A Welcome to Country is a respectful cultural practice and special opportunity to be welcomed by, receive from, and deeply listen to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, usually an Elder, who is a Traditional Custodian of the place you are gathered on.
Being formally welcomed onto Country is a protocol that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been practicing for thousands of years. A Welcome to Country in today's context may include a speech by the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Elder including storytelling about the traditional lands you are on and the Traditional Custodians, and elements of cultural practices or ceremony including song, dance, music, or a smoking ceremony to symbolise welcome and cleansing. Each Welcome to Country can vary greatly depending on the Elder and the customs of the local Traditional Owners.
If holding a large community or church event, you may decide to invite a local First Nations person to perform a Welcome to Country. Here are a few tips:
- If you don't already have relationship with a local Aboriginal Elder or Traditional Custodian, your local council website or local Aboriginal Land Council is a great place to start.
- You must pay the person you have invited to give the Welcome to Country. Often they have a set fee. Also, pay for any travel costs associated with delivering the Welcome to Country. Have this conversation up front, and recognise the value of this person's time, energy, cultural knowledge and Welcome.
- In many places, there are a limited number of Aboriginal people available to give a Welcome to Country, so don't expect that someone will necessarily be available for your specific event. If this is the case, giving your own Acknowledgement of Country will be appropriate. View our Acknowledgement of Country Guide here.