I’ve written about my journey to find my identity before. As a tauiwi immigrant, it feels like I stand with one leg in two different worlds, but neither feels quite right. I don’t remember anything of Malaysia (apart from visiting as a tourist, like any other) and I certainly don’t claim anything of this land that I am so grateful to be allowed to live on.
So it was with great interest when I got to take a course in Acknowledging Country with Acknowledge This! If I am learning about Aotearoa, I knew even less about Australia and Torres Strait Island…and was excited to learn.
The course is facilitated by two amazing humans. Rhys Paddick is from Yamatji (A whole chunk of what we now know as Western Australia) and Emma Gibbens from America. They tag team in the most easy-going laid back way, and the whole course is accompanied by Rhys’ amazing illustrations.
If you have the means to do the course (or any others), you definitely should. It will give you a small snippet into the way that the indigenous people of Australia and Torres Strait Island (from whatever country they are from – I mean did you know that there are over 500 different clan groups or nations on this continent… it’s not just one country!) and their relationship with the land they live on.
Acknowledging country has huge similarities with the mihi whakatau here in Aotearoa. And like a mihi whakatau, it is often used at the opening of proceedings. Note that there is also something called a “Welcome to Country”, which can only be done by an indigenous person from that Country, kinda like how on a pōwhiri, it is the mana whenua (people of that land) that welcome you, the manuhiri (the guests) onto their land.
Each of the main ‘bits’ of what we now know as Australia tends to have a specific name and a specific clan and a specific language, and if you are hosting a meeting or gathering anywhere in Australia or Torres Strait Islands, you should acknowledge the bit that you are standing on.
Just like in a mihi whakatau, you also acknowledge those people that have passed, and the people who have gathered for the purpose of the gathering.
The big difference, that I can see (with my SUPER untrained eye) is that unlike a Pōwhiri which might have a back and forth between the manuhiri and the mana whenua, if there is an indigenous person available, you can offer the Welcome to Country to them, and then you don’t have to do the Acknowledgement anymore.
The other difference seems to also be that you can use an AoC in your email footers and websites, whereas I guess you’d never really put your pepeha part of your mihi whakatau just randomly in your email sig, but you might start a formal email with it?
As I said, I am still right at the beginning of learning about all this. So I apologise profusely and unreservedly if I stuffed anything up. I’m keen to learn all the things about it, especially as I get more of a chance to do workshops in Australia 🙂
Let me know on Twitter what your experiences are, have you done an AoC before, do you need to do one soon?
The image above is Te Pane o Mataoho, the mountain near my chosen home here in Aotearoa. I feel a kinship to it, I do not claim ownership. But I do love it!