Based on the Aboriginal dreaming, ‘Welcome to Country’ acknowledges the significant Aboriginal nations and recognises the ancestral spirits who created the boundaries and lands, which allows safe passage to visitors. This acknowledgment has been Aboriginal protocol for thousands of years and is still observed in remote Australian communities. It always occurs in the opening ceremony, preferably as the first item. ‘Welcome to County’ is generally conducted by a representative/s of local Aboriginal custodians who welcome delegates to their country.
Aboriginal protocols in relation to ‘Welcome to Country’ are wide and diverse and will vary according to region and locality. The form of welcome is negotiated between the Aboriginal people and the event organisers. For example ‘Welcome to Country’ may consist of a single speech, or it may include some type of performance (a song, dance, didgeridoo solo etc) a smoking or cleansing ceremony, or it may be a combination of these.
It is important to remember that the Aboriginal representative/s must feel comfortable with the arrangements. Rather than a gesture of tokenism and political correctness, conference organisers should acknowledge that ‘Welcome to Country’ is a right of the local Aboriginal custodians and not a privilege.
Who performs ‘Welcome to Country’ is agreed between appropriate representatives of the local Aboriginal custodians and the event organisers. There are a number of channels through which event organiser may contact appropriate Aboriginal people. WAITOC is an initial first stop for event organisers wishing to find out the appropriate Aboriginal people/organisation to contact.
Contact should be made as early as possible in the planning of the event. It is traditional that some form of payment is made either to the individuals or to an organisation for providing such a service. The exact form and amount of payment negotiated between the Aboriginal custodians and the event organiser will depend on the type of ‘Welcome to Country’ provided.
It is strongly recommended that the ‘Welcome to Country’ negotiated between the even organiser and the traditional owner/s is clearly identified and agreed to in writing.
For more information please contact us.