An Acknowledgement of Country can be done by any person. In an official event it would be the most senior person of the organisation or church (i.e. Church Pastor, CEO, Board Chair, Senior Pastor, Principal, School Captain, class leader). It should always be at the start of the event or service.
While a Welcome to Country can only be performed by a local Aboriginal Elder or community member who is a traditional custodian of the place you are gathered on, an Acknowledgement of Country can be spoken by anyone.
Many people are used to hearing set wording but we are reminded by our Aboriginal Christian Leaders that an Acknowledgement of Country is an important opportunity to speak to people's hearts, grounding ourselves in place and context and helping build genuine relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We encourage you to take time to think through how you can personalise and develop your own Acknowledgement of Country, specific to the time and place you will be sharing.
To help you develop your own Acknowledgement to Country, our Aboriginal Christian Leaders have provided guiding questions and key steps to sit with and think about as you reflect on the history of these lands, what Aboriginal people have taught you, and what you know about your own Traditional Custodians of your local area. Our hope is that these guidelines will give you both inspiration and confidence to deliver an uplifting Acknowledgement of Country with honour and depth for your community event or gathering.
Please note: You can find further information and some standard wording for an Acknowledgement of Country below in our FAQs at the end of this page.
Below are six elements you should include in your Acknowledgement of Country. To begin with, your Acknowledgement of Country may be short and clear, focused on reflecting your gratitude and respect for the traditional custodians. However, you can refine and add more to your Acknowledgment of Country over time, adding in some of the suggested elements below. You may wish to leave between 3-5 minutes for a spoken Acknowledgement of Country.
1 - Introduce yourself
- Where were you born and raised? (include Traditional Country names here)
- What is your role in the community?
- What is your family’s cultural heritage?
Note: This is a brief introduction to orient the audience around who you are. It’s not all about your merits or job title but rather your connection or role in this community. eg. ‘I’m the Church Pastor,’ or ‘I’m the daughter of the guest speaker today.’
You don’t have to include an explanation of your cultural background, but in some spaces this may be helpful. Sharing this cultural background is custom in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
2 - Acknowledge whose Traditional Country you’re on.
- Name the Traditional Country and Traditional Owners of the land you are meeting on
- Highlight some unique features of this Country (eg. sites, features, natural landmarks, native species) and what you connect with or have learnt about this Country. Share how this knowledge and connection makes you feel.
- Share some history of this Country - about the Traditional Owners and how they lived in or cared for creation, how they continue to care for Country and lead the community, revealing something of this place's story, history, and the impacts of colonisation.
Note: This is an opportunity to ground your audience on Country, sharing a little of what you know of this place - its unique native environment or history of this land as lived in and cared for by the Traditional Owners (gathering places etc).
Example of wording:
“I acknowledge the Awabakal people, the traditional custodians of the land we are on today. Awabakal Country is a beautiful and sacred Country and I’m so thankful to explore nearby bushlands at Glenrock. I’ve learned some of the history of this area…”
3 - Paying respect to Elders
- Pay your respects to Aboriginal Elders generally, of the past and present, and honouring them for their life, wisdom and resilience.
- Mention specific names of Elders from the Traditional Country you are on. How do they embody great leadership, resilience and care?
- Name other Elders (from other Traditional Countries) who you have met, know and have learnt from - mention names of who you’d like to give honour to on this occasion.
- Mention some of the Aboriginal Christian Leaders that you know. What impact have they had on your life where you’ve received a gift of truth and wisdom from them?
- If mentioning names of Aboriginal people who have deceased, first provide a cultural warning, stating that you will be mentioning the names of Aboriginal people who have died. This is for the benefit and cultural safety of Aboriginal people who may be present.
- Know the work and contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and elders in the wider community.
Example of wording:
“We pay our respects to the Elders past and present. We also acknowledge the work and legacy of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders.
Thank you (name elder, using Aunty or Uncle) for being with us today and for your work and ministry. We are blessed by your presence here today.”
4 - Acknowledging all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are here at this event today
- Acknowledge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders present
(we suggest acknowledging all Aboriginal people rather than “any” as this language is powerfully inclusive and honouring)
- Name the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are there if known.
- Include their role and Traditional Country.
5 - Truth Telling
- As an opportunity for truth telling of the history of the lands you are gathering on, acknowledge the shared experiences of trauma and grief for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
- Acknowledge that sovereignty of these lands was never ceded
- Learn the local history of the injustices committed to the Aboriginal people on the Country where you are
- What are the continuing effects? What injustices are still being perpetuated?
