Updated: Feb 3, 2021
I would like to Acknowledge the Yuggera, Juggera and Ugarapul people as the Traditional Custodians of the beautiful land I am standing on today. From the mountains to the river, I open my heart and my eyes as I walk this land, listening, learning and caring for Country. I want to extend this respect to Elders; past, present and emerging and to all First Nations people reading this post today. We are all remembered here.
* Please know that this post, as with all of my posts, is based on my own experiences, opinions, and what I have been taught and does not represent all First Nations peoples. If you are unsure about something, connecting with Community is the most respectful way for you to embed First Nations content specific to your area.
Over the last couple of years, as the department has rolled out different sections of the new curriculum, teachers all over Australia have begun to research ways to embed First Nations perspectives into their everyday teaching. For some some teachers taking that first step can be a little overwhelming at times.
Today, I want to share one very simple, yet very powerful way you can begin embedding First Nations perspectives into your everyday teaching while also demonstrating and practising reconciliation, that empowers both Indigenous and non - Indigenous students and sends a positive message to your school community and your local community at large.
This one action that I am talking about, is called an Acknowledgement of Country and at some point in time, you may have heard someone give an Acknowledgement of Country, or just read the example at the top of this post and wondered; what it was all about, and what the purpose of an Acknowledgement of Country is?
This post will talk about all of this and also share with you links to Australian State and Territory guides for an Acknowledgement of Country and right at the end I have made a special FREEBIE to help you in your journey of embedding an Acknowledgment of Country into your everyday teaching.
So, let's get started!
What is an Acknowledgement of Country?
An Acknowledgement of Country is a short but really powerful address, that is given at the beginning of a meeting, a speech or a gathering of people, when it is not possible to do a Welcome to Country, or in response to a Welcome to Country and it acts as a way for ALL Australians to show respect to the Traditional Custodians of the land they are on at that point in time. An Acknowledgement of Country is a really powerful way for ALL Australian teachers to be able to not only embed First Nations perspectives into their everyday teaching, but to more importantly, show respect to the Traditional Custodians of the land you are teaching on, while practicing reconciliation every day. (Reconciliation Australia, Welcome to and Acknowledgement of Country)
How does an Acknowledgment of Country differ from a Welcome to Country?
Unlike a Welcome to Country, an Acknowledgement of Country can be given by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and is perfect for everyday events, making it an excellent starting point for teachers looking to begin their journey of embedding First Nations perspectives into their everyday teaching. (Narragunnawali, Acknowledgement of Country)
Are there set protocols or wording for an Acknowledgment of Country?
"There are no set protocols or wording for an Acknowledgement of Country" (Reconciliation Australia, Welcome to and Acknowledgement of Country) however, I would really recommend you check out your State or Territory's guide. They are a great tool to help you implement an Acknowledgement of Country more specific to the State or Territory that you teach in (I will include a list of them at the end of this post with links).
Why is an Acknowledgement of Country important?
For most of us teachers, we go in to teaching to make a difference to our students and there is something really special about teaching and the magic that comes with being a teacher. It gives us this opportunity to impact so many lives and really be a part of the future through our students, the lives they will lead, and the leaders they will become but it doesn’t end there.
No matter where you went to school, we can all remember a teacher that either made us feel really good about being at school or a teacher who made us feel as though we didn’t belong there. An Acknowledgment of Country is a really important step to showing all of our students, our colleagues, parents, and the wider community that First Nations students, peoples, cultures, histories and languages, belong and are a valued part of all of our classrooms.
As a teacher, taking the time to create an Acknowledgement of Country with your class and if possible, including Elders and community members as a part of the creation, is such a huge part of reconciliation; it passes on that example of, respect towards First Nations peoples and cultures and also shows that you too are willing to make First Nations perspectives a priority in your student's everyday learning.
An Acknowledgement of Country also helps all of our students embrace and connect with the Traditional Custodians and the land on which they are learning and playing on.
