Registered and accredited museums are required to acknowledge the Indigenous owners and custodians of the land on which the museum is sited. This Help Sheet provides a number of examples of wording of such an acknowledgement. Museums are encouraged to work with local Indigenous people to develop appropriate wording. In addition the museum may invite local Indigenous people to provide their own ‘Welcome to Country’ statement to be displayed at the museum.
The Indigenous acknowledgment can be in the form of a notice or sign which is placed near the entrance of the museum, such as in the foyer or visitor orientation area. It should also be used on museum promotional materials and on the museum’s website. The acknowledgement can also be read out as a statement prior to meetings or events held at the museum.
The Indigenous acknowledgement not only acknowledges ownership/custodianship of the land on which the museum stands, but also makes a statement about ongoing respect for all Indigenous people, their spiritual beliefs, cultural heritage and connections with the land.
The Community Museums Program Handbook provides the following suggested wording which could be used for an acknowledgement:
The (insert name of Museum) acknowledges the (insert name of local Indigenous group) as the traditional owners and custodians of the lands of (insert name of district/town/suburb or site). We honour and respect their ongoing cultural and spiritual connections to this country. We aim to respect cultural heritage, customs and beliefs of all Indigenous people.
A number of Community Museums have already incorporated forms of Indigenous acknowledgement into their displays. For example, the Melrose Districts Historical Society Museum has installed an exhibition about the local Nukunu people, titled Nukunu – Stories of Heritage and Identity. As part of their acknowledgement, the Museum flys the Aboriginal flag in the front of the Heritage Centre. It also acknowledges the Indigenous people of the area on a plaque at the doorway. The following text is written on a replica of the flag: ‘Melrose District Historical Society Inc acknowledges the traditional custodians of this land’.
The History Trust
The History Trust includes an Indigenous acknowledgement on its promotional material, such as on the brochure produced for the 2009 State History Conference in Kadina. The wording is as follows:
The History Trust acknowledges the Narungga people as the traditional owners and custodians of Yorke Peninsula, and recognizes Narungga people’s ongoing cultural and spiritual connections with this country. We aim to treat Indigenous people, their customs and beliefs with respect.
History from the ground up, State History Conference brochure 2009
The History Trust also uses the following general acknowledgement on its website:
Welcome to our web site – The History Trust of South Australia acknowledges the Indigenous owners of the lands of South Australia. We aim to treat all Indigenous people, their customs and beliefs with respect.
Local Government examples
Many Local Government councils include an acknowledgement statement at the beginning of all meetings or events. The following acknowledgement is used by the Adelaide City Council at Council meetings and other events.
Adelaide City Council acknowledges that we are meeting on the traditional country of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains. We recognise and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land. We acknowledge that they are of continuing importance to the Kaurna people living today.
The following acknowledgement has been endorsed by Kaurna Elders for use in metropolitan Adelaide:
We would like to acknowledge this land that we meet on today is the traditional lands of the Kaurna people and that we respect their spiritual relationship with their country. We also acknowledge the Kaurna people as the custodians of the greater Adelaide region and that their cultural and heritage beliefs are still important to the living Kaurna people today.
Alternative wording has been suggested for adapting for events and gatherings outside of the metropolitan area.
We acknowledge and respect the traditional custodians whose ancestral lands we are meeting upon here today. We acknowledge the deep feelings of attachment and relationship of Aboriginal peoples to country. We also pay respects to the cultural authority of Aboriginal peoples visiting/attending from other areas of South Australia/Australia present here.
Such spoken statements can be adapted to be more permanent written acknowledgements. Wherever the particular name of the traditional people of the area is known, it should be included. Research or consultation with local Aboriginal people will assist you in identifying traditional owners.