Welcome to Country: It’s About Respect

Welcome to Country: It's About Respect

May 20, 2011

The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council has expressed its concern at the watering down of significant Welcome to Country acknowledgements in Victoria.

Chairwoman Bev Manton said the gesture was a symbol of respect and acknowledgement for the original custodians of this country we all love so dearly.

She expressed her sadness that the Victorian Government had turned its back on such an important tradition, and is concerned that the South Australian opposition leader, Isobel Redmond, possesses similar sentiments.

"It's simply wrong to suggest that recognising the Aboriginal custodians of land in this country is tokenistic or impractical," Chairwoman Manton said.

"Some have suggested the gesture does nothing for Aboriginal people, but they're mistaken.

"By showing a modicum of respect for traditional owners and their ancestors' passed, you are doing a great deal to help bridge the gulf between black and white in this country.

"Using these words at official events may not heal the sick, or boost educational outcomes for Aboriginal kids, but it's not supposed to. It's does however show that our elected leaders have an understanding and an admiration for Aboriginal culture and people.

"It's symbolism, but its essential symbolism."

Chairwoman Manton said she was gutted to read some of the comments of support for the Victorian Premier's decision in the media, especially those who suggested the gesture is 'political correctness gone mad.'

She also took the opportunity to acknowledge NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell, who has urged his colleagues north of the border to conduct the gesture 'wherever possible.'

"Australia has a strong history of remembering events and people gone before us," she said.

"We celebrate and honour our Diggers every year on ANZAC Day. We celebrate the Queen's birthday; royal weddings and we even stop the nation for a horse race.

"That's why it's difficult to fathom why uttering a few words of respect for the oldest continuing culture on earth is too much for some, especially those we elect to lead this great country forward.

"And that's why it's particularly encouraging to see the Premier of NSW take a strong stand on acknowledging Aboriginal custodians of country, despite the failings of his colleagues down south."

Media contact: Chris Munro, 0438 760 242