Since the year 2,000 a ceremony has crept into mainstream practice, which is promoted as a traditional Aboriginal ceremony. The ‘Welcome To Country’. Australian governments at all levels now perform this ceremony daily. Selected indigenous people are chosen and paid to perform such a ceremony, and the going rate is $250, to $3,500 per performance. (Paid to say certain words – don’t say – don’t get paid). When these performances are for theatrical entertainment, I too enjoy performance and entertainment, and expect Australian Indigenous performers to be paid for their services.
Being a traditional owner who was born on, and has only ever lived on country, I have often been asked to perform a welcome to country. Which I politely decline, and refuse to do. In place I will offer an acknowledgement to country and (I never take payment – free to speak), and I explain why… Hi everyone I am Lance Briggs of the Kulin – A Boonwurrung man, born Yalukit Willam. I am from what is known as the traditional owner family of country. I acknowledge and accept your presence here today. For a moment, please indulge me, I have a difficult task – I dearly want to welcome you to my world, and I seek your understanding in why I cannot do that without you knowing me. I do not do ‘welcomes’, my elders, and ancestors did not welcome the settlers of this country, nor do I. There is one recorded ceremony in the 1800’s which people use as a proof of a welcome, indeed a political protocol of the time. I do not do this as a political statement – it is spiritually inappropriate for me a Kulin person to welcome many of you here today, and I will explain why a little later. But understand the land now, people who live here do not have access to, the waters are polluted, the air is polluted, the flora and fauna nearly all gone, with something like 60% degradation, and revegetated with foreign fauna, the country feels different. Being Kulin, Boonwurrung, aboriginal, indigenous – is to be born of the land. Here today I acknowledge this is the Land of time, of Bunjil, Land of the Kulin, the Boonwurrung and Woiwurrung, and acknowledge my ancestors. I acknowledge all Kulin here today and all people born of greater Melbourne. Living spiritually I acknowledge the presence of all my kinship ancestors, for they live spiritually. Traditionally the past, the present and the future, are all here with us today, through country – kinship. Imagine this land before non indigenous settlement, try and imagine the land as it was, have a close look at the native vegetation, close your eyes if you have too, NO FENCES can you really imagine that, I challenge you to try and imagine the mind set of no fences, no paths – not one unnatural barrier, being able to travel in any direction at any time. Imagine the economic system where everyone had equal ownership and access to all resources with onus and obligation. An ideal economy where there is non-depletion of resources and no pollution. A perpetual economy. In fact you belonged to the land (the economic system) you were part of this world. You lived with the country and all that is in it as you are related to it. Country that provides all needs every day, which it still is able to do today. It just has 4.5 million people, and the metropolis that is Melbourne on the same dreamtime country. Being Kulin, Boonwurrung means I am spiritually connected to my country, and all that is in it. It is my birth right. Any person born in greater Melbourne has the ability to obtain a spiritual connection and the birth right of being born on country. It would be very arrogant of me, I suggest even blasphemous, to welcome other people born here to what is already spiritually theirs. Of those who live in greater Melbourne, how many of you have developed your own indigenous perspective of country. Do you try to truly belong. I feel we should have something in common – I want those I meet to connect with country. I live and teach my family to live as we have always lived. To be self-sufficient. To be free to be Boonwurrung. I have not taken up non-Boonwurrung beliefs. My ancestors encouraged us to continue to holistically understand our world and all that is in it, strongly encouraging us to get off the protection stations, and stay off the missions, to not develop a mission mentality, a hand out mentality. With the exception of myself, my family, and our businesses – everything indigenous in this state is owned by Government or funded within strict Government guidelines. I do not own anything nor do I need to, as I own everything. I like to be known as Boonwurrung, or Kulin, or Yalukit Willam, NOT just as indigenous. For Indigenous includes those indigenous settlers who have taken up and copied the Australian settler way of life, and emigrated to Melbourne and are so well recognised and accepted by all Australians.