Embedding an Acknowledgement of Country into your everyday teaching, creates a meaningful learning experience for all of your students through one simple, yet very powerful act and really does contribute to creating a positive sense of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student identity within your classroom. Including Community in the creation of your Acknowledgement of Country shows your commitment to reconciliation and respect for First Nations peoples, cultures, languages and histories of the land on which your school resides. This also gives your students the chance to learn from Elders or Community members, who have such a deep understanding, connection to and knowledge of the land that your students are learning and playing on every day, making this learning experience very respectful and genuine.
Where can I do my Acknowledgment of Country?
Today we are talking about giving an Acknowledgement of Country in your classroom or in a place at your school where you and your students can give an Acknowledgement of Country every morning. I have seen this done many different ways and in many different places but mostly either in the classroom, or in areas like outdoor classrooms which have been designed and made with Elders and Community working with the students and teachers.
Personally, I love having a physical space where you and your students can be and see your Acknowledgement of Country that you have made as a class, being displayed and celebrated every day. It really makes the Acknowledgement of Country a meaningful part of the classroom and a valued part of your student’s everyday learning experience and really does show the value and importance that you as a teacher hold for First Nations peoples, cultures, histories and languages.
How can I embed an Acknowledgment of Country into my everyday teaching?
Creating an Acknowledgment of Country with your class is not a difficult thing to do but it can be an extremely powerful and a really meaningful part of your classroom, students learning and your teaching.
If you are looking to create an Acknowledgment of Country but are not sure where to start, a great place to start is with a guide provided by your State or Territory. The State and Territory guides all have fairly common themes and topic points but there are some differences between the documents and from one area to the next, so please make sure you follow your State or Territory’s guide and if you are unsure connect with Community.
Here are a list of the guides from each State and Territory that I have found useful over the years, plus an amazing Australia wide guide, created by Reconciliation Australia.
Creating an Acknowledgment of Country is a very special and respectful act and creating it with your class is absolutely something I love doing and would really encourage any Australian teacher to do. Connecting with Community to create your class and school Acknowledgement of Country, is a beautiful way to really show respect and give your students the opportunity to also connect and learn from First Nations Elders and Community members. By doing this simple step you are also embedding First Nations perspectives into your teaching in a very genuine and wholesome way and this will be reflected in your Acknowledgement of Country and in the connections you and your students make with Community.
In my dreams, I would love for all teachers to work with Community to create a truly beautiful Acknowledgment of Country that represents Community, your class and the land on which you are on, in a space that encapsulates all of these things and so much more, but I know this is new to a lot of teachers. So, I have created something that can hopefully get you started and lead you to a point where creating an Acknowledgment of Country, connecting with Community, and to develop a space that is personalised to you, your class and Community is possible.
To get you started and make it a little bit easier for you to begin your journey of embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into your teaching. I wanted to create something that you could download and embed straight away.
This FREE and editable Acknowledgement of Country Bulletin Board is made to help teachers who don't already have an Acknowledgment of Country and for teachers who do have an Acknowledgment of Country and want to create a meaningful space for it in their classroom.
The Bulletin board is completely editable, so you can; enter your class name, enter the name of First Nations land you teach on or if you have your own Acknowledgement of Country that you have made with your class (which I highly recommend you do) then you can enter this into the blank template provided and just print it out and it will match the rest of the bulletin board too.
The artwork on this bulletin board is named 'Connection to Country' and was hand painted by me and then digitally composed to suit this format and layout. There is a description behind the meaning of this artwork included in the FREEBIE that you can include on the bulletin board too.
I have tried my best to keep it as simple as possible for you because I know you are all super busy, so hopefully this bulletin board is that for you.
Feel free to click the image or the highlighted sections to download your FREE and editable Acknowledgement of Country Bulletin Board and I can't wait to see all of your displays and videos of your Acknowledgements of Country! They make me sooooo happy!
Anyone can give an Acknowledgment of Country.
Speech which acknowledges and shows respect to the Traditional Custodians of the land you are on.
At the start a gathering, meeting or a presentation.
In this instance, in the classroom most likely.
It is respectful, is a positive step towards reconciliation, celebrates and identifies First Nations peoples, cultures, histories and languages as a valued part of your classroom.
I really hope this post has helped you find your first or your next step, in your journey of embedding First Nations perspectives into your everyday teaching.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog post today and I look forward to you joining me on the next one!