their service.
An Educator's story: Candle lights
“We often take our children to the local store or post office when we need to collect the mail or buy groceries for the service. So our community knows our children and are familiar with seeing us around. Each year we have a ‘light party’ in the park across the road from our service. The children spend time making as many different tea light candle holders as they can. We have a sausage sizzle in the park and we invite our neighbours and all of our families along to this beautiful event. We start the evening with a Welcome to Country performed by the local Indigenous Elders. Then we invite other people up onto the stage to say ‘Welcome’ in their language. We hand out all the tea light candle holders that we have made and some people have started bringing their own. We open up the sausage sizzle and invite everyone to enjoy their sausage and bread as we light our candles and watch the sun set. It’s a really beautiful community night and our numbers have grown each year since we have been doing this activity.”
- References and resources
References and resources
The following references and resources are provided for your use:
- Resources used in this module
- Printable versions of some of the resources and reflection questions in this module
- Other useful resources
Once you have viewed all of the materials in this course and completed the activities, you will be able to download your certificate of completion here. Please note this course is not accredited.