• How To Genuinely Acknowledge Country & Mean It

  • A genuine heartfelt Acknowledgement of Country rarely happens when it's done off the cuff, in a formal setting, and without practice. There is nothing worse than hearing people mouth the same words by rote, especially when it sounds like it's coming from a robot rather than a human.  Even if you already know how to Acknowledge Country, here's a refresher with some helpful tips to make it less automatic and more authentic. 

    1. Know the land you are on

    Many people mistakenly think there is only ONE Australian Aboriginal mob, a sort of "one size fits all".

    Think of the map of Africa. Rather than being one African country, each coloured area is a unique country. According to the United Nations, there are 54 countries and 6 territories. 

     The same can be said for Aboriginal Australia. There are over 500 + unique first nation groups of people across Australia.

    Each Australian first nation group is known as a country. Each country recognises the uniqueness of every other country when it matters.  Like each of the African countries, each Australian Aboriginal country has its own language, music, songs, dance, dreaming stories, artwork, totems and so much more.

    So you can see how it is important to get the right country rather then refer to a generic "one size first all"

    2. Learn how to pronounce the country correctly 

    A common error made by many non-Aboriginal people is they unknowingly and incorrectly pronounce the name of the country they are acknowledging. There might be two, three or even more ways to pronounce a country’s name.

    The reason for the variation is amazingly simple. By way of an example all across general Australia, English is the universal language. There is a different dialect or pronunciation between city and country towns, between east and west and north and south. In NSW, we might say Newcastle, in Victoria it might be pronounced as NewCASSELL with a different emphasis on a different syllable.

    The same thing happens in the Australian First Nation Space. Wiradjuri has one of the largest geographical footprints across the continent. Wiradjuri is surrounded by at least 14 other first nation countries. There are over 30 towns across Wiradjuri country. 

    Anthropologist Norman Tindale estimated the territorial range of the Wiradjuri tribal lands at 127,000 km2. Their eastern borders run from north to south from above Mudgee, through Orange to the vicinity of Bathurst, and east of Cowra, Young and Tumut and south to the upper Murray at Albury and east to about Tumbarumba. The southern border ran to Howlong. Its western reaches went along Billabong Creek to beyond Mossgiel. They extend southwest to the vicinity of Hay and Narrandera. Condobolin southwards to Booligal, Carrathool, Wagga Wagga, Cootamundra, Parkes, Trundle; Gundagai, Boorowa, and Rylstone, Wellington, and Carcoar all lay within Wiradjuri territory. (Wiradjuri - Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiradjuri)

    Each town mentioned above is likely to have its own emphasis on each syllable which may be different to another town. It might get a little confusing at first, before you realise these subtle yet important differences.

    A general rule of thumb . . . is to say the first nation country the way the locals say it. Often this means doing a bit of homework either before or during your first meeting. You could ask the people who are referring you to the people you are about to engage with wht is the correct way to say their country's name.

    Alternatively, you could ask the local Aboriginal people you are about to engage with how to pronounce the name of their country. Many Aboriginal people are proud of their country, their people and their culture. They are only too happy to assist you in getting it correct when it counts, especially when you are on their turf. The only mistake you can really make is to not ask for help. 

    3. Link your acknowledgement to your head

    If you are giving a talk as a speaker, an MC or a chairperson link the acknowledgement to the purpose of that event. Make sure your acknowledgement is linked to your professional position in your working life.

    When athletes sing the national anthem at national and international sporting events, they show the importance by their body language, knowing the words and singing the words with passion.  

    Then be bold. Make a prediction or speculate on what would happen if the simple act of acknowledgement were integrated into the topic you are talking about in workplaces, projects, events or whatever is relevant to the topic you are talking about.  By taking it to another level you can show what we all can learn from Australia's first nation peoples. Such as statement that will encourage people to continue listening to you and be encouraged by what you are saying on the day.   

    4. Learn from your heart  

    Whatever you do make it personal.

    Tell listeners why it is important to you when you acknowledge country. 

    After you have described why it is important to you, link it with a personal experience or story. Show how it relates to your personal life and the people around you. After you have shown the relationship, describe how the acknowledgement is relevant to your reason for being in the room.

    If you do not make the links or relationships, your listeners will be wondering why you are acknowledging country.

    That's it! Now it's your turn to acknowledge country with authenticity and genuinely.

    Was this post helpful? Or do you have more questions? Let me know in the comments.

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