Welcome to the country: substance over form


“First of all, I would like to thank the people of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands. I pay tribute to the past, present and emerging elders and to the traditional caretakers of the land where this event takes place. “

“Country Approval” and “Welcome to the Country” rituals are now being incorporated into the structure of Australian life. Today, all public activity organized by governments of all levels, federal, state, and local, begins with a welcome.

Welcome is also the ever-present sacrament process that takes place at the beginning of university meetings, conferences, and seminars. It may also be read aloud at outdoor events. For example, the Land for Wildlife event, as expected, begins with Welcome to Country. Even private companies now adopt this practice.

Ernie Dingo and his collaborator Richard Walley founded Welcome to Country in the 1970s when they welcomed a group of Pacific dancers to Australia. At that time, they made it clear that it should remain voluntary, not a compulsory ritual. But since then, the welcome has become part of the inevitable and essential introductory speech and is often repeated by most speakers at the event.

There are different versions. Conference attendees typically need to respect indigenous peoples and allow them to manage Australian territory.

Experience has shown that the artificial and ritualized language of the welcome often makes event attendees uncomfortable.

Epoch Times Photo
Thousands of people gathered at Fed Square in Melbourne, Australia on February 13, 2008 to hear that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a historic apology to Aboriginal people for more than two centuries of fraud. The Aboriginal flag is waved in front of the TV screen. Of a white village. (William West via Getty Images / AFP)

Of course, recognizing indigenous peoples is not limited to Australia. For example, in Canada, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) recommends that its members hold meetings and conferences with appropriate language acknowledgments. In that guide, CAUT claims:

“Recognizing territory shows the recognition and respect of indigenous peoples. It is the recognition of their existence both in the past and in the present. Recognition and respect are important factors in establishing sound and interrelationships. These relationships are the key to reconciliation, the process that CAUT commits. “

CAUT further states that approval is part of “a larger context of genuine ongoing work to build a true understanding and challenge the colonial heritage.”

It also emphasizes that it must be understood as an important part of the business, not as a “proformer statement.”

To explain the welcome in an easy-to-understand manner, it is necessary to ponder the nature and consequences of the welcome.

Specifically, we may ask whether it effectively contributes to the “respect” of indigenous cultures and ameliorate the material plight of Aborigines.

Welcome to Country can contribute, at least potentially, to the development of harmonious relationships between diverse groups of societies by focusing on the need to respect indigenous cultures.

In this regard, Reconciliation Australia states on its website that its establishment “respects by supporting the cultural protocols of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.”

Epoch Times Photo
On January 26, 2020, the Aboriginal flag is projected on the sails of the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia. (DonArnold / Getty Images)

In this context, Mark Powell Welcome “The act of cultural appropriation, as the welcome white bread cliché is a mandatory overture to the drone before everything from the football match to the opening of Congress.”

He also said that both “welcome to the country” and “national recognition” practices fail to respect Aboriginal culture as it did, but what the indigenous people have historically Point out that it is a dishonest expression of what you did.

The welcome emphasis on “respect” is a timely reminder of the need to respect Australia’s Aboriginal cultural heritage, but the word used in the statement is that “respect” is a mutual expectation. Should be emphasized. Only then will it make a significant contribution to harmony and reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.

But opposition to promoting respect is just one-sided approval. Several reasons support this view.

First, the Australian version means that non-indigenous Australians are simply visitors to Aboriginal lands and intruders intended to rob the so-called traditional owners of their lands. To do.

The settlement website states, “By taking the time to recognize the country or including a welcome to the country in the event, we live, work and dream every day on the land of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. It reminds me, “he tells the user.

Indeed, subject to the validity of this implication, Welcome induces non-Indigenous Australians into a state of lasting guilt, which cannot promote reconciliation, but instead opposes its achievement. increase.

Epoch Times Photo
The dancers will perform at the Yabun Festival, which celebrates the culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders every year at Camperdown in Sydney, Australia, on January 26, 2020. (Jenny Evans / Getty Images)

Second, the welcome itself does nothing to improve the physical condition of the indigenous peoples of Australia.

It does not provide concrete assistance that allows Aborigines to become self-sufficient and reduce the need for government assistance and charity.

This is an artificial maternal statement that promotes morphology rather than substance. To be sure, welcome is not a substitute for the meaningful support that the government and private sector of the Australian economy can provide to Australian indigenous peoples.

A welcome is just an artificial statement, as it is currently configured, but it can still generate a request.

For example, requiring Australia to conclude a treaty with indigenous peoples, or to be represented by indigenous peoples in an obligatory or advisory position in Parliament (known as The Voice) or by retaining seats in Parliament. It may be an opportunity to do so.

Therefore, Welcome supports the requirements of a comprehensive treaty with Australia. Proposals to that effect have already been submitted to the Queensland Parliament (pdf).

It’s no wonder that some Australian voters consider Welcome to Country to be a charade, even though it’s all the rage right now.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Gabriel Moens


Gabriël A. Professor MoensAM was an emeritus professor at the University of Queensland and was a vice president, dean, and law professor at Murdoch University. He published the novel “A Swiss Choice” on the origin of COVID-19 disease and recently published the short story “The Greedy Prospector” in the anthology of the short story “The Outback” (Boolarong Press, 2021).

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