Welcome to Country
Aunty Joy Murphy
Black Dog, 2016
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
“Aboriginal communities across Australia have boundaries that are defined by waterways and mountains. To cross these boundaries or enter community country you need permission from the neighbouring community. Each community has its own way of welcoming to country”.
This is the acknowledgement of the ancestors and traditional lands of the Wurundjeri People, the first people who occupied the Melbourne area prior to European colonisation extending north of the Great Dividing Ranges, east to Mt Baw Baw, south to Mordialloc Creek and west to Werribee River.
Through the voice of Joy Murphy Wandin AO, Senior Aboriginal Elder of the people, it tells the story of the people whose name comes from Wurun, the River White Gum and Djeri, the grub that lives within the tree; each sentence being brought to life in the stunning illustrations of Lisa Kennedy a descendant of the Trawlwoolway People on the north-east coast of Tasmania. Combining words in Wolwurrung Nguiu, the traditional language and English, it demonstrates the deep connection between the people and the land they occupy, their love and respect for it and their desire that this be also respected by those who visit.
“We invite you to take a leaf from the branches of the white river gum. If you accept a leaf and we hope you do, it means you are welcome to everything, from the tops of the trees to the roots of the earth. But you must only take from this land what you can give back.”
Despite being a relatively recent addition to our formal ceremonies, we are now used to each beginning with the Welcome to Country of the traditional indigenous inhabitants of the land on which the ceremony takes place. This book is an essential addition to our understanding of not just the Welcome itself but also to that enduring, deep-seated connection of the people to their lands and how it is such an integral part of who they are and their heritage.
Although not shortlisted for the CBCA Awards, 2017 it was recognised as a Notable Book. While this is an essential addition to every school library in the Wurundjeri district, it is also an important acquisition to every school library because while the words of their local indigenous peoples’ Welcome to Country may differ, the sentiment and acknowledgment of ancestry and heritage is common. Students could be encouraged to discover just what their local greeting is and use the activities described in the teaching notes