Here's How And When Public Speakers In Australia Should Acknowledge Traditional Land Owners

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge on her visit to Ayers Rock. Photo: William West – Pool / Getty

Have you ever wondered whether you should be acknowledging traditional owners of the land when making a speech?

Business Insider spoke to the NSW Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Victor Dominello, to find out when an acknowledgement is appropriate and how it should be delivered.

According to Dominello “an acknowledgement is always important however the circumstances of a particular event should be considered to determine how and whether an acknowledgement is appropriate for that occasion.”

He says acknowledgements are usually done at the beginning of a speech being presented at a significant meeting or place, and when Aboriginal people are in attendance. The acknowledgement demonstrates a personal respect for Aboriginal culture and it is a practise that organisations and businesses should lead by example in doing.

But he says it is “a personal choice and people should be guided by their genuine beliefs and respect for the circumstances.”

We asked Dominello for a recommended format to use to ensure the practise is performed correctly. Here is a commonly used format used by NSW Government agencies:

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we meet on today, the (name of traditional owners) people of the (name of nation) nation, and pay my respect to the elders, both past and present.

While Dominello says the acknowledgement is respectful, it should not be done on a whim, in order to preserve its significance.

“There is a view held by some Aboriginal people that acknowledgements should only be done at large or significant meetings because doing it at every small meeting minimises the significance and there is a risk it may become tokenistic.”

He continued, “It is important that if people are going to name the traditional owners that they identify the correct traditional owners of the area in question.”

Overall, the minister said Australians have no official responsibility to acknowledge traditional owners, but it is a practise that the encourages positive relationships with Aboriginal people.

“We should be working together with Aboriginal people, across all sectors and industries, so that the potential we have in this state can be realised for our current and future generations.”

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