The British Australian Community (BAC) commends the Presbyterian Church of Australia for its decision to discontinue the practice of Acknowledgement of Country and Welcome to Country ceremonies during Sunday services.
Whilst such practices are seen by some as an inclusive gesture, the BAC asserts to the contrary. The use of the phrase “Welcome to Country” implies that Anglo-Australians need to be welcomed into their own homeland. The implications are arrogant and divisive, suggesting that Anglo Australians’ connection to the land lacks legitimacy and that their claim to the land is no more than that of guests, based on the conditional approval of privileged Indigenous Australians. Furthermore, these practices do not acknowledge the significant contributions to Australia made by the settlers from the British Isles and their descendants who built the nation and remain the majority population of Australia today. The BAC believes that if an acknowledgement statement is seen as necessary, it should include acknowledgement of the contributions of both Indigenous Australians and Anglo-Australians to the culture and development of our nation. This matter is of particular relevance to all church-goers, as it was the British settlers who introduced Christianity into Australia. As a non-sectarian civil rights advocacy group, the BAC views the practice of Christianity as an important extension of that British-derived culture. Therefore, to omit acknowledgment of Anglo-Australians at their own church services is an act of ongoing erasure of their cultural heritage. We urge other organisations to consider the implications of such practices and their effect on the Anglo-Australian majority population.
The BAC suggests that any acknowledgment should fairly represent both Indigenous Australians and Anglo-Australians, recognising the foundational roles both groups played in shaping Australia. Finally, for those organisations looking for a more inclusive form of acknowledgement, we would suggest the following statement drafted in 2022 by the BAC’s President Frank Salter:
ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE HISTORIC AUSTRALIAN NATION
We acknowledge the Anglo explorers,
pioneers and their descendants
who planted the British flag and
Western Civilisation on this continent,
creating the Australian nation.
We acknowledge the Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander peoples
who have lived here since the Dreamtime.
And we acknowledge the
Federal Commonwealth of Australia,
created by the nation under the Crown
to guard the nation and
the liberty of all citizens.
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