I want to preface this article by saying that I am a proud Indigenous Man from Dubbo, NSW. My mob are the Thubbagah People of the Wiradjuri Nation and everything that you read below comes from their teaching and wisdom.
What is an Acknowledgement of Country?
An Acknowledgement of Country is a rewording of the traditional Welcome to Country which can only be given by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Elder of the land on which it is given and is used to welcome visitors onto their land. In contrast, an Acknowledgement of Country can be given by anyone and is a great way for all of us to pay respect to the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Elders of the land on which we are on.
When should an acknowledgement be used?
You can Acknowledge Country whenever you like, however it is typically reserved for large gatherings of people; for example at a Wedding. It shows that you recognise the importance of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Culture who’s land you are getting married on and who have also been gathering on these lands for tens of thousands of years.
Who can give an Acknowledgement of Country?
Anyone — Unlike a Welcome to Country, anyone can give an Acknowledgement of Country and pay their respects to the land and Elders of the country you are on. At your wedding you could ask your Celebrant, Priest, Pastor, MC or a Friend or Family member to give an Acknowledgement of Country on your behalf.
Timing is everything
An Acknowledgement of Country (or a Welcome to Country) should be done as the first official proceeding to start your Ceremony (and Reception). Of course let the bride walk down the aisle or the married couple enter their room, but after everyone is present it should be the first thing that is read out.
Who’s Land am I on?
This part is important — One piece of information you must get correct when Acknowledging Country is to make sure you know who’s land you are on. Everywhere in Australia will have have a Traditional Country name however the borders are often blurred because ownership over parts of the land changed over time. You can find a pretty accurate map of Indigenous Country’s put together by AIATSIS, however, to find more accurate groups or tribes you should research your Local Council or Aboriginal Land Council in your area.
*Note that the Traditional Owners of the land may change if your Ceremony & Reception are in different places. Even just a 20 minute drive could put you on someone else’s land so it’s always good practice to acknowledge that at the start of your Reception.
How to give An Acknowledgement of Country.
Before we begin today, I, along with (brides name) & (grooms name) would like to acknowledge the (country name) People who are the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are celebrating today. This was, is & always will be Aboriginal Land & it is through their teaching & wisdom that we are all able to stand here today. I would also like to pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging & warmly extend that respect to all Indigenous people present here today.
This small step of including an Acknowledgement of Country in your wedding goes a long way to reaching true reconciliation in this country. By you researching Indigenous Culture, acknowledging it and then sharing that with your guests, without realising it you are opening up a conversation that will hopefully affect true change.
Want to take it a step Further…
Consider getting in touch with an Elder from the Land on which you are getting married and ask if they will Welcome you and your guests onto their land by giving a Welcome to Country both in English and in their Language. This is great way to show your respect for Indigenous culture and work towards reconciliation.