Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country protocols

Welcome to Country

Protocols for welcoming visitors to Country have been a part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures for thousands of years.

Despite the absence of fences or visible borders, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups had clear boundaries separating their Country from that of other groups. Crossing into another group’s Country required a request for permission to enter.

When permission was granted the hosting group would welcome the visitors, offering them safe passage and protection of their spiritual being during the journey. While visitors were provided with a safe passage, they also had to respect the protocols and rules of the land owner group while on their Country.

Today, much has changed, and these protocols have been adapted to contemporary circumstances. However, the essential elements of welcoming visitors and offering safe passage remain in place. 

When does the Welcome to Country take place?

A Welcome to Country occurs at the beginning of a formal event. It can take many forms including:

  • singing
  • dancing
  • smoking ceremonies
  • a speech in traditional language or English

A Welcome to Country is delivered by Traditional Owners, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have been given permission from Traditional Owners, to welcome visitors to their Country

Who are the Traditional Owners in the Byron Shire?

There are three traditional custodian groups in the Byron Shire:

  • the Arakwal people
  • the Widjabal people
  • the Minjungbal people (Please note: Minjungbal is written several ways including: Minjungbul and Midjungbul.)

All three groups are a part of the Bundjalung Nation.

Who do I contact about a Welcome to Country?

The location of your event is important in planning a Welcome to Country. Please refer to the locations below and contact the appropriate community group according to the location of your event.

South of the Brunswick River

  • An Arakwal Traditional Owner will deliver the Welcome to Country.
  • Contact the Bundjalung of Byron Bay Arakwal Corporation office on 02 6685 8746 or info@arakwal.com.au

North of the Brunswick River

  • A Minjungbal Traditional Owner will deliver the Welcome to Country.

Are there any fees?

You will need to pay a service fee for a Welcome to Country. The fee has an award set by the Attorney General’s Department.

What is an Acknowledgement of Country?

An Acknowledgement of Country is an opportunity to show respect for:

  • Traditional Owners,
  • and the ongoing connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to Country.

Who can deliver an Acknowledgement of Country?

Anyone can deliver an Acknowledgement of Country. The protocols or wording for an Acknowledgement of Country are not set.

Often a statement may take the following forms:

General

"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."

Specific

"I’d like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today, the (people) of the (nation) and pay my respects to Elders past and present."

Acknowledgement of Country addresses for Byron Shire

The Brunswick River is an important traditional boundary between tribal groups within the Byron Shire. Please refer to the location of your event below for advice.

South of the Brunswick River

'I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today, the Arakwal of the Bundjalung and pay my respects to Elders past and present.' (Optional) 'I would like to extend that respect to the Midjungbal people to the north and the Widjabal people to the west and all the Aboriginal people gathered here today.'

North of the Brunswick River (Ocean Shores north)

'I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today, the Midjungbal of the Bundjalung and pay my respects to Elders past and present.'

(Optional) 'I would like to extend that respect to the Arakwal people to the south and the Widjabal people to the west and all the Aboriginal people gathered here today.'