Protocols for welcoming visitors to Country have been part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures for thousands of years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups have boundaries – not always marked by geographical boundaries – separating their Country from that of other groups. Crossing into another group’s Country required a request for permission to enter, and when that permission was granted, the hosting group would welcome the visitors, offering them safe passage and outlining responsibilities whilst on Country.
A Welcome to Country is a continuation of these protocols of respect. A Welcome to Country usually occurs at the beginning of a formal event and can only be delivered by Traditional Owners, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have been given permission from Traditional Owners to welcome visitors to their Country on which the event is taking place. This is different from an Acknowledgement of Country which can be given by a non-Indigenous person or an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person who is connected to another place. A Welcome to Country can take many forms including singing, dancing, a smoking ceremony or a speech in traditional language or English.