Monday, August 20, 2012

A thought on welcome to country

Overseas readers might not be aware of this but in Australia a custom has arisen in which at the start of a meeting a welcome to country ceremony or acknowledgement of country speech is made.

Sometimes Aborigines perform these roles, but often the person in charge of the meeting will open with something like the following:
I would like to acknowledge the Dharug people who are the traditional custodians of this land. I would also like to pay respect to the elders past and present of the Dharug nation and extend that respect to other Aboriginal people present.

I hear something like this about twice a week. At first I thought it was yet another manoeuvre by the left to bury the Anglo heritage of Australia.  But I think now that it goes deeper and is perhaps more sincere.

It is part of human nature to want to dignify and make solemn the proceedings you are a part of and identify with. Given that most of our institutions are now run by the left and modelled along leftist lines, it's to be expected that the left would want to add an element of solemnity to proceedings.

This used to be done with a brief Christian prayer. But it makes sense that a secular leftist would prefer something else, and the welcome to country ceremony is perhaps intended to fill the role.

The problem is that such moments are supposed to draw an assembly together, to remind them of a common commitment to a shared faith. But when we are told that we are being welcomed to country by an Aboriginal elder that suggests that the audience don't really belong but are merely guests.

It sets up a conflicting response. The solemnity of the moment draws the audience together emotionally, but the message divides the audience intellectually.

And the more the words are repeated, the more formulaic they become and the less likely they are to persuade emotionally.

Why did the left choose the Aborigines as the focus of such emotional bonding? It has to do, in part, with leftist notions of solidarity. There is a tendency on the left to believe that solidarity has little to do with shared roots, or relatedness, or loyalty. Instead it is thought to be based on compassion for the marginalised other. If you are looking for such an "other" in Australia you might well choose the Aborigines. This then means that the natural human instinct toward solidarity becomes focused on identifying positively not with one's own tradition but with the Aborigines.

And if we are not seen to be positively identifying with the Aborigines? Then we might be thought to be breaking the group solidarity, even if we are not Aboriginal ourselves.

If you're a white person, and you follow along with the leftist version of solidarity, then the most "other" kind of person is likely to be a black person, preferably one you can feel compassion for - which sets up a preference for believing that such a person might be marginalised or oppressed or downtrodden.

Finally, and perhaps even more controversially, I don't want my Catholic readers to be too complacent about the status of thought within the Church on such issues. Catholic thought is increasingly overlapping with liberal thought when it comes to an understanding of solidarity, even if there are somewhat different origins for the two lines of thought.

The Catholic view seems to go this way: Christ was on the side of the poor, therefore it is Christian to think of solidarity as being with the poor, the marginalised and the oppressed and so on.

And so it's not surprising that you can have a welcome to country ceremony read out at a meeting hosted by the Australian Catholic University at which a Catholic bishop speaks of "compassion and solidarity" whilst he shares the stage with a former Liberal PM, Malcolm Fraser.

I'm not doubting here that compassion is a virtue, nor that the Church should work charitably with those who need help. But as part of the natural law there are significant forms of solidarity which are not based on compassion but on forms of relatedness and the specific duties and loyalties and identities which flow from such particular relationships.

It is not ordered for a human person to be emotionally blunted to these natural forms of solidarity and the particular loves and commitments which flow from them.


  1. "I would like to acknowledge the creators of this country..."

    One day.

  2. I'm American. Does the "welcome to country" happen before ANY meeting? Or just meetings at which this is somehow relevant, e.g., when addressing a group of recent immigrants about something?

    I guess this would never fly:

    "I would like to acknowledge the Anglo-Irish people who are the traditional custodians of this land. I would also like to pay respect to our Anglo-Irish ancestors who built this great land from nothing."

