We’ve all seen ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremonies take place at important events, celebrating Australia’s indigenous Aboriginal peoples and their custodianship of the land.
Now comes an opportunity for anyone with the free ‘Welcome to Country’ app, local or tourist, travelling through Australia’s unique cities, towns and communities to receive an alert on your smart phone, advising you have now entered the boundary of a traditional tribal group.
This alert directs you to an informative video, where an Elder or knowledge carrier will warmly welcome you and provide you with important information about their country. Already featuring 37 different Aboriginal groups around Australia, the app’s developer looks forward to expanding the app’s contents, inviting any and all tribal groups wanting to get involved to get in contact so each tribal group’s content can be added to the app and how to advise those groups on how to make a welcome video.
We’re told that ‘international visitors excited to embrace the many facets of Australian culture and learn about the Indigenous people of our land will also love this app,’ and that by ‘downloading the Welcome to Country app and scrolling through the locations travellers can pick and choose their destinations.’
It’s billed as a great example of how ‘an innovative new smartphone application is modernising engagement with Aboriginal communities throughout Australia.’
So, who is behind the app’s creation? Its developer is Ngarluma man, Tyson Mowarin, in West Australia, who noted ‘the dream to create this type of technology interface was born about five years ago’ and how the app already caters to the aforementioned 37 different groups around Australia.
Mowarin stated: “I remember people talking about how Kevin Rudd speaks Mandarin and although he could say hello at the foot of the Great Wall of China, our Prime Minister at the time couldn’t say hello at the foot of Uluru.
“I wanted to teach people how to speak the languages and acknowledge all our different nations.
“I wanted to create an extension of the traditional Welcome to Country, which is a custom that dates back even before settlement. This application is only designed to complement the real thing.”
The app, developed by Mowarin and his team at Weerianna Street Media, is an extensively researched information portal and archive of Welcome to Country videos and messages. The videos include a welcoming message, details of the boundaries of the tribal area, and messages about cultural safety from the traditional land group.
Weerianna Street Media explains that it ‘engaged with local Elders and knowledge carriers, and worked with Indigenous media practitioners to create educational content in an app that seeks to transcend Native Title.’
Developed as part of Weerianna Street Media’s ‘Digital Dreamtime Project’ and supported by Woodside and the Australian Government, the app is ‘proving popular right across Australia after its release’ two weeks ago, with hundreds of people already having downloaded the app.
The app is currently available as a free download on the iOS App Store (iTunes link) while Weerianna Street Media seeks sponsorship to expand the application to Android and help other tribal groups create their own Welcome to Country videos.
Mowarin added: “It would be amazing to see a major airline get on board and then they can use the Welcomes on the plane as they descend into various countries, if the groups would like that.”
To download the app for free, search Welcome to Country on the iTunes app store, or click here, and make sure location settings are activated during use. The app recognises where you are as you pass through invisible geofences, and offers the viewing of Welcome to Country before directing you to the relevant tribal page.
Other features include social media links to share the app and offer feedback, as well as a section that allow users to pre-select their destination and add it to their favourites list.
Tribal groups not yet represented on the app wanting to get involved are invited to contact Weerrianna Street Media via email here.