Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country protocol

Protocols for Acknowledgement of Country and Welcome to Country

The difference between an Acknowledgement of Country and Welcome to Country is often not well understood. This document explains these differences, and provides contact details for the appropriate cultural authority, should further information be required.

Acknowledgement of Country

An Acknowledgement of Country is a way of showing awareness of, and respect for, the traditional custodians of the land upon which a meeting or event is to take place. It recognises the continuing connection of Aboriginal people to Country, and is commonly delivered by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. It is a practice that is commonly conducted at meetings or events within the University. Some examples of an Acknowledgement of Country relevant to the UNSW Kensington main campus are:

“I would like to show my respects and acknowledge the Bedegal people who are the Traditional Custodians of the Land, of Elders past and present on which this meeting takes place”.

“I would like to acknowledge the Bedegal people that are the Traditional Custodians of this land. I would also like to pay my respects to the Elders both past and present and extend that respect to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are present here today.”

Welcome to Country

A Welcome to Country is subtly, yet distinctively different to an Acknowledgement of Country. A Welcome to Country is a ceremony performed by a local Aboriginal person of significance (usually an elder) to acknowledge and give consent to events taking place on their traditional lands. It is also a sign of respect and protocol which dates back to traditional times prior to the arrival of Europeans to Australia. This distinctive difference has important cultural significance for Aboriginal peoples and should be observed carefully.

Negotiating a Welcome to Country may take longer than anticipated. It is therefore important that the appropriate Aboriginal representative organisation has been contacted by telephone well in advance of the event. This should be followed up with a formal letter of invitation. All arrangements thereafter for a Welcome to Country should be mutually negotiated between the Local Aboriginal Lands Council (or relevant Aboriginal Incorporated organisation), the Elder who has been selected to carry out the welcome, and the University. 

It is also important that Aboriginal representatives involved in the negotiations are comfortable with the suggested arrangements. This may include a negotiation of the format of the ceremony, whom has been invited and what type of ‘Welcome to Country’ is to be held. It is vitally important that the elder performing the Welcome to Country ceremony is introduced and acknowledged in a culturally appropriate manner, and that they are recognised for their time and commitment. Performing a Welcome to Country or engaging Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander dancers is usually not a free service and prices can vary depending on the type of welcome required.

If you would like to organise a Welcome to Country ceremony you should make contact with the Lands Council relevant to the event location:

  • UNSW Kensington Main Campus you should contact the La Perouse Local Aboriginal Lands Council (02) 9311 4282;
  • UNSW City and Art and Design Campuses you should contact the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Lands Council (02) 8394 9666; and
  • UNSW Canberra at ADFA you should contact the Ngunnawal Local Aboriginal Lands Council (02) 6297 4152

If you are planning on having a Welcome to County at any of UNSW’s Clinical Schools, then you should make contact with the following Land Councils

  • Albury Wodonga - Albury Local Aboriginal Land Council (02) 6025 7075
  • Coffs Harbour - Coffs Harbour Local Aboriginal Land Council (02) 6652 8740
  • Port Macquarie - Birpai Local Aboriginal Land Council (02) 6584 9066
  • Wagga Wagga - Wagga Local Aboriginal Land Council (02) 6921 4095

If you require any further information on Welcome to Country or Acknowledgement of Country, you can either contact Nura Gili on (02) 9385 3805 or nuragili@unsw.edu.au or visit the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (NSW) website.