FAQs about ...

25 March 2015

What is a "Welcome to Country?" Who can perform this ritual?

A ‘Welcome to Country’ is a formal greeting by an Aboriginal Elder or Traditional Owner of the land to welcome visitors to their country. Before Europeans arrived in Melbourne this ritual allowed the following privileges to visitors:

1.  Safe passage through traditional lands.

2.  Hospitality

3.  Temporary use of land and resources

Gumleaves and gifts were exchanged as a sign of the agreement. 

What is an ‘Acknowledgement of Country?’ Who can do this?

 An ‘acknowledgement of country’ is a statement of recognition of the traditional owners of the land and can be given by any person, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or non-Indigenous.

Pope John Paul II recognised the significance of the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the land in his address to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at Alice Springs in 1986 when he said:


Pope John Paul II’s speech at Alice Springs in 1986 (Ctrl + click to follow the link)

An example of an Acknowledgement of Country:

When Europeans first settled the Port Phillip region it was already occupied by 5 Aboriginal language groups.  They were the:

1.  Woiwurrung language - Wurundjeri people

2.  Boon Wurrung language - Boon Wurrung people

3.  Taungurung language - Taungurung People

4.  Dja Daj Wurrung language - Jaara People

5.  Wathaurung language - Wadawurrung/Wathaurung People

These groups spoke a related language and were part of the Kulin Nation.

Today we respectfully acknowledge the traditional owners of this land we are on, the land of the <insert group name> people/s. Creator Spirit, challenge us to open our eyes to see the world from another's view. Though change has occurred, the story and spirit of the<insert group name> people will always be written in this land.



Commonwealth definition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

"An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is

  • a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent,
  • who identifies as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin and
  • who is accepted as such by the community with which the person associates".

This definition was developed during the period 1967 to 1978 and is now widely accepted by Commonwealth and other government agencies.
Australian Bureau of Statistics  (Ctrl+click to follow the link)

Knowing the correct terminology and when to use it can be confusing at the best of times but generally speaking the following will apply in most cases:

Please be aware that in Wurundjeri country the preferred term to use is "Aboriginal".