Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country protocols

Welcome to Country

A Welcome to Country acknowledges customary laws. It is part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and has been for thousands of years.

Despite the absence of fences or visible borders, clear boundaries separated groups' Country. Crossing into another group’s Country required a request for permission to enter.

Permission gave the visitors safe passage and spiritual protection during the journey. The visitors also had to respect the protocols and rules of the land owner group while on their Country.  

Many things have changed in Australia since colonisation and protocols have adapted. 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

Traditional Owners deliver the Welcome to Country to 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 Minjungbul people

All three groups are a part of the Bundjalung Nation. The Bundjalung Council of Elders agreed on the The Brunswick River as the natural boundary for the Native Title Tribunal.

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 for contact details.

If your event is taking place:

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 Minjungbul Traditional Owner will deliver the Welcome to Country.

Contact Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council for advice on 07 5536 1763 or email: ceo@tblalc.com, admin@tblalc.com

West of the Brunswick River (Mullumbimby Showground and some schools)

  • Contact Ngulingah Land Council on 02 6621 5541

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 Acknoweldgement 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."

Acknowledgment 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 Midjungbul 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 Midjungbul 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.'

West of the Brunswick River (Mullumbimby Showgrounds and some schools)

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

(Optional) 'I would like to extend that respect to the Mindjungbul people to the north and the Arakwal people to the east and all the Aboriginal people gathered here today.'