About Making Two Worlds Work

Aboriginal People:
a north east Victorian perspective

This section provides information on the Aboriginal peoples of north east Victoria.

Communicating Effectively
This section provides information that will assist in informed and respectful communication with Aboriginal peoples.

Historical Information &
Key Dates

This section provides information about important Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander historical and current events.

Aboriginal Health Promotion
This section provides information about Aboriginal health promotion.

Protocols & Procdures
This section provides information about protocols and procedures related to Aboriginal services, organisations and communities.

Producing Appropriate Information
This section provides information about how to ensure materials used are respectful and appropriately acknowledged.

Protocols & Procedures

Working in partnership

How do I go about working in partnership with an Aboriginal community?
The Making Two Worlds project has produced three resources to support effective partnership:

Relationship building is essential before starting work on a project or program that has a direct impact on Aboriginal communities. Aboriginal people have a strong sense of owning their history and knowledge and being in control of their future. This ownership has often been ignored in the past.

Indigenous flags

What is the meaning of the design of the Aboriginal flag?
Aboriginal flagThe black top half of the flag symbolises Aboriginal people. The bottom red half represents the earth, and the yellow circle in the centre represents the sun. Mr Harold Thomas, an Aboriginal Elder, holds the copyright for the flag.


What is the meaning of the design of the Torres Strait Island flag?
Torres Strait Islander flagThe flag has three horizontal panels. The top and bottom are green and the middle one is blue. The panels are divided by thin black lines. The green represents the land, the blue represents the sea, and the black represents the Torres Strait Islander people. In the centre is a white dari (dancer's head dress), which is a symbol of the Torres Strait Islander people. Underneath the dari is a white five-pointed star. This represents the island groups in the Torres Strait and the white represents peace. Mr Bernard Namok of Thursday Island created this flag.

In what order should flags be flown?
The order in which flags should be flown is (from the left)

  1. Australian flag
  2. State flag
  3. Indigenous flags
  4. Other flags (e.g. local council flag)

Always make sure that Indigenous flags are reproduced, hung and depicted in the correct way.

Do I have to get permission if I want to reproduce the image of the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island flag?
Permission needs to be sought if you intend reproducing either the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island flag for commercial use. Further information is available from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, website: www.itsanhonour.gov.au xi

Aboriginal Elders

Who are Aboriginal Elders?
An Aboriginal Elder is someone who has gained recognition as a custodian of knowledge and lore, and who has permission to disclose knowledge and beliefs.

In some instances Aboriginal people above a certain age will refer to themselves as Elders. It is important to understand that, in traditional Aboriginal culture, age alone doesn't necessarily mean that one is recognised as an Elder.

Aboriginal people traditionally refer to an Elder as 'Aunty' or 'Uncle'. However, it is recommended that non-Aboriginal people check the appropriateness of their use of these terms. xii

How I acknowledge Aboriginal Elders and when do I do this?
At major events, acknowledgment of Aboriginal Elders (past and present) usually follows acknowledgment of traditional owners. At meetings, it is appropriate to acknowledge Aboriginal Elders separately.

At events where the identity of all participants is not clear, it is important to acknowledge ‘any Aboriginal Elders’. See the section on ‘Traditional Owners’ for an example of acknowledging Aboriginal Elders. xiii

Traditional Owners

As part of the Making Two Worlds Work project, a DVD has been produced which explains 'Indigenous welcome and Acknowledging country'. We recommend you view the short DVD featuring Pastor Darren Wighton.

Who are 'Traditional Owners'? When do I acknowledge them?
A 'traditional owner' (also called Traditional Custodian, however some communities have specific preferences about which term to use) is an Aboriginal person or group of Aboriginal people directly descended from the original Aboriginal inhabitants of a culturally defined area of land or country and who has or have a cultural association with this country which derives from the traditions, observances, customs, beliefs or history of the original Aboriginal inhabitants of the area.

The following is a generic example of how to acknowledge traditional owners:

'I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land that we stand on today the (insert name) people. I would also like to pay my respects to the Elders past and present.'

In some locations, more than one group may claim traditional ownership or different versions of the name of the traditional owners' clan or community may be in use. If you are in this situation, the acknowledgment may take the following form:

'I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land (or country) on which we stand and pay my respects to their Elders and to the Elders of other Victorian Aboriginal communities.' xiv

Welcome to Country

What is a 'Welcome to Country' and when should I include it in a function?
'Country' is a term used to describe a culturally defined area of land associated with a particular culturally distinct group of people or nation. xv

A 'Welcome to Country' is where an Aboriginal custodian welcomes people to their land at the beginning of a meeting, event or ceremony. An appropriate person such as a recognised Elder within the local area needs to conduct this welcome. Welcome to Country enables Traditional Custodians to give their blessing for the event. It is an important mark of respect for Aboriginal people. xvi

Acknowledgment of Country

What is an Acknowledgment of Country?
Acknowledgment of Country is where other people acknowledge and show respect for the Traditional Custodians of the land on which the event is taking place. It is a sign of respect. Below are two generic statements that are considered appropriate wording for an Acknowledgment of Country (including acknowledging Traditional Owners):

"I would like to acknowledge that we are here today on the land of the (insert local clan) people. The (insert local clan) are the Traditional Owners of this land and form part of the wider Aboriginal nation known as the (insert name of *Nation). I would also like to acknowledge the present Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who know reside in this area." xvii

Paying respect to the first peoples on whose land we are,
Acknowledging the loss of lands, cultures and treasures,
Knowing the consequences for people, communities and nations,
Believing that we can walk together to a better future,
We meet today, taking it on.

*'Nation' refers to a culturally distinct group of people associated with a particularly culturally defined area of land or country. Each nation has boundaries that cannot be changed, and language is tied to that nation and its country. xviii

Smoking ceremonies

What is a smoking ceremony and when would one be held?
Smoking ceremonies are undertaken in Aboriginal communities in order to cleanse a space. The smoking ceremony is a purification itual and is always undertaken by an Aboriginal person with specialised cultural knowledge. Aboriginal people may request a smoking ceremony in a workplace where a death or other traumatic event has occurred. xix

Gender protocols

How can I find out if something is men's or women's business?
Aboriginal society still regards some information as specific and sacred to either men or women. This knowledge is sacred and recorded in a way that only men or women can access. Agencies need to be aware that such issues exist and seek advice from Aboriginal people about when they are likely to arise and how to manage such issues. xx

Fee for service

When should I offer to pay for services provided by an Aboriginal person, people, or community?
Aboriginal knowledge is complex and specialised, and is owned by Aboriginal people. As in Western culture, specialised knowledge is not something that is usually given away for free.

Aboriginal people who are asked to work in some way, including performing a traditional dance, giving a speech or traditional welcome, providing artwork or participating in a project, are entitled to be paid for their time and expertise.

The NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs has developed guidelines for agencies to consider when engaging Aboriginal people in cultural performances, or when conducting a Welcome to Country or other Aboriginal protocol. These guidelines are available on the DAA website: xxi

xi Ibid. p.18.
xii Ibid. p.37.
xiii Victorian Government Department of Human Services, op.cit. p.45.
xiv Ibid. p.46
xv Ibid. p.30
xvi NSW Department of Local Government, op.cit. p.18.
xvii Ibid. p.18
xviii Victorian Government Department of Human Services, op.cit. p.32.
xix NSW Department of Local Government, op.cit. p.19.
xx Ibid. p.20
xxi Ibid. p.19

Reference List