Acknowledgement of Country

I want to share a wide-world practice, Acknowledgement of Country, that is becoming more common in Australian RC.

The British colonized Australia in 1788. However, all areas of Australia have always had Traditional Owners (“Traditional” refers to what is determined by Aboriginal culture and law) irrespective of Government legislation, and this includes where major cities stand today.

Acknowledgment of Country is a way for non-Aboriginal people to show their respect for the Traditional Owners of the land on which a meeting or an event is being held. It is also a way to recognise Aboriginal people’s continuing connection to their Country. (“Country” refers to the landscape; grounds; skies; water; living things, including humans; and any natural phenomena that occur on that land.)

More RC leaders are putting aside time for this at the beginning of an RC meeting. They may say something like, “I would like to acknowledge that this meeting is being held on the Traditional Land of the (appropriate group name) people and pay my respect to the elders, both past and present.” Sometimes they research and add information about the Aboriginal groups who lived or still live there—for example, where tribal boundaries ran, or run, and who the Aboriginal people were/are, what kind of lives they led/lead, or what languages they spoke/speak. I always love to listen to this and learn more about the place.

The acknowledgement is sometimes followed by a mini-session. Questions people can answer may include “How are you benefitting from the genocide of Indigenous people?” and “Where did your people come from?” The one I like thinking about most is “How do you feel about being a part of the culture and society that have continued to exist for over seventy thousand years?” I get overwhelming feelings of both privilege and humility and usually discharge hard. I then get fresh perspectives on my relationship to Australia and to its environment.

In the wide world, members of the local Aboriginal community are sometimes asked to lead this, and it is then called “Welcome to Country.”

Rie Shiraishi

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussionlist for leaders of wide world change

(Present Time 185, October 2016)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00