Why do we acknowledge Country?

The ritual of an Acknowledgement of Country is becoming more commonplace in Australia. But when it comes to performing one, many people feel unsure about what to say and may even feel afraid about causing offence. This NAIDOC Week (2-9 July) Centacare is helping its staff feel more confident about showing respect for Traditional Owners.

More than 3,000 people and teams across the organisation have been issued with a small card, featuring a suggested Acknowledgement of Country statement on one side and a list of the traditional lands that make up the Archdiocese of Brisbane on the reverse.

The card can be attached to a lanyard or building access pass and serve as a useful reference for staff who are hosting meetings, gatherings and events.

Catholic Early EdCare leaders Rose Todd and Kirsten Holland with their new Acknowledgement of Country cards.

What is an Acknowledgment of Country?

Performing an Acknowledgement of Country at an event is a way to show respect for Traditional Owners and acknowledge the continuing connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to Country.

Both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people can perform an Acknowledgement of Country and it can be formal or informal, spoken or written.

Archdiocese of Brisbane Project Manager Joni McCourt is a proud descendant of the Burranggum peoples of Dalby Chinchilla country and was born and raised on Inningai Country, in the remote country town of Muttaburra, in Central Western Queensland.

Ms McCourt likens an Acknowledgement of Country to attending a birthday party and thanking your host.

“Incorporating welcoming and acknowledgement protocols into official meetings and events recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land and shows respect,” she said.

Centacare Executive Director Peter Selwood said it was important that people understood the significance of cultural traditions and felt supported to show respect to Traditional Owners with confidence.

“From aged care to pastoral care to early education and care, we have the privilege of partnering with and walking alongside First Nations peoples and communities across many of our services,” Mr Selwood said.

“Respect and recognition of First Nations peoples through the sharing of cultural ways, language and knowledge is essential and a key part of our commitment to reconciliation.”

Read more about Centacare’s commitment to reconciliation.

Suggested wording for an Acknowledgement of Country

(as provided by Reconciliation Australia)

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.

The AIATSIS Map of Indigenous Australia provides further information on Traditional Owners.

For more information about an Acknowledgment of Country, visit Reconciliation Australia.