Historic Welcome to Country

On 24 November 2007, Labor won the election and the government, headed by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, began consulting with Indigenous Australians about the form an apology should take.

It was decided to make the Apology on the second day of the forty-second Parliament, which would commence on Tuesday 12 February 2008. In the spirit of the new commitment to Indigenous affairs, a Welcome to Country ceremony was held at the opening of the forty-second Parliament. This is the first time that such a ceremony has been held.

Matilda House, Ngambri Elder, welcomed visitors to country and dancers from around Australia and the Torres Strait Islands took part in the Ceremony. A message stick was presented to the Prime Minister by Matilda’s grandchildren as a tangible symbol of the ceremony. Message sticks were a ‘means of communication used by our peoples for thousands of years. They tell the story of our coming together’ said Matilda.