Acknowledgment of Country lighting the way


The Galiwinku Service Centre on Elcho Island has become the first office to have its Acknowledgement of Country translated into the local Indigenous language and displayed on a special light box.

Galiwinku is the Northern Territory’s second largest Aboriginal community. It’s also a community where English is the fifth or sixth spoken language.

Neal Gaston from the Department of Human Services came up with the idea after a conversation with a staff member at the service centre.  He explained many locals couldn’t read or understand the acknowledgement because it was in English.

“I realised that there are many communities where English is not the first language. We needed a better way to show our true acknowledgement. So the idea for creating the Acknowledgement and having it translated into local language was born, right here in Galiwinku,” Neal said.

Traditional elder Buthimang Dhurrkay said he was very proud to see the light box unveiled.

“Shining of the light is great for this town and this community. And they can understand each other. Those in the community can understand too. And those that are working with us here at Elcho, our people are making things better,” he said.

This project is part of the department’s contribution to the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages in 2019. 

The light boxes feature Indigenous artwork designed by some of the department’s own staff. They’ll replace the current Acknowledgement of Country plaques in Service Centres across Australia.

Central Queensland National Manager, Anita-Lee Summers was one of three artists commissioned to work on the light box art.

“I contributed to the artwork using cross hatching—an ancient painting technique used along the eastern seaboard,” Anita-Lee said.

”The colours represent the changing landscape. From the red earth, to yellow ochre, through deserts, rainforests, farming and island areas. From land to sea, honouring the land on which we live.

“I can’t think of a more genuine way to acknowledge our First Peoples than by representing the Acknowledgement through Indigenous art and in local language—it’s reconciliation in motion.”

Here is the local translation from the Galiwinku Service Centre:

Rrambaŋi napurr ga dhuwal djӓma Centrelink-thu ga Yolŋuy walal Centrelink‑thu ga nhӓma ŋamatham Wӓŋa-wataŋuny ga ŋalapalmirriny