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NAIDOC Week at National Centre for Indigenous Excellence. Image courtesy of Koori Radio 93.7FM.


Respecting Indigenous communities and customs within your venue

You'll Discover:

  • The benefits of reaching out to your local Indigenous community.
  • Protocols and customs when playing and promoting music by Indigenous artists.
  • Suggestions to adopt within your venue policies.

Branching off from our Cultural Diversity article, providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for our Indigenous brothers and sisters undoubtedly contributes to a more harmonious society and community.

The Indigenous population of Australia is on the rise. In 2016, Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population increased from 2.5% to 2.8%.

Even if you already have great strategies in place, this article provides additional suggestions on how to respect and acknowledge the First Nations People. Infact, your venue can continue to make meaningful relationships with local Indigenous community members by considering resources from relevant organisations and services, like the ones we've included below.

We thoroughly recommend reaching out to local services in Sydney, including the City of Sydney, Gadigal Information Service (run alongside Koori Radio) and Australia Council for the Arts.

To start with, check out this video 'The Eora Journey' courtesy of City of Sydney.


Acknowledgement of Country

You can find out whose land your venue is on by visiting the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies website. They have an interactive map that outlines the different Indigenous groups in relation to their traditional geographical location. Once you have this information you can use it to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on physical signs throughout the venue, on your website and email signatures.

Creative spirits suggest the following for websites and emails:

"[Organisation] acknowledges the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of the nation and the traditional custodians of the lands where we live, learn and work."

Acknowledging Country (spoken) might also be considered by your venue for major events:

“I would like to acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of this land and pay my respects to the Elders both past and present.”

The City of Sydney has a brief guide to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander protocols and also a more extensive guide that can assist you in learning appropriate language, suggestions for scripting an Acknowledgement of Country and who to contact should you wish to have an official Welcome to Country.

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Indigenous-friendly and inclusive signage

Image shows a sign in a shopfront window which reads we are proud to acknowledge the aboriginal traditional owners of these lands and waters. These words are above a small indigenous flag.
Image courtesy of Instagram (@northside_records).

In addition to Acknowledging Country (above) you can use signs to set the tone of your venue as patrons enter. Showing that your venue is a welcoming place for members of your local Indigenous community shows respect to Australia’s First Nations People and also (alongside other relevant and clear signage) establishes that antisocial and aggressive behaviour against others is not tolerated.

Creative spirits suggests the following sign:

"[Organisation] operates on [Aboriginal nation] country. We acknowledge the [Aboriginal nation] people as the traditional custodians of the [Organisation location] region and pay our respects to [Aboriginal nation] elders past and present. We are committed to a positive future for the Aboriginal community."

When it comes to signage, using images of deceased Indigenous artists can cause offence to community members. The City of Sydney outlines this in the following excerpt, which says that the use of images can cause offence particularly “during the mourning period, unless agreed to by the relevant family. Mourning periods differ between communities; sometimes the person’s name or image cannot be used for a week or a year, sometimes it is for an indefinite period. Before using the name of a deceased person or publishing their image, it is essential to obtain the family’s permission.”

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Aim to promote Indigenous artists in events

Image shows Papua New Guinean/Indigenous Australian artist Kaiit performing as part of NAIDOC week at Carriageworks.
Image of Papua New Guinean/Indigenous Australian artist Kaiit.
Image courtesy of
Koori Radio 93.7FM and Carriageworks.

Organisations like the Gadigal Information Service (run alongside Koori Radio), host successful projects that could assist you in booking Indigenous artists within your events. Klub Koori and Young Black and Deadly are fantastic initiatives that help Aboriginal and Torres Strait musicians gain recognition and exposure that could help propel their career in the music industry.

There are also other resources online. Creative Spirits has a comprehensive list of First Nations artists and links to their music here. The National Indigenous Music Awards (NIMA) in partnership with Radio Monitor and SGC also recently started an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chart which you can access in Spotify playlist form. The chart aggregates Australian radio airplay of Indigenous musicians weekly, not only providing a selection of acts worth booking at your venue (if they are based in your city), but also providing a readymade playlist for your venue. Nightlife also offers a diverse selection of old and new tracks by Indigenous artists on playlists for your venue.

For additional suggestions on live music acts, you can contact the APRA AMCOS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Music Office. They consistently support Indigenous Australian artists through royalty payments and also work on projects with other organisations to increase performance opportunities. They have Indigenous musician members across every state and territory and could provide advice on musicians for your venue.

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Connect to your local Indigenous community

The Australia Council for the Arts have a comprehensive guide that cover Protocols for producing Indigenous Australian music which is worth reading if you are considering putting on a festival or hosting live music for a special event (e.g. NAIDOC Week).

In this, they outline that “festivals, concerts and event organisers should consult with local communities for advice on cultural protocols during a festival, concert or event. Consultations should be held to discuss the involvement of the local community in the event, proper returns for the local community, a ‘welcome to country’ if appropriate, and meetings between the community and invited guests or performers. Local communities will advise on the cultural protocol for their area.”

This action can not only provide great outcomes for the event in question, but also lay the groundwork for future events and an ongoing relationship with the local community.

The City of Sydney and also the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council could also provide information on how to make meaningful contact with your local community.

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For more information on this topic, there are a number of organisations that you can contact:

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