This is an important formal welcome, which may be spoken or performed as a ceremony by the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander custodian/s of the local Country or Place.
A Welcome to Country is recommended for large public events. It may involve ceremonies of dance, smoke and/or song to bless the event and welcome participants. The ceremony must be negotiated with the local traditional owners, and communities may also wish to ceremonially close the event, thank the participants and protect the land for future meetings.
QCAA respectfully advises Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples that this video may contain names, images or voices of people who are deceased. We acknowledge that in some communities it is distressing and offensive to mention names and to show images of people who have died.
A Welcome to Country
Senior Project Officer for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education
Reconciliation Australia defines a Welcome to Country as an important ceremony performed by Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people to welcome visitors to their traditional land. It can take many forms, depending on the particular culture of the traditional owners and can include singing, dancing, smoking ceremonies or a speech in traditional language or English.
What is a Welcome to Country?
Wulgurukaba, Gunggandji and Western Yalanji Elder
Welcome to Country should be done by traditional owners of that certain area. Of course, if a traditional owner is not there, then that is when we do an Acknowledgement of Country. Welcome to Country is about welcoming you to that Country, explaining about where you have come from, why you are there, what is the name of your different nation and just basically welcoming you to that Country.
Who should deliver a Welcome to Country?
I'm a traditional owner of Gunggandji people of Yarrabah, Wulgurukaba people of Townsville and Kuku Yalanji people, so I can do Welcome to Country there.
Only traditional owners from that Country should deliver a Welcome to Country
When should there be a Welcome to Country?
Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi Elder
Special, yes, our special events. Yes
A Welcome to Country should be delivered at special and important events or at events where the local community gathers.
Events where Welcome to Country is particularly appropriate include:
- statewide events
- conferences or large professional development events involving a wide cross-section of participants
- highly publicised events
- significant policy, report or project launches
- professional development and whole-of-government/organisation functions.
Negotiating a Welcome to Country
Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people from the wider community can provide advice on when to use a Welcome to Country and when to use an Acknowledgment of Country.
Welcome to Country must be given by an appropriate person or delegated representative from the local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander traditional custodians’ group.
Note that the meanings of ceremonies and practices differ from place to place. Therefore, it is essential to work together to decide when and where ceremonies and acknowledgments should take place, the format of ceremony, who could and should be involved and an appropriate level of remuneration. The process can be complex and may take time to negotiate.
Observing Aboriginal protocols and Torres Strait Islander protocols includes allowing time for discussions and decision-making to take place.
As an effect of dispossession, in some parts of Queensland there are disputes about custodial ownership. These issues are the business of the Aboriginal communities and Torres Strait Islander communities involved. In such cases, the traditional owners of the land are acknowledged without naming those peoples specifically. Acknowledging Country in this way will not cause offence where there is some potential or actual dispute around traditional ownership.