How to do an Acknowledgement of Country
Note: this post was written for attendees LCA 2018, and was intended as a brief introduction to Australian colonial history for conference-goers who weren't from Australia, as well as an invitation for speakers to include an Acknolwedgement of Country at the beginning of their talks.
You may have noticed that January 26th is a public holiday in Australia. The government gives everyone the day off on January 26th every year to celebrate “Australia Day”, our official National Day.
This date marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of ships from Britain to this land (and the hoisting of the Union Jack on Australian soil), symbolising the beginning of British dominion in Australia. The choice of this date has caused a lot of grief to many in the community, especially indigenous Australians, as it also marks the beginning of the decimation, oppression, and exploitation of their cultures, their Nations, and their people.
# What can I do as a speaker?
If you’re speaking at LCA on Friday, January 26th, you may like to preface your talk with a short Acknowledgement of Country in order to pay respects to the traditional custodians of the land where we are holding our conference. If you’re speaking in Australia on any date, especially if you are not an indigenous Australian, an Acknowledgement of Country is an excellent way to pay your respects, but January 26th is a good day to start.
You do not have to be an indigenous Australian in order to do an Acknowledgement of Country: it is an appropriate way to show respect. (A Welcome to Country, however, must be performed by a member of the indigenous community.)
An example of an Acknowledgement of Country looks like this (and you can even read this verbatim):
"I would like to show my respect and acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Land, of Elders past and present, on which this meeting takes place."
To be more specific to the traditional people of the land where UTS now stands, you can say:
"I would like to acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of this land and pay my respects to the Elders both past and present."
| Gadigal | “gad-ee-gaal” |
| Eora | “ee-or-ah” |
I’ll be doing this before my talk, and I’d encourage other speakers to do this too.
Information about Acknowledgement of Country speeches specific to Sydney has been taken from Museums and Galleries of NSW and the City of Sydney. Thanks to the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council who provided me with accurate information about and pronunciations for the Nation and people of the land surrounding the University of Technology, Sydney.