Example of wording:
“We acknowledge Aboriginal sovereignty has never been ceded. We acknowledge the gravity of the work needed to be done to undo the continuing impacts of colonisation committed in these lands. We commit to prayer and action, in a spirit of love and truth”
6 - Thanks for Acknowledging Country and your personal commitment
- Thank your audience for Acknowledging Country with you today.
- Finish with sharing your invitation and commitment towards right relationship with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through joining in the journey of truth-telling, justice, reconciliation and caring for Country.
- Share a Christian blessing
Example of wording:
“May we continue to work for the flourishing of all, may we continue to learn our history, may we continue to care for Country, and Country will care for us.”
“We commit to walk softly and gently on this land. May we take our place in bringing healing and flourishing, which is a central calling of our Christian faith.”
“We pray blessing on the Traditional Owners and all Aboriginal peoples, may God bless this Country.”
Examples of an Acknowledgement of Country
Safina Stewart, Wuthathi and Mabuiag Island woman and Common Grace Relationships and Storytelling Coordinator, Acknowledgement of Country for Season of Creation 2022
Bianca Manning, Gomeroi woman and Common Grace Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice Coordinator, Acknowledgement of Country shared at Micah Women’s Leadership Breakfasts 2023
Frequently Asked Questions
What is some standard wording for an Acknowledgement of Country?
"We would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we gather today (insert people and nation if known). We would also like to pay our respects to the Elders past, present and future (or emerging). (Specifically name any Elders or Leaders. Specifically name any Aboriginal Elders or Leaders who are present). We acknowledge all other Aboriginal peoples present."
What posture should I approach an Acknowledgement of Country in?
An Acknowledgement of Country is an important moment to acknowledge the history of these lands in a posture of honour and gratitude towards the traditional owners and elders of the country you are meeting on.
Where do I find out information about the Country I am on?
Your local government / council website is a great place to start in learning who your local Traditional Custodians are.
How does an Acknowledgment of Country relate to my Christian faith?
We know that Creator God placed our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here in these lands as caretakers and that Creator Spirit has been present and speaking to them for tens of thousands of years. Traditionally, amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples an Acknowledgement of Country is founded in the cultural and spiritual values of love, respect and truth.
Acts 17:26 speaks of this “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.”
Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders have long told us that the act of doing Acknowledgements of Country is a significant way of displaying our commitment to building right relationship with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities and walking the journey of reconciliation in a spirit of love, care and authenticity.
Do I need to mention God in my Acknowledgement of Country in a Christian context?
No, there is no requirement to mention God in an Acknowledgement of Country. Some do like to mention Creator God as a part of their Acknowledgement of Country to his authority above all in making and placing the Traditional Owners in their role as caretakers of these lands. In no way does doing an Acknowledgement of Country diminish God’s authority or identity as the Almighty God who formed life in all creation.
What is meant by the term “Country”?
Safina Stewart explains “One misconception is that the term “Country” is limited and only means land, dirt, soil. In actual fact, Aboriginal ways of knowing utilise the word “Country” to describe a much deeper and richer understanding of the relationships within the natural and spiritual world. “Country” includes all creation including water, oceans, fish, birds, animals, insects, landforms, minerals, air, sky and even the ecosystems that bind these relationships into a supportive interdependent whole. Each Traditional Country has its own unique features, sacred sites, language, stories, cultural significance and expression. Humans are also included as being a part of “Country” since we too have been created, and yet, within Aboriginal (and Christian) ways of knowing and being, humans have been given a unique role by Creator Spirit to love, protect and sustain Country. This is the essence of “Caring for Country”, the deep teachings handed down from generation to generation by our Elders.”
What if I’m giving an Acknowledgement of Country on a video call with people on many different Aboriginal lands?
If on a video call, performing an Acknowledgement of Country is still an important and meaningful practice. Though there are a few additional things to think about, you will still share about and Acknowledge the Country you are on, and move through the 6 steps mentioned above. You may also like to Acknowledge the over 300 Aboriginal nations, all with unique languages, stories, cultural expressions, and elements of Country. If you know all or some of the Aboriginal Nations that the others on the video call are linking in from, speak these out. Pay your respects to all elders from across these lands, and all Aboriginal peoples who may be present on the call. It is also a common practice to ask everyone to Acknowledge what Country they are on in the chat function of the video call.
Read an example of a church using art to Acknowledge Country here.
If you have any further questions please reach out to us at [email protected]