What is Welcome to Country?

In a Welcome to Country ceremony, Indigenous Traditional Custodians officially welcome visitors to their Country. The ceremony can take many forms, including singing, dancing, smoking ceremonies or a speech, depending on the particular culture of the original custodians.

For information about Welcome to Country and its significance for Indigenous people, check out our Welcome to Country article here (insert link).

When is it appropriate to arrange Welcome to Country?

Historically, Welcome to Country has been practiced when two or more Indigenous groups come together. Today, it's appropriate to arrange Welcome to Country when gathering people together from different places to attend a public event that will be visible externally to your organisation.

If you're arranging Welcome to Country, we recommend allowing yourself time to find out a bit about local Indigenous people before you approach anyone. Learning about local people, culture and history in the region will help you enter into conversations somewhat informed and aware of the context. A good place to start is searching your local council website or checking our Where Do I Live? resources (LINK).

Engaging with local people is a good opportunity to learn directly about your local context and deepen your knowledge and understanding. Be aware that not all land borders are agreed upon by everyone, and there could be tensions between neighbouring groups regarding land boundaries as a result of colonisation.

To find out more about the significance of connection to Country from an Indigenous perspective, watch this video to hear Indigenous people from across Australia share about the way they understand and relate to land: http://www.australianstogether.org.au/stories/detail/importance-of-land

Who can do Welcome to Country?

Welcome to Country is done by Indigenous Traditional Custodians of the land where the event is taking place.

Responding to Welcome to Country

We encourage you to respond to Welcome to Country to express gratitude towards the Traditional Custodians for welcoming you onto their Country. It's appropriate to draw on your own cultural heritage in responding.

For example, performing a song, reciting a poem or saying a few words in your own traditional language. Over time, individuals will develop their own preferred style and approach to a response to Welcome to Country, and this will change depending on the context of the event or meeting.

You might also wish to include an Acknowledgement of Country in your response (for more information about Acknowledgement of Country LINK).

Here’s an example of what you could say in response to Welcome to Country:

It is a privilege to be standing on ................................................... (traditional name) country, and I thank you for your Welcome to Country. Where I come from/in my culture, one of the ways we thank people/come together is by ..........................................(expression of gratitude). I respectfully acknowledge the past and present Traditional Custodians of this land on which we are meeting, the .............................. (traditional name/s) people.

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It is a very important way of giving Aboriginal people back their place in society, and an opportunity for us to say, 'We are real, we are here, and today we welcome you to our land'.

Joy Murphy Wandin