by Niki and Pete (Wiradjuri mob)
I would like to acknowledge the Wiradjuri people who are the traditional custodians of this land. I would also like to pay respect to the elders past and present of the Wiradjuri nation and extend that respect to other Aboriginal people present.
The Matong State Forest is Wiradjuri country, and here at Burning Seed we recognize the privilege of being able to build our experimental community each year on this beautiful site. We feel we should not ignore the existence and ownership of this land by Aboriginal people before European settlement and acknowledge the history within the ritual of 'Welcome to Country', the ceremony performed each year at Red Earth City to formally launch the event.
Welcome to Country & Acknowledgement of Country
‘Welcome to Country’ is an important ceremony by Aboriginal people and it helps non-Indigenous people recognize Aboriginal culture and history and make connections with country. With Welcome to Country, Elders pay respect to custodians past and present as well as Elders past and present.
Before European settlement, despite the absence of fences or visible borders, Aboriginal groups had clear boundaries separating their country from that of other groups. Crossing into another group’s country required a request for permission to enter. When that permission was granted the hosting group would welcome the visitors, offering them safe passage
Spiritually, this is showing respect for the country and the custodians who are responsible for taking care of the country where we live… So what our custodians are doing is trying to give respect back into the country.
It was the tradition of Aboriginals that when strangers came into their particular country to hunt or to gather, or to just pass through on their way to other places, that the host Aboriginals would go out to welcome them. When they met, there would be the formalities of greeting. Part of the ceremony of welcome would be the men sitting around and talking men’s business (share knowledge and lore) whilst the host women would take the visiting women and children to a women’s site to talk women’s business.
When this was completed, the two groups would join again and the men would trade and hunt for kangaroo, goannas or bush turkey - and the women would prepare an area for eating and would gather firewood and berries, fruit, nuts and lily roots for a meal.
Dancing, Singing, Leaving No Trace (sound familiar!?)
Then the ceremonies, the corroborees dancing would commence, the singing songs around the fire could well go on, not only all night, but sometimes for many nights in a row. Each with a message within their own stories. Men, women and children all taking part. Whilst during the day, the visiting tribe would be taken and shown the sites of significance and be told the stories of the spirit of the land they would be passing.
In this way, the hosts believed that by the end of formalities, when the strangers were ready to move on they would not be considered not strangers but friends who now had the spirit of the country in their heart. They believed that once the spirit of the land was in their hearts, then those people would never damage the land they would love it and care for it like those whose home country it was…
A Welcome to Country is about Aboriginal people acknowledging the past, and looking to the future. It is often delivered by an Aboriginal person who has themselves been the victim of government policies.
Our Elders do the Welcome to Country as an act of generosity. These are the same people who have had their children taken away, or been removed themselves. They’re the same people who had their wages stolen by successive governments. They’re the same people who had their ancestors’ remains raided by grave robbers. They’re the same people who were disposed from their lands and forced on to missions and reserves.
And yet despite all of these terrible events and the horrendous treatment by so many parliaments, these very same people are still prepared to say ‘welcome’ to the very people who in some cases have presided over the oppression.
We encourage everyone to come along and join in to the ceremonies, to be welcomed, feel loved and pay our respects to Country. Still today we all have Knowledge to share for a better future.
Niki and Pete