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.