A Non-Awkward Call to Order

2 08 2013

How do we do a good acknowledgement?

aitsl_256You know the situation. Everyone arrives to talk about the new shops, or a security issue, or whatever the topic is, then someone starts off with an awkward, “I’d just like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land… and their contributions…” Suddenly the room goes awkward, like a bad gear change, or like someone playing out of key.

That awkwardness is for some good reasons: it just wrong-footed everyone; it is an irrelevant topic to this meeting’s purpose; We didn’t meet for a land-rights discussion, so why have you brought it up now? It’s out of key; What does “acknowledge” mean anyway? What are you trying to say? And why are you saying it now, here, in this context?

Most acknowledgement statements open unwanted questions that throw the meeting off. And if people start associating awkwardness and inappropriateness with land-rights activists, poor openings may do more harm than good.

So craft an opening that simply states what it has to do with the meeting.

Here’s one I made earlier:

Welcome everyone to this meeting, in this place
– This is Noongar Land we are meeting on.
– May we respect it, and each other, while we are here.

An opening like this is clear about how it relates to this meeting: it reminds us to be respectful during this meeting. Because it relates clearly with the meeting, the acknowledgement of Noongar ownership is not out of key, but in harmony. Acknowledging Noongar ownership fits in.

It’s a good way to open a meeting in this part of Australia.

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