Image credit: Krystal Hurst, Gillawarra Arts


Most people don’t know that there are over 500 Indigenous tribes (and therefore tribal geo boundaries) and language groups that exist across Australia. Now when travelling around our wonderful country we can gain a much deeper understanding of the cultural landscape we are spending time in, or passing through.

Note: The Indigenous Australia map that can be found at https://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/articles/aiatsis-map-indigenous-australia is just one representation of other map sources that are available for describing Aboriginal Australia. This map in particular indicates only the general location of larger groupings of people and this may include smaller groups such as clans, dialects or individual languages in a group.

A new Welcome to Country iPhone app is now available that uses GPS to locate you within tribal geographic boundaries. Where available, a traditional owner (or elder) will welcomes you to their country and share some information about their culture, customs and tribe.

Download the app

Why is Welcome to Country important?

Protocols for welcoming visitors to Country have been a part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures for thousands of years. Despite the absence of fences or visible borders, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups had clear boundaries separating their Country from that of other groups. Crossing into another group’s Country required a request for permission to enter. When permission was granted, the hosting group would welcome the visitors, offering them safe passage and protection of their spiritual being during the journey.

While visitors were provided with a safe passage, they also had to respect the protocols and rules of the land owner group while on their Country. Today, obviously much has changed, and these protocols have been adapted to contemporary circumstances. However, the essential elements of welcoming visitors and offering safe passage remain in place. A Welcome to Country occurs at the beginning of a formal event and can take many forms including singing, dancing, smoking ceremonies or a speech in traditional language or English. A Welcome to Country is delivered by Traditional Owners, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have been given permission from Traditional Owners, to welcome visitors to their Country. (Reconciliation Australia website)

Wally Bell welcoming us to Ngunawal country at our Feeling Fishy Field Day at the Yass River. Photo Siwan Lovett

What is an Acknowledgement of Country?

An Acknowledgement of Country is an opportunity for anyone to show respect for Traditional Owners and the continuing connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to Country. It can be given by both non-Indigenous people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. There are no set protocols or wording for an Acknowledgement of Country, though often a statement may take the following forms.

General:

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today. I would also like to pay my respects to Elders past and present.

Specific:

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today, the (people) of the (nation) and pay my respects to Elders past and present.

Similar to a Welcome to Country, an Acknowledgement of Country is generally offered at the beginning of a meeting, speech or formal occasion. (Reconciliation Australia website)

For example, we use the below acknowledgement on our Rivers of Carbon – Yass River Linkages project page to pay our respects to the Traditional Owners of the land:

We are honoured to work on the ancestral lands of the Ngunawal people and we recognise their continuing connection with, and knowledge about land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures; and to Elders past, present and emerging.

More to come…

Version 1.0 of the Welcome to Country app. contains more than 30 tribes and languages groups (of over 500 groups!) right across Indigenous Australia. The team responsible for creating the app are adding more languages all the time and If you’re a traditional owner or a member of an Australian Indigenous language group and you’d like your mob included on the app, they encourage you to contact them email welcomeapp@wsmedia.com.au to discuss.

We are hoping an android version of the app is available soon!

Official app website: https://www.welcometocountry.mobi/


Within the Rivers of Carbon team we prioritise personal relationships with local Aboriginal people living and working in our region. This symbol is used across the website to link to Aboriginal knowledge, stories and river connections, and as we grow, we are committing to providing more opportunities for Aboriginal voices and enterprise throughout all our activities. Feel free to get in touch with us at enquiries@arrc.com.au.