Acknowledgment of Traditional Owners Guidelines

  • What is an Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners?

    An Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners can be done by anyone and is a way of showing awareness of, and respect for, the Aboriginal Traditional Owners of the land on which a meeting or event is being held.

    Scott Kneebone, a Bangerang man based in Canberra and a presenter with Ask Me Anything, a community organisation that promotes understanding and inclusion through conversation, explains it like this:

    "A Welcome to Country is like if you're hosting a birthday: you do a welcome and say thank you for coming to my birthday.

    "And an Acknowledgement of Country is like if you're a guest at the birthday: you would say thank you for having me."

    The Royal Children’s Hospital’s commitment to cultural safety

    As a Hospital, The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) acknowledges both the historical and current barriers that have impeded, and continue to impede, Aboriginal families from accessing health care services.

    The RCH embraces the belief that it is the right of all Aboriginal children, young people, families, and their communities, to enjoy equal access to culturally appropriate services.

    Acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture within the hospital is of significant value and supports respectful and genuine relationships with our First Nations communities and encourages culturally safe practices at the hospital, not only for our patients and their families but also for our own valued Aboriginal staff.

    When is an Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners appropriate?

    An Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners should be given at formal events and functions such as large group meetings, board meetings, and official openings.

    The first speaker at an event (following a Welcome, or in the absence of a Welcome) should give the Acknowledgment of Traditional Owners.

    Subsequent speakers may also give an Acknowledgement.

    At the RCH we already incorporate Acknowledgments into all our formal functions and significant meetings. However we also encourage the chairs of RCH meetings involving a number of people such as a committee or team meeting to give an Acknowledgment at the opening if they feel comfortable. Exercise your discretion - it is probably not practical to incorporate an Acknowledgement into a 15-minute huddle.

    What form should the Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners take if the Victorian Government has formally recognised the Traditional Owners of the relevant area?

    The Victorian Government has formally recognised the Traditional Owners for the area on which the Hospital stands as the Wurundjeri People.

    The Wurundjeri People are the Traditional Custodians of Melbourne and surrounding lands. If a meeting chair is in another location they may like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land in which they are present.

    The Kulin nation is an alliance of five Indigenous Australian nations in south central Victoria, Australia. Their collective territory extends around Port Phillip and Western Port, up into the Great Dividing Range and the Loddon and Goulburn River valleys.

    The five Nations are:

    • Woiwurrung (Woy-wur-rung) – the Wurundjeri people
    • Boonwurrung – the Boonwurrung people
    • Wathaurong (Wath-er-rung) – the Wathaurong people
    • Taungurung (Tung-ger-rung) – the Taungurung people
    • Dja Dja Wurrung (Jar-Jar-Wur-rung) – the Dja Dja Wurrung or Jaara people

    Acknowledgement Wording for RCH

      “I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting today, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.”  


    RCH has taken advice from our Aboriginal Advisory Committee in the development of these guidelines, and their most critical feedback is that the choice to give an Acknowledgment of Country in a smaller or less formal meeting is up to the discretion of the chair. The acknowledgement needs to be earnest more than anything else.

    You may like to personalise this with something that feels sincere to you such as how you feel about the lands, or the privilege of being able to do our work on Aboriginal lands or acknowledge any Aboriginal staff or people who may be present at the meeting. It doesn’t matter if you get the words a little muddled, the sincerity and intent is more important.

    Welcome to Country

    Only Traditional Owners/Custodians of the land on which the event takes place can deliver a Welcome to Country. These ceremonies vary from speeches of welcome to traditional dance and smoking ceremonies.

    A Welcome to Country ceremony should be arranged for major public events, forums and functions in locations where Traditional Owners have been formally recognised. A welcoming ceremony is also appropriate if the event has broad impact on, or is significant to, Aboriginal people.

    A Welcome to Country should be performed by a representative of the relevant formally recognised Traditional Owners.

    The formally recognised Traditional Owners for the land on which the RCH stands are the Wurundjeri People. They are represented by the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporationand can be contacted for requests for a Welcome to Country.

    Further resources:

    RCH Together templates