May 18, 2011

Releasing the Spirits ~ Charles Bartlett

A ‘Welcome to Country’ is a small ceremony where traditional owners, usually elders, welcome people to their land. This is a significant recognition and is made through a formal process, although it’s up to the elder how they decide to carry out the ceremony. It also depends on the location of the event and the practice of the Aboriginal community which can vary greatly according to region.

During a ‘Welcome to Country’ the elders welcome those in attendance, guests, staff and students to their country. It might be just a simple speech or a performance of some sort, like a song, traditional dance, a didgeridoo piece or any combination of these.

‘Welcome to Country’ should always occur in the opening of the event in question, preferable as the first item. Note that a ‘Welcome to Country’ is often considered a right and not a privilege.

The ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremony was first conducted at the start of parliament in 2008 and will now form a regular element of Australian political process.

Dreamtime Stilts ~ Sydney Olympic Games, 2000

‘Acknowledgement of Country’ by Jonathan Hill

Today we stand in footsteps millennia old. 
May we acknowledge the traditional owners 
whose cultures and customs have nurtured, 
and continue to nurture, this land, 
since men and women 
awoke from
 the great dream. 
We honour the presence of these ancestors who 
reside in
 the imagination of this land and whose 
spirituality flows through all creation. 

Welcome to Country from an Aboriginal perspective

Bev Manton, chairperson of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC), describes a Welcome to Country from her perspective .

“A Welcome to Country is about Aboriginal people acknowledging the past, and looking to the future. It is often delivered by an Aboriginal person who has themselves been the victim of government policies.

Our Elders do the Welcome to Country as an act of generosity. These are the same people who have had their children taken away, or been removed themselves. They’re the same people who had their wages stolen by successive governments. They’re the same people who had ancestors remains raided by grave robbers. They’re the same people who were disposed from their lands and forced on to missions and reserves.

And yet despite all of these terrible events—despite the horrendous treatment by so many parliaments—these very same people are still prepared to say ‘welcome’ to the very people who in some cases have presided over the oppression.”

Definition of didjabringabeeralong

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