Australia is not homogeneous. It consists of over 500 different Indigenous nations or clan groups, each with their distinctive languages, beliefs, and cultures. The land you work and live on has a traditional name, and the traditional owners in Australia lived harmoniously with the land for thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers.
Acknowledging these facts and including them in your daily life is one of the best ways to show respect to the traditional owners of the land and ensure a better, more inclusive society for everyone. Further, learning and using the Indigenous name for the area you live is a fundamental act of understanding and acknowledging the true history of Australia.
How to Learn the Name of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land You’re On
To learn the Indigenous name for your location, it’s a great idea to look for a Welcome to Country or an Acknowledgement of Country that has been conducted by traditional custodians and leaders in the area. Videos of these transcripts and speeches are often posted online after an event or meeting, and they’re a great way to learn about the traditional languages and names of the area you live and work in.
Looking up the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land council for the suburb or town you live in is another great way of learning the traditional name of your area. Visit the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies for a detailed map of Indigeneous land. Esteemed writer and polymath David Horton created this map, offering a visual guide to the many Indigenous territories that make up modern Australia; it’s crucial to note that this map only shows general locations of larger groups of people, and there may be combinations of individual languages, dialects, or clans that are not shown.
Additionally, First Languages Australia has an interactive map that shows the diversity of Indigenous languages. This map goes by the name of ‘Gambay,’ which means “together” in the Butchulla language. The map reflects the names and groups favoured by First Nations communities, and can help you learn the name of the language that corresponds with the Indigenous territory you live in.
In addition, Blak Business created a comprehensive guide to help identify the locations of First Nation territory, as well as how you can share the information about your location with others online. AUSTLANG from the National Library of Australia also offers a vocabulary of identifiers, a thesaurus of languages, and information about First Nations languages. AUSTLANG supports galleries, libraries, and archives that want to identify projects or materials about Indigenous people and languages.
Acknowledging and using names of Indigenous lands that make up Australia is something non-Indigenous Australians must make commonplace. Some corporations are taking measures toward making that happen, as well. For example, Australia Post now acknowledges Indigenous names on addresses, and Channel Ten uses First Nations names during its weather reports. Once you know the name of the Indigenous country you’re in, use it and become familiar with the difference between Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country.
Mainland Australia is made up of about 500 Aboriginal communities, each with its own culture, language, and customs. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies offers an excellent visual representation of Australia’s diversity.
Most people are familiar with the colonial names of places in Australia such as Grampians, Perth, and New South Wales. It’s important to remember that Australia is—and has always been—Indigenous land. Knowing the Indigenous name of the land you’re on is vital in acknowledging and respecting Aboriginal people, custodianship, and the overall history of this country. Of course, you can go a step further and learn how to do an Acknowledgement of Country online.