A celebrant in New Zealand requested some ideas for a ceremony she was conducting.
“I have an Australian groom, who has asked me if I am able to acknowledge the ground/land that his ceremony will be held on in Queenstown – like they do in Australia with your Welcome to/ Acknowledgement of Country – and I have never done this before. Would you be kind enough to advise me on how you do this in an Australian context please? I am in Christchurch (South Island) and the ceremony will be in Queenstown – both places Maori tribal links are to Ngai Tahu.”
Welcome to Country can be conducted by recognised indigenous Elders of a particular area, country or nation within Australia.
This is an example of an Acknowledgement of Country.
“We acknowledge the Garby people of the unceded Gumbaynggirr Nation as the traditional custodians of the country we are meeting on today. We pay respect to their ongoing culture and connection to the land and waters of this area. We pay respect to the Elders past and present and the young leaders emerging. We extend that respect to all First Nations people present today.”
When conducting Acknowledgement of Country, it’s important for me to check in with my own sense of being and place. Where am I standing? Can I feel the ground beneath my feet? What do I hear as I listen to the moment? The wind rustling in the trees, the bird call not far off.
I remember a ceremony I conducted for a bikie community at a rural and quite remote property at Upper Orara. I arrived into a large group of family and friends with lots of happy laughter, conversation and loud music – a good time was being had by all as they waited for the ceremony to start. As part of the Acknowledgement of Country, I invited people to listen to the silence of the forest around us. To feel the ground beneath their feet. One of the big, tough bikie looking guys came up to me afterwards and said he was blown away by that part of the ceremony.
There are many ways we can deepen our connection to the land, to the space where we gather and to Country. In Acknowledging Country, I am reminded to slow down, take a breath and connect to the earth beneath my feet, to feel the air I breathe, to feel the warmth of the sun and the life force of the water I swim in.
I spoke this at the opening of one of my online sessions recently.
I’d like to express my gratitude and acknowledge that I am calling in from the east coast of Australia, in northern NSW, on the unceded land of the Garby people in Gumbaynggirr Country. I hold a deep respect to their ongoing rich culture that includes song and ceremony, story and lore; and their connection and alive, reciprocal relationship to the land and waters of this area despite the colonisation of the last 200 years. I acknowledge my respect to the Elders past and present, in particular, colleague, friend and Elder, Aunty Bea. I also pay my respect to the inspiring young leaders in this area that are adding their voice to the story of this land. I extend my respect to all First Nations people present in this gathering today.
However, I’ve also heard Acknowledgement of Country spoken without a sense of connection or care – we have the opportunity to move one another, connect one another and build unity and understanding as we breathe life into the words we offer.
I want to give my voice to the truth and wisdom of the First Nations people and their ongoing relationship to Country which includes all the elements of earth, air, fire and water.
When I pay respect to the Elders, I think of my friends, Aunty Bea, Uncle Micklo and other respected local indigenous people and their connection to culture, ceremony, family and country.
What does Acknowledgement of Country mean to you?
The information from the organisation, Common Ground about Acknowledgement of Country in Australia is detailed and helpful too. They offer an Acknowledgement Checklist.