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6 ways to celebrate indigenous culture at your next event


Events like NAIDOC and Reconciliation Week provide powerful opportunities for Australians to learn, recognise and celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but at JTPM we believe this should happen every week and at every event too.

Where possible, we support and book Australian, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander owned and operated businesses and social enterprises for our events. Depending on the size, scope or location of the event, this may not always be possible – but there are still lots of things you can do to incorporate and recognise our First Nations people.

After delivering the NAIDOC Week State Government Reception at Parliament House earlier this month (Wednesday, 5 July 2023) we thought we’d share some of our tips to help include Indigenous culture, people, products and services into your next event.

Important note: this blog has been written as a guide only, using JTPM’s experiences in working with Indigenous people and communities and is in no way intended to speak on behalf of or instead of a First Nations person. The JTPM team continues to learn from First Nations people and will introduce further initiatives as required in direct consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Catering and Suppliers:

Food and drinks are a great way to immerse and educate guests about the local cuisine and culture. Avoiding overseas made or owned, and using locally sourced produce and products can help you be more sustainable too!

1. Research and become familiar with any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander suppliers including caterers, graphic designers, photographers, stylists, florist, videographers, drivers and security.
2. Work in collaboration with an Indigenous chef or Elder to develop your event menu, or explore how your caterer can incorporate native ingredients into your menu. Always ensure a native menu is developed in consultation with First Nations people.
3. Source gifts and products made by Indigenous people and businesses for your speaker gifts, goody bags, table centrepieces, and even bathroom amenities like soap and hand sanitiser.

Talent and Entertainment:

Consider the composition of speakers, entertainment and other talent for your event and enlist a good representation of different backgrounds, demographics and cultures, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. Ask yourself these questions:

1. Do you have diversity across your speakers/ presenters/ entertainment?
2. Are there any opportunities to engage Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people or groups – including the MC, key speakers, musicians, dancers or other performers?

Venue Selection:

Suitable Aboriginal owned or managed venues or spaces may be limited but you can still make sure that your venue selection is supportive of First Nations people.

1. Will your chosen venue respect, accommodate and/ or follow the cultural protocols of Indigenous people?
2. Does the venue support and engage with Traditional Owners through ongoing CSR or other programs outside of your event?
3. Does your venue display an Acknowledgement of Country on their website?

Welcome to Country:

Taking place at the commencement or opening of an event, the Welcome to Country is part of long-held cultural protocols to grant permission for a person or group to enter onto the land. The ceremony is conducted by an Indigenous Elder and may include music, singing, dancing, smoking ceremony and/or speeches.

Always include a Welcome to Country at the commencement of each event.
Ensure the Welcome to Country is booked through recognised traditional owners of the lands on which the event takes place.
A welcome from an Aboriginal Elder for a virtual event is referred to as an Acknowledgement of Country, given the event is taking place online.

Acknowledgement of Country:

Where a Welcome to Country is not possible, an Acknowledgement of Country should be delivered instead. This can be done by anyone and demonstrates respect for the traditional owners of the land.

An example Acknowledgement of Country would be – “We would like to begin today by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet and pay our respects to their Elders past and present. We extend that respect to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here today.”

  1. Always include an Acknowledgement of Country at the start of each day and session.
  2. Include the Acknowledgement of Country in the run sheet and MC/ speaker notes.
  3. Remember to mention or invite participants to share the traditional lands on which they are joining any virtual/ online event.
  4. Where possible, always acknowledge the specific Traditional Owners / clans of the lands on which your event takes place.

Content Warnings:

Trigger and content warnings should always be issued at the beginning of a session or discussion if content could be triggering for some participants. Keep this in mind if you intend to share any content including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people there is a one-year avoidance period, in which a deceased person is not referred to by name or through photograph or video. A disclaimer often warns television viewers if a program may contain images and voices of Indigenous people who have passed away.

Delivering successful and engaging events might be what we do but making a difference and having a positive impact on the communities (physical, virtual or otherwise) where we operate and deliver our events is our how and why! To us, recognising, promoting and celebrating cultural, social, disability and gender inclusion, diversity and equality are just as important as getting positive feedback and reviews.

This is why, over the past ten years, we have continued to develop and use a comprehensive and ever evolving list called the JT Impact Checklist which outlines about 50 points of consideration and covers things like environmental sustainability, gender equality and inclusivity and working with CALD communities too.

Give us a call if you’d like your next event to deliver a bigger social impact and benefit!