Wel­come to meet­ing

ABO­RIG­I­NAL AC­KNOWL­EDGE­MENT URGED

The Sunday Times - - NEWS - TREVOR PADDENBURG

WORK­ERS are be­ing urged to start in­ter­nal meetings and staff gath­er­ings with an “ac­knowl­edge­ment of coun­try” in a show of re­spect to tra­di­tional own­ers.

Wel­come to coun­try cer­e­monies per­formed by Abo­rig­i­nal el­ders are already com­mon at ma­jor events and oc­ca­sions. But now non-Abo­rig­i­nal work­ers in gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, agen­cies and asso­ciations are be­ing en­cour­aged to say an ac­knowl­edge­ment of coun­try.

It’s been billed as a way to com­bat the his­tory of dis­pos­ses­sion of indige­nous Aus­tralians and “end the ex­clu­sion that has been so dam­ag­ing”.

But even Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Aus­tralia ad­mits the need for guide­lines on when an ac­knowl­edge­ment should be said, such as if it ap­plies to ma­jor staff meetings or if it should be said even if sev­eral co-work­ers meet to dis­cuss an issue.

The rec­om­men­da­tions are con­tained in Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Ac­tion Plans which must now be pro­duced by gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and agen­cies. Ex­am­ples in­clude the Chil­dren and Young Peo­ple Com­mis­sioner’s lat­est RAP, which rec­om­mends: “In­clude an ac­knowl­edge­ment of coun­try at the com­mence­ment of all im­por­tant in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal meetings” and “en­cour­age staff to in­clude an ac­knowl­edge­ment of coun­try at the com­mence­ment of all meetings”.

The WA As­so­ci­a­tion for Men­tal Health urges staff to say an ac­knowl­edge­ment of coun­try, where “ap­pro­pri­ate”, at board and staff meetings, small train­ing or in­for­ma­tion ses­sions, and other small events.

It gives ex­am­ples such as: “We would like to ac­knowl­edge that this meet­ing is be­ing held on Abo­rig­i­nal land and recognise the strength, re­silience and ca­pac­ity of Noon­gar peo­ple in this land”, and, “We wish to ac­knowl­edge and re­spect their con­tin­u­ing cul­ture and the con­tri­bu­tion they make to the life of this city and this re­gion”.

The WA Jus­tice De­part­ment’s lat­est RAP is slightly more spe­cific, say­ing em­ploy­ees should be en­cour­aged to say an ac­knowl­edge­ment at the start of “sig­nif­i­cant” meetings.

“An ex­am­ple where this would be ap­pro­pri­ate would be a meet­ing of the de­part­ment’s ex­ec­u­tive team dur­ing NAIDOC Week, or the launch to staff of the de­part­ment’s Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Ac­tion Plan,” a Jus­tice spokes­woman said.

The South West Abo­rig­i­nal Land and Sea Council said an ac­knowl­edge­ment of coun­try did not have to take place ev­ery day or at ev­ery meet­ing, but should be used where ap­pro­pri­ate, par­tic­u­larly at meetings where im­por­tant is­sues were dis­cussed or de­ci­sions made.

Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Aus­tralia said there were “no set pro­to­cols or word­ing for an ac­knowl­edge­ment of coun­try”, which was an “op­por­tu­nity for any­one to show re­spect for tra­di­tional own­ers” at the be­gin­ning or a meet­ing, speech or for­mal oc­ca­sion.

Indige­nous elder Wal­ter McGuire said ac­knowl­edge­ments of coun­try could be done by any­one. He said it was a pos­i­tive step in re­spect­ing and recog­nis­ing Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple.

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