Welcome to Country
A Welcome to Country is a ritual or formal ceremony performed as a land acknowledgement at many events held in Australia. It is purported to highlight the cultural significance of the surrounding area to the descendants of a particular Aboriginal clan or language group who were recognised as the original human inhabitants of the area. For the Welcome to be recognised as official, it must be performed by a recognised elder of the group. Welcomes to Country are sometimes accompanied by traditional smoking ceremonies, music or dance. Where an elder is not available to perform the Welcome, or there is not a recognised traditional owner, an Acknowledgement of Country may be offered instead.
The term "Country" has a particular meaning and significance to many Aboriginal peoples, encompassing an inter-dependent relationship between an individual or a people and their ancestral or traditional lands and seas. The connection to land involves culture, spirituality, language, law/lore, kin relationships and identity. The Welcome to Country has been a long tradition among Aboriginal Australian groups to welcome peoples from other areas.
Since 2008, a Welcome to Country has been incorporated into the ceremonial opening of the Parliament of Australia, occurring after each federal election.
Aboriginal elders are increasingly speaking out against the widespread use of Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country ceremonies beyond the originally intended context. Aboriginal Elder of the Narungga People Kerry White notes in an interview with Sky News in Australia that traditionally the ceremonies were only used when other tribes would set foot in the local tribe's land with permission and that these ceremonies were infrequent. White referred to the widespread use of the ceremonies in Australia as virtue signalling.
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