In recent years government departments and agencies, as well as private and public organisations, have put in place protocols that recognise and pay due respects to the original inhabitants of Australia. This has occurred within the national context of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and an international movement that acknowledges the special and important role indigenous communities play in the development of a country's cultural identity.
In Australia, there are two traditional protocols that are in widespread use:
- an Acknowledgement protocol – used by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous speakers to pay due respect to the traditional Indigenous inhabitants
- a Welcome to Country protocol – a direct descendant of the original Indigenous inhabitants, usually an Elder, welcomes visitors to his/her traditional lands (“country”)
An Indigenous Acknowledgement is part of, and should precede, any acknowledgement of VIPs and special guests at civic occasions, functions and public events. Council has endorsed the following for use as its Indigenous Acknowledgement:
I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Land upon which we stand.
In addition, Council has endorsed the following wording as a longer Acknowledgement, inclusive of all people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, which could be used for publications, and where a more comprehensive version is warranted:
We acknowledge and pay respects to the traditional Aboriginal people of the Gold Coast and their descendants. We also acknowledge the many Aboriginal people from other regions as well as Torres Strait and South Sea Islander people who now live in the local area and have made an important contribution to the community.
Welcome to Country
Welcome to Country, also known as the Traditional Welcome, allows the Traditional Custodians of the region to give their blessing for the event to take place on their land. It must be done by a representative of the Traditional Custodians of the location at which the event is taking place.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flags
The following information has been sourced from the Australian Government's It's an Honour website at www.itsanhonour.gov.au.
The Australian Aboriginal Flag was first raised on 12 July 1971 at Victoria Square in Adelaide. It was also used at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra in 1972.
The top half of the flag is black to symbolise Indigenous people. The red in the lower half stands for the earth and the colour of ochre, which has ceremonial significance. The circle of yellow in the centre of the flag represents the sun.
The Australian Aboriginal Flag is displayed at Aboriginal centres and is well recognised as the flag of Aboriginal peoples of Australia.
The Torres Strait Islander Flag was adopted in May 1992 during the Torres Strait Islands Cultural Festival.
The green panels at the top and bottom of the flag represent the land and the central blue panel represents the sea. The black lines dividing the panels represent the Torres Strait Islander people. The centre of the flag shows a white dhari (dancer's headdress) and is a symbol for all Torres Strait Islanders. Underneath the dhari is a white five-pointed star. The star is an important symbol for navigating the sea. The points of the star represent the island groups in the Torres Strait and white symbolises peace.
The Australian Aboriginal Flag and the Torres Strait Islander Flag were proclaimed on 14 July 1995.
Both flags are flown:
- during NAIDOC Week to celebrate and promote greater understanding of Indigenous peoples and culture
- during National Reconciliation Week in recognition of 27 May as the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum which removed from the Constitution clauses that discriminated against Indigenous Australians
- on 3 June as the anniversary of the High Court decision in the Eddie Mabo land rights case of 1992.