  3. Does the "welcome to country" happen before ANY meeting?

    At my workplace, yes. Whenever the principal gets up to address either the staff or parents there will be an acknowledgement of Aboriginal elders - as I wrote, that happens a couple of times a week (e.g. staff meetings, parent information nights). The acknowledgement is also put around the school on plaques and included in all communications (e.g. newsletters and magazines). But that's because the leadership is strongly committed to it. As far as I know it's not compulsory.

    As I mentioned in the post, there are Catholic gatherings at Catholic institutions where the meeting will begin with such a ceremony/acknowledgement, and it's also popular with some local councils.

    It was reported recently in the press that Aborigines are charging up to $800 for a simple ceremony.

    But, yes, if we could get a more traditionalist movement up and running I don't see why we couldn't learn and begin some of our own meetings with an acknowledgement of ancestry. As the two commenters have suggested it could acknowledge the role of our own pioneering ancestors.

    The question is whether the solemnising moment is done this way or, as our own forebears used to do it, with a prayer. Perhaps either could be chosen depending on context.

  4. I found this interesting, regarding the Dharug people who I looked up on Wikipedia then came to this:

    It's interesting how he used the imagery of skeletons, claiming that that would be all that was left of "his people".

    What is euphemistically referred to as 'multiculturism' today, is in fact the downwards, irreversible death spiral for the white race on a global scale. The end game for the white man.

    Give it a couple of centuries of the current demographic trends, and white people will have disappeared completely too everywhere, leaving only their cities, nations and civilization populated by a new non-white population.

    Think about it: graveyards in European villages will remain, whilst white people themselves will have vanished. In many ways, there is a parallel with his skeleton imagery - a lingering aura of death.

    We are dealing with an out-of-control monster committed to enforcing racial death.

    I hope this comment is not regarded as too 'extreme' for this blog, but it's simply the truth.

    Regarding the comment about the "leftist version of solidarity", then yes in America especially, black people are likely to take that place, although it could apply to a number of different non-white groups varying by location such as American Indians, Australian Aboriginals, and others. Varying issues could be brought up depending on location - colonialism, slavery, the Holocaust - there are quite a few to choose from. One thing that you can be sure of is that leftists will find a way to elevate the status of non-white groups whilst castigating white people for past "sins", and if an area inhabited by white people doesn't have any particular history of such "sins" (Scandinavia being a good example) then leftists will import many non-whites anyway, and then use them as a tool for accusing the white population of 'racism'.

  5. I have to say I wouldn't be able to keep a straight face during such an idiotic pronouncement.

    Welcome to the country? Ya mean, the one we've lived in for 200+ years, that we built?

  6. Oh yes, this garbage.

    I had to sit though this at the start of an induction pack for contractors working in state goverment.

    At least they didn't hire one of the local elders to read it out.

    Shark, jumped.....

  7. This is one of the most bizarre innovations I've heard of, creepy and ridiculous at the same time. I think you are basically correct as to the nature of leftist solidarity, but I'd lay more stress on the redemptive quality leftists imagine in the marginal group. Isn't acknowledgement of aboriginal predecessors an appeal for forgiveness, a bid for atonement? This sounds to me like an act of propitiation towards an ill-tempered god.

    It appears on the surface that you're expressing gratitude to the aborigine, but that makes no sense. The aborigines did not make the land, and their custodianship (like that of our Native Americans), when it existed, was largely accidental. And, as I understand it, their contribution to modern Australian civilization is negligible. They may have been, in a sense, victims of Australia, but one feels guilt over victims, not gratitude.

    If you go back to the opening prayer that this ceremony replaces, it would have had three parts. It would have begun with an expression of gratitude (to God), perhaps made some acknowledgement of guilt (for our sins), and ended with a request for blessing (most especially of the proceedings about to commence). The ceremony you describe seems to center on guilt, but unlike the Christian prayer, it is guilt for acts Australians have long repented. And this is the really nasty aspect of this ceremony. You are being invited to recall to mind, routinely, throughout all time, sins that will not be forgiven.

