Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners

What is an Acknowledgement of Country?

An Acknowledgement of Country recognises that Victoria has a strong and proud Aboriginal history and complex ownership and land stewardship systems stretching back many thousands of years. It pays respect to the Traditional Owners.

When is an Acknowledgement of Country appropriate?

An Acknowledgement of Country should be given at formal events, forums and functions such as Government and Local Government meetings, conferences, school assemblies, concerts, board meetings, and official openings.

Who should give the Acknowledgement of Country?

The first speaker at an event or function (following the welcome or in the absence of a welcome) should give the Acknowledgment of Country.

Subsequent speakers may also give an acknowledgement.

What form should the Acknowledgement of Country take?

If you are clear about whom the Traditional Owners of an area are, you should say:

'Our meeting/conference/workshop is being held on the traditional lands [or country] of the [Traditional Owner group's name] people and I wish to acknowledge them as Traditional Owners.

I would also like to pay my respects to their Elders, past and present, and the Elders from other communities who may be here today.'

If you are uncertain about whom the Traditional Owners of an area are, you should say:

'I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land [or country] on which we are meeting. I pay my respects to their Elders, past and present, and the Elders from other communities who may be here today.'

How do I find out who the Traditional Owners are?

There are 3 ways in which the Victorian Government formally recognises Traditional Owners of a particular country:

  • by way of a recognition and settlement agreement under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010
  • by way of a native title settlement as part of a determination by the Federal Court under the Native Title Act 1993
  • by way of the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council appointing a Traditional Owner corporation as a Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP).

If a RAP applicant has a recognition and settlement agreement or a native title settlement, the Victorian Heritage Council must appoint the group as a RAP upon application.

How do I find out where RAPs have been appointed throughout Victoria?

To find out if your event or function is within an area where a RAP exists use our online map and complete these two steps:

  1. Click on the layers button on the toolbar above the map and select the Appointed RAPs checkbox
  2. Search for your property by entering the address, road or suburb in the Quick Search box in the top right corner

If the area you have searched is located within a RAP area, you should acknowledge the Traditional Owners represented by that RAP.

You may wish to contact the RAP to confirm the correct name and pronunciation. Find contact information in the Registered Aboriginal Parties page.

What do I do if my event is in an area where there is no Registered Aboriginal Party?

You may wish to acknowledge Traditional Owners generally.

Are RAP Names the Names of Traditional Owners?

In some cases RAPs have incorporated the name of the Traditional Owner group in their name. For example, the Taungurung Clans Aboriginal Corporation represents the Taungurung Traditional Owner group. Other RAPs use names that do not include the name of the Traditional Owner group or groups. For example, the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation represents the Gunditjmara Traditional Owner group. In the latter case, you should acknowledge Gunditjmara not Gunditj Mirring. However, it is always best to ask the group about the name they prefer to use.

What is a Welcome to Country?

A Welcome to Country ceremony is performed by Aboriginal Traditional Owners for people visiting their country. These ceremonies vary from speeches of welcome to traditional dance and smoking ceremonies.

When is a Welcome to Country appropriate?

It is suggested that a welcoming ceremony be arranged for major public forums and functions. Naturally, if the function has broad impact on, or significance for, Aboriginal people a welcoming ceremony will be appropriate.

Can any Aboriginal person perform a Welcome to Country?

No, a Welcome to Country should only be performed by a representative of the Traditional Owner group.

Asking an Aboriginal person to perform a Welcome to Country when they do not belong to the Traditional Owner group may cause them embarrassment and may offend the Traditional Owners.

How do I organise a Welcome to Country?

If your event or functions is in a part of Victoria with a Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP), you should contact the RAP to arrange the Welcome to Country. Contact details can be found in the Table of Registered Aboriginal Parties.

What do I do if my event is in an area where there is no Registered Aboriginal Party?

If there is uncertainty about the right people to speak for country, it may be preferable to limit your recognition to an acknowledgement of Traditional Owners generally.

Is there a fee for a Welcome to Country?

Most Traditional Owner groups will require at least a nominal fee to cover costs. A Welcome to Country that includes traditional dance and smoking ceremonies will generally involve a more substantial payment. However, this also should be negotiated with the relevant group when planning the event.

Contact us

For further information please contact us.