Cultural Awareness Protocols and Advice

Why have Indigenous Australian Cultural Protocol Guidelines?

The development of respectful relationships between institutions such as the University of Melbourne and Indigenous Australians is an important step in the broader social movement towards reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Respect can be manifested in a number of ways. In formal occasions respect can be demonstrated through the recognition of Indigenous Australian Protocols

Acknowledgement of Country and Welcome to Country

There are two distinct cultural protocols:

An Acknowledgement of Country is a statement of recognition that is made by someone who is NOT a Traditional Custodian or Owner of the country or land on which the statement is being made. Acknowledgements of Country can be offered as a formal or informal statement. Depending on your event, you may want to extend the acknowledgement i.e to other Indigenous people who may be present or to the Indigenous leadership at The University.

A Welcome to Country is a statement of welcome that can ONLY be made by a Traditional Owner or Custodian of the land or country the statement is being made.The Welcome to Country is also known as a Traditional Welcome. This allows Traditional Owners/Custodians to give their blessing to the event. Only a representative for the Traditional Clan of the location at which the function is being held can provide a Welcome to Country.

The distinction between these protocols is important as it can cause offence if they are confused.

There are no firm rules that distinguish those occasions when it is preferable for a Welcome to Country as opposed to an Acknowledgment of Country. For occasions of greater cultural significance it is preferable to provide follow the Welcome to Country protocol (such as an international conference with a large international Indigenous contingent, significant cultural events). In the event that a Traditional Custodian is unable to provide a Welcome to Country (such as unexpected illness or bereavement) an Acknowledge of Country is an appropriate substitute.

Courtesies to Indigenous Australian People

In providing cultural services Indigenous Australian people are using their intellectual property. These can include Welcome to Country, performances and other ceremonies such as smoking and dance.  As such these servies should be remunerated.

Please ensure when asking for cultural services that enough time is given prior to your event as booking at the last minute will often mean Elders and or Performers are not available.

Please contact Liz Laguerre for further information.

This information has been taken from the University of Melbourne Aboriginal Cultural Protocol Guidelines.