Healing words for NAIDOC week

Why ‘welcome to country’ means so much

A Trinity student has produced a touching explanation of the deep traditional significance of “welcome to country” rituals as part of his NAIDOC Week research.

“Have you ever heard of a word that goes beyond dictionary meaning? A word so encompassing, so rich that language cannot do it justice?” asked Micah A. S. (12St) in a project inspired by Trinity’s Social Action co-curricular group.

“To Aboriginal Australians, the word ‘country’ is much more than ‘homeland’ or places on a map. It goes far beyond ownership, tribal or clan area,” he said in an address due to be read at a School assembly which had to be cancelled because of pandemic lockdowns.

“Country is a word for all the values, places, resources and culture of an area. Country is interconnected relationships with that place, its stories, kin, roles and respectful obligations.

“Beautifully, ‘welcome to country’ is a welcome to a place, as well as a welcome to the connections with that place.”

Addressing this year’s NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) Week theme of Heal Country, the non-indigenous student said welcoming practices had been part of indigenous culture for thousands of years.

“It was not only an invitation to a visitor to enter an area, but to instil in them a feeling of protection and connection to that country,” he said.

“As Australians who were not here first, we must remember the deplorable treatment of our indigenous people, of their culture and land.

“Welcome to country is an immeasurable privilege and opportunity; to not just listen but respond to the call. To respect interconnectedness with the land. To wonder at history and traditions. To make proper space for talking and building. And to realise what a beautiful home we share.”

The address was due to have been delivered before a welcome to country by indigenous student Alex D. (11Mu).

The Social Action group’s coordinator Alison Boyd-Boland, Trinity’s Director of Professional Practice, said the boys had been disappointed by the lockdown cancellation but would now feel pleased that their efforts had found a wide audience after all.

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