The guide has been developed by the Mornington Peninsula Shire to assist staff, councillors, volunteers, and the community in following correct cultural protocols for Acknowledgement of Country and Welcome to Country ceremonies. The Mornington Peninsula Shire continues to support and encourage all members of the community to walk together towards reconciliation.
Mornington Peninsula Shire acknowledges the Bunurong people, who have been the custodians of this land for many thousands of years; and pays respect to their elders past and present. We acknowledge that the land on which we meet is the place of age-old ceremonies, celebrations, initiation and renewal; and that the Bunurong peoples’ living culture continues to have a unique role in the life of this region.
Acknowledgement of Country
What is an Acknowledgement of Country?
An Acknowledgement of Country is a formal introduction that is a way of acknowledging and showing respect to the Traditional Custodians of an area. It usually takes the form of a spoken acknowledgement at the beginning of an event or meeting, but can also be written on signs (e.g. for the entrance of a building or township boundary sign), or in formal documents (e.g. Council policies). An acknowledgement can be spoken by anyone and is a way of showing respect to First Nations people.
When is an Acknowledgement of Country Appropriate?
An Acknowledgement of Country should be given at the beginning of meetings, formal events, and functions such as staff meetings, conferences, school assemblies, and official openings. The first speaker at an event should give an Acknowledgement of Country. Subsequent speakers may also give an Acknowledgement if they wish. If an event is opened with a Welcome to Country ceremony, an Acknowledgement of Country should still be done by the first speaker at the event after the Welcome.
For businesses, organisations and community groups, a written Acknowledgement of Country should also be incorporated into websites, email signatures, and building signage, as well as on documents such as meeting minutes and agendas.
An Acknowledgement of Country should be given every time, whether there are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people present or not.
Who should I acknowledge in the Acknowledgement of Country?
If the Victorian Government has formally recognised the Traditional Custodians of the area where your event/meeting is taking place, you should specifically acknowledge those Traditional Custodians and extend that to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community who may also be present. For the Mornington Peninsula Shire, the formally recognised Traditional Custodians are the Bunurong People, and the Country is known as Bunurong Country. If you are unsure of who the Traditional Custodians are of the area your event/meeting is being held, you can use this interactive map to find out: Welcome Map (achris.vic.gov.au)
The Mornington Peninsula Shire Council uses three types of wording for the Acknowledgement of Country, a long version and a short version, as well as a children’s’ version.
The long version is used at Council meetings and events, in policies, strategies and plans. The short version is used on signage, at staff meetings, in meeting minutes and agendas, and on email signatures and the Shire website. The children’s version is on display at supported playgroups and libraries across the Mornington Peninsula.
“Mornington Peninsula Shire acknowledges the Bunurong people, who have been the custodians of this land for many thousands of years; and pays respect to their elders past and present. We acknowledge that the land on which we meet is the place of age-old ceremonies, celebrations, initiation and renewal; and that the Bunurong peoples’ living culture continues to have a unique role in the life of this region.”
“Mornington Peninsula Shire acknowledges and pays respect to the Bunurong people, the Traditional Custodians of these lands and waters”
We would like to say thank you, to the Bunurong people of the Kulin Nation for letting us share your land. We promise to look after it, the animals and people too. Hello land. Hello sky – where Bunjil flies. Hello me, my friends and I.
Tips to create your own Acknowledgement
If you are comfortable and it is appropriate for the situation, you can add a bit of your own personal feelings to the Acknowledgement. For instance, you could mention something about your favourite place to go walking or swimming on the Traditional Country you’re on, or how it makes you feel to be on Traditional lands. Your Acknowledgement will come across as more sincere when it comes from the heart.
Be prepared. Make sure that you have looked up the name for the Country you are on and who the Traditional Custodians are. If the Acknowledgement is a written one, make sure that words are spelled correctly and with the right grammar. Words such as Country, Traditional Custodian, Indigenous, and Aboriginal, need to be spelled with a capital letter.
For virtual meetings, invite participants to do their own Acknowledgement if they are attending from different lands by either saying it or writing it in the chat.
Don’t make an Acknowledgement of Country part of a ‘housekeeping’ speech or rush through it. It is understandable to be nervous when speaking publicly, but it is important to give an Acknowledgement respectfully. Using the advice from Tip 1 can help. You can also write the words down in advance – for example, you could have them written in full at the top of a meeting agenda.
This is an example of a verbal acknowledgement you could use at the beginning of a meeting or event.
“I would like to acknowledge and pay my respects to the Bunurong People, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet today; and to their elders past and present. I feel very honoured to be able to live/work here. I would also like to pay my respects to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may also be with us today.”
Welcome to Country
What is a Welcome to Country?
A Welcome to Country is an important ceremony performed by Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander People who are the formally recognised Traditional Custodians of the land on which the event is being held. A Welcome to Country ceremony is held at the commencement of an event and before any other formalities, and is performed by a Traditional Custodian. Welcome to Country can be extended to include other ceremonies such as smoking ceremonies, or traditional dance or music.
Can any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person perform a Welcome to Country?
No. A Welcome to Country can only be performed by a Traditional Custodian of the land on which the event is taking place. For the Mornington Peninsula, that means it can only be performed by a Bunurong person. You need to contact the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation to arrange a Welcome to Country. Contact details can be found in the Useful Resources section of this guide.
When is a Welcome to Country appropriate?
A Welcome to Country ceremony should be arranged for major events such as grand openings, awards ceremonies, large conferences or corporate events, concerts, sports grand finals etc. An event does not need to be public to be able to have a Welcome to Country. It is also appropriate to arrange a Welcome to Country if the event has broad impact on, or is significant to, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander People.
The Mornington Peninsula Shire includes a Welcome to Country at all major official Council events where members of the public, representatives of Council and other Government agencies are present, and at other events specifically mentioned in our Reconciliation Action Plan.
How do I organise a Welcome to Country?
If your event or meeting is on the Mornington Peninsula, you will need to contact Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation. Contact details can be found at the end of this guide in the Useful Resources section. As there are a limited number of people who have permission to perform Welcome to Country and other ceremonies, it is important to plan ahead and make your booking as early as possible. If your event is not on the Mornington Peninsula, you can find information about the Registered Aboriginal Party for your area here: Welcome Map (achris.vic.gov.au)
Is there a fee for a Welcome to Country?
Most Traditional Custodians will require a fee to cover costs for their time and labour. When budgeting for a project or event, allow room in the budget for consultation with the Registered Aboriginal Party and for a Traditional Custodian to perform a Welcome to Country. The typical cost for a Welcome to Country starts from around $600. This is dependent on what type of Welcome you require - e.g. dance or yidaki (didgeridoo) performance, smoking ceremony or a spoken Welcome to Country, how many people are involved, distance travelled, duration of ceremony etc. Keep in mind that significant labour and time goes into the reclaiming and sharing of cultural knowledge and performing cultural ceremonies. It is important to speak to the Registered Aboriginal Party for your area to get an accurate cost for your event.
More about Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country