For those who are unfamiliar, an Acknowledgement of Country is just that – it’s when anyone apart from the Traditional Owners of the land Acknowledge the Country you’re working, living, or creating on. This is different from a Welcome to Country which is delivered by Traditional Owners.
*Disclaimer* There is no course that is a substitute for the life-long commitment and learning to unsettle this place known as “Australia”
This module is a pedagogical moment, and a provocation to think critically about how and why we Aaknowledge – instead of just having an Acknowledgement at the top or bottom of the page or as in introduction to a presentation. With that in mind we’re sharing a few resources and examples from different positionalities and perceptives about Acknowledgement. This module is an invitation for you to think critically and mindfully about how and why we acknowledge.
An Acknowledgement in not an admission of privilege or settler-guilt, reflecting on your positionality is key to delivering an Acknowledgement with meaning. Kimberlé Crenshaw’s work on intersectionality is informed by reflecting on aspects of our identities such as race, gender, class and ability. Positionality considers these aspects in relation to others, what action(s) you might do and how this might change over time.
Acknowledgement is an action, a meaningful Acknowledgement is not about the public-facing outcome but about the deep understanding and commitment to unsettling this place. In the words of Lila Watson, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together”.
Tuck, E. and Yang, K.W. (2012) Decolonization is not a metaphor. Available at: https://clas.osu.edu/sites/clas.osu.edu/files/Tuck%20and%20Yang%202012%20Decolonization%20is%20not%20a%20metaphor.pdf
Watego, C. (2021) Always bet on black (power), Meanjin. Available at: https://meanjin.com.au/essays/always-bet-on-black-power/
Wright, A. (2018) What happens when you tell somebody else’s story?, Meanjin. Available at: https://meanjin.com.au/essays/what-happens-when-you-tell-somebody-elses-story/
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are not all one Peoples, you may have seen this map of Indigenous Australia, this map is just a starting point and a guide, the true wealth and diversity of Blak ‘Australia’ is expansive. Check out Vernon Ah Kee’s work ‘Transforming Tindale’ that responds to the creation of this map. Know which country you are on, do your own research into in the land you’re standing on.
In this eModule we have used the term Blak, coined by Erub/Mer and K’ua K’ua Artist Destiny Deacon as a way of affirming her identity and redefining the labels that are placed on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, please see “Why Blak and not Black” (Munro, 2020). Language, grammar, spelling, italics, capitalisation, and semantics are important when acknowledging! Please refer to the style guide in recommended readings for comprehensive insights. For instance, phrasing “our indigenous peoples” expresses ownership.
Italicising indigenous words is a form of othering and positions English as the dominant language. Don’t use past tense or outdated terminology. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples are the oldest continuing culture on Earth – it’s not in the past!
Using acronyms like “ATSI” simplify the density of cultures, be specific when acknowledging the land you’re on. Acronyms that become globally popular through social media, such as BIPOC, come from a different racial context and don’t necessarily translate in so called ‘Australia’, do some research into the terms you are using.
Lastly, minority groups work extremely hard to create language that describes their experiences, be mindful of the language you are using and if you’re co-opting language that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples work really hard to create! Always reference the work of First Peoples!
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Peoples are the most researched people on the planet – Indigenous Peoples are the experts in their own experiences. Make an effort to follow indigenous-led research and content, there are some helpful starting points linked at the end of this module. Instead of categorising and capturing knowledge, be open to receiving knowledge.
If you’re still stuck, check out this Style Guide as a starting point to crafting your Acknowledgement.
Indigenous, First Nations or First Peoples? Why might Destiny Deacon have created her own term Blak?
Questions to consider for Learning Objective 3, Example 1:
Questions to consider for Learning Objective 3, Example 2:
What stood out for you about this Acknowledgement?
How might you sit in relation to Acknowledgment?
Is there something from your own culture you can bring to Acknowledgement?
As you can see there are many different ways you can approach Acknowledgement, have a go at writing one in your own words. Reflect on your positionality, think about what language is important to you and remember to come with purpose!
Bell, R. (2002) Bell’s Theorem: ABORIGINAL ART – It’s a white thing!, Bell’s theorem. Kooriweb. Available at: http://www.kooriweb.org/foley/great/art/bell.html
Foley, G. (2010) Gary Foley: Advice for White Indigenous activists in Australia, YouTube. The Juice Media. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEGsBV9VGTQ&ab_channel=thejuicemedia
Hunt, M. (2020) Why an acknowledgement of country is important (and advice on how to give one)Molly Hunt, ABC Everyday. ABC Everyday. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/everyday/why-acknowledgement-of-country-is-important-and-how-to-give-one/11881902
TEDxTalks, S.R. (2022) Deliver an acknowledgement of country that really means something | Shelley Reys | TEDxSydney, YouTube. TEDxSydney. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxo18_7BDt4&ab_channel=TEDxTalks