  8. Interesting analysis Mark - it's also particularly congenial to leftists because it emphasises, just by the by, that old Marxist doctrine that 'property is theft'.

    And I don't think it's been mentioned yet, but as far as I know, the 'welcome to country' was made compulsory for more or less all events run by the public service - so conferences, etc - but now a right-leaning* government is in charge in Victoria it's not considered compulsory.

    Also popular, when an Aboriginal speaker isn't available to perform a 'welcome to country', are 'acknowledgments' at the beginning of a presentation - ie, 'Before anything else, I'd just like to acknowledge the suchandsuch people, traditional owners of this bladibla land.'

    It'll probably only last a decade or so. A lot of lefty trends don't have staying power.

    *Stop laughing, you lot!

  9. I remember reading a few years ago about an old Aboriginal actor who, when the fad for 'welcome to country' first set in, was asked to perform one.

    So he turned up to the ceremony, walked up the stage, and said, 'welcome to country'. And toddled off again, admitting wryly to a reporter that he had no idea what else to do.

    A while ago, I was at a poetry open-mic reading. Some kids (not their real names but I'll call them Florimel and Eusebius) were running around on the carpet and having a ball while the poets were reading - because we poets tend to all know one another we knew exactly whose kids they were. K. got up to read at the open mic, and began wittily by saying, 'I would like to acknowledge Florimel and Eusebius, the traditional owners of this carpet...'

  10. It ought to be the other way round, as several others have already pointed out.

    Every time they suffer from some malady & go to a doctor, or to the hospital, & receive effective treatment, every time they read a book, every time that they walk into a room illuminated at the turning of a switch...they ought to thank God for willing the white man to come into their land.

    These are only temporal things, how much more thankful should they be if they've been brought to the knowledge of the True God.

    I think that Our Lord willed the white race to act as a father to the darker races, instructing them, teaching them the Holy Faith, curbing their savagery & barbarism, stamping out idolatry &c.

    Of course it didn't work out that way unfortunately, but it is the ideal. The mawkish "compassion" & "solidarity" so often bandied about now by many in the Church stinks of liberation theology.

    Real compassion would be to convert the infidels, heretics &c., & to make them likewise faithful servants of Our Lord, & if they can't be converted to defend ourselves by whatever means are necessary, to preserve those who are Christ's from being massacred or enslaved.

    The old colonial schemes of governance, as in Rhodesia, Angola under the Portuguese & so on came much closer to the ideal state of things as regards white treatment of the darker races.

    These people haven't really got the capacity to govern themselves, notwithstanding all of the screaming to the contrary, the nonsense asserting an imaginary equality & so forth from the liberals, communists & other assorted filth. They simply aren't as intelligent as Europeans, & they never will be.

    This isn't meant as a boast, an insolent proclamation of superiority, after all the Europeans received their higher intelligence from God, it is not of themselves that they have it.

    God willed it, for His own purposes. The white races ought to be all the more humble because of this, "And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required:" Gospel according to St. Luke 12:48.

    God didn't intend them to be equals, but rather, ideally to accept their place in His rightful order of things, to accept the benevolent guidance of their white guardians.

    Does a father allow his five year old son to do as he pleases, to decide when he shall eat, & what he shall eat? Of course not, otherwise the child would make himself sick by gorging himself with sweets & fruits. It's the same sort of thing in this situation.

    They immediately fall back into a state of barbarism when left to themselves. When the white explorers first penetrated Africa during the 19th century, not one tribe had devised an alphabet, syllabary, or any other system of writing. The same state of things prevailed in Australia, in fact in Australia it was even worse, the aborigines hadn't even invented the bow & arrow.

    There were of course some crimes committed, some injustice, but generally speaking the colonization of so many savage lands was a great blessing for the natives, who had often grown so bestial as to live a life little removed from that of the brutes. They ought to be grateful, & to adopt the customs & culture of white Catholic civilisation in every way they possibly can.

