NSW public school students will now acknowledge Aboriginal Australians as the original custodians of the land, thanks to new guidelines released by the NSW Department of Education and Training.
The guidelines, which will go out to all NSW public schools and TAFEs, propose that the Aboriginal Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country be performed at assemblies and other formal school functions.
The plan to release the guidelines was originally conceived by Aboriginal teachers in the NSW Teachers Federation. It was then adopted by the NSW Department of Education and the Aboriginal Educational Consultative Group.
The move is seen as a positive step towards reconciliation, as it will help students to develop respect for Indigenous people as well as raising the self-esteem of Indigenous students and promoting Aboriginal culture.
These ceremonies are already performed at events attended by state and federal minsters, but extending the practise to NSW schools is a first for Australia.
The guidelines explain that the Welcome to Country can take the form of a dance, or a speech, but that it can only be performed by an appropriate Aboriginal elder. It is also made clear that the ceremony should not be undertaken unless the Aboriginal community is involved in, and comfortable with, the arrangements.
The Acknowledgement of Country requires that a chairperson or speaker begins a meeting or function by acknowledging that the meeting is taking place in the country of the Traditional Custodians.