It has now become customary to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land. A children’s acknowledgement of country helps children to gain an understanding of the rich Aborignial heritage that all Australians share.
Acknowledgement of Country in childcare can be performed by either an indigenous or non-indigenous person. It is a means of demonstrating respect for Aboriginal heritage and culture as well as acknowledging the traditional owner’s ongoing relationship with the land. In the event that there has been no formal recognition of traditional owners in a particular region, a general acknowledgement of traditional owners without referencing specific traditional owners is recommended
A general acknowledgement of country may read something like this…
“As we begin, let us acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, and pay our respects to elders past and present.”
In the event that the acknowledgement needs to acknowledge a specific group of owners, the text needs to be suitably adapted. If in any doubt at all, it is recommended that local traditional owners be contacted for information and guidance.
A Welcome to Country ceremony is performed by a recognised elder of a clan that has ancestral links to the land.
A Welcome to Country can often involve such activities as a song, dance, smoking ceremonies, or the exchange of gifts.
Both acknowledgement of Country and Welcome to Country have become important marks of respect and tools to help children in particular to understand and recognise the importance of Indigenous Australians and their deep connection to the land.
Acknowledgement of Country is an important mark of respect for First Australians. Many childcare centres opt to recite a children’s acknowledgement to country on a daily basis, thereby instilling an awareness of the uniqueness of Aboriginal culture and the special place it has within Australia.
Welcome to Country on the other hand has strong ceremonial significance as it can only be performed by a tribal or clan elder.
Both the welcoming and acknowledgement protocols are significant as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have historically been excluded from many aspects of Australian culture including history and symbolism on the Australian flag and in the Australian anthem. For many years they were even excluded from Australian democracy. Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in events, meetings, and national symbols is a way of redressing the damaging pattern of exclusion.
By using these protocols in official meetings and events we formally acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Custodians of the land and, by extension the first Australians.