  11. My wife is foreign born and has a leftist background. She has told me that these 'welcomes' make her feel unwelcome, like she's intruding, trespassing, which is a logical conclusion.

    I feel it begs the question. If we are to be welcomed to someone else's country, when are we going to give it back to traditional custodians who are often very much alive and present at the ceremonies? Whether it be the land under a hospital, school or church. We're not going to give it back? Well, what a bunch of phonies!

    And while I'm at it, if this is more than a chance to demonstrate our compassion in public, why don't we acknowledge the indigenous people while we are at home in private, before meals etc?(one can see this happening if what you say is true).

    ....and when are our health and education CEO's and our ruling class- that demand these ceremonies - going to give their properties back to blackfellas? or at least let them use the pool on the weekend?

    What a bunch of phonies !

  12. I'm a non-white journalist and I have to sit through these various 'call to country' announcements at many government events.

    I think Mark is being too optimistic and naive about what is going on here - this is isn't about recognising aboriginals - it's about displacing Christianity.

    The call to country is an implicitly RELIGIOUS ceremony - it recognises the 'spirits' of the land.

    Why do white secular leftists people, who apparently think religion has no place in the public square, bend over backwards to the religious traditions of another culture?

    And why do these same white people, who think any mention of their own Christian heritage is somehow bigotrym bend over backwards to celebrate other religious traditions? Note: these are the same people who think reciting the Our Father before Parliament begins is some kind of hate crime. This is a blatant hypocrisy.

    In the same way that 'gay marriage' is not really about 'marriage', but rather about displacing traditional morality, so too this kowtowing to a pagan primitive animistic culture has nothing to do with aboriginality and everything to do with marginalising our traditional faith.

  13. There is a view held today by most politicians, journalists, and academics that the Aborigines are the only historic people and culture in Australia, and everybody else is an immigrant and part of a diasporic community.

    The notion that the early Anglo-Celtic settlers and their offspring formed a distinct peoplehood in their own right is not even considered.

    It seems there is no place for the 'old' Anglo-Celtic Australian majority in the 'new' Australia. Australians of Anglo-Celtic descent founded and built this nation, and continue to constitute the majority (at least for now), but yet they find themselves marginalised, nameless, voiceless and awkwardly wedged into a no man's land between officially-celebrated Indigenous Australia, on one hand, and the equally state-lauded Multicultural Immigrant Australia on the other.

  14. "Why do white secular leftists people, who apparently think religion has no place in the public square, bend over backwards to the religious traditions of another culture?

    And why do these same white people, who think any mention of their own Christian heritage is somehow bigotrym bend over backwards to celebrate other religious traditions? Note: these are the same people who think reciting the Our Father before Parliament begins is some kind of hate crime. This is a blatant hypocrisy."

    Excellent point.

  15. Mark Richardson has written:

    "I don't want my Catholic readers to be too complacent about the status of thought within the Church on such issues. Catholic thought is increasingly overlapping with liberal thought when it comes to an understanding of solidarity, even if there are somewhat different origins for the two lines of thought."

    Well, fair enough on the surface, but the unacknowledged and unexamined assumption behind this remark of Mr Richardson's is that those Australian windbags in public life who call themselves Catholics are, in fact, Catholics.

    Whereas in fact they are, with extremely few exceptions, nothing of the kind. They are socialist shakedown artists as totally dependent on taxpayer subsidies for their wretched onanistic enthusiasms as any other socialist shakedown artist from Al Sharpton onwards.

    Sure, it suits them to talk the Catholic talk on occasion. But if it suited them to talk the Castroite talk or Kim Il-Sung talk or Jim Jones talk or Iranian Revolutionary Council instead, they'd switch to that.

    There are no current Australian bishops of allegedly Catholic allegiance whom Pius XII or any other pre-1958 pope would have crossed the street to spit on if they were on fire. (Of course, there are gradations of socialist malignity among a Pell, a Hart, a Power, and so forth.)