Queensland public servants asked to take off shoes and wiggle their toes during Welcome to Country

Civil servants in Queensland are left scratching their heads after being asked to attend a Welcome to Country ceremony in an unusual way.

Department of Justice and Attorney General staff attending a recent awards ceremony were “asked to take off their shoes, wiggle their toes and close their eyes to feel more connected to the Earth.” Courier mail reported on Sunday.

According to the paper, the request “raised eyebrows among some employees, who doubted it would become a regular occurrence.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice and the State Attorney General confirmed on Tuesday that “the event involved recognition of the state”.

“Welcome to the country or recognition of the country is done at appropriate events organized by the government, including awards and conferences,” he said.

“They can take many forms and often vary depending on the nature of the event and the presenter. For example, Welcome to Country may include rituals of singing, dancing or smoking.”

It comes after a social media user claimed he was shocked by Welcome to Country during a job interview last week.

A person posted a “weird” experience on Reddit, saying she was applying for a customer service job at a Brisbane-based insurance company when the hiring manager “took it upon herself” to do a Welcome to Country at the start of a “very small” group interview with less than five candidates.

“I wanted to get others’ opinions on this as I thought it was the ultimate Australian corporate culture,” they wrote. “I didn’t think about it at the time, but looking back it’s quite strange and unnecessary. I understand that companies do this for big/important meetings with senior executives, but in a job interview it just seemed pointless.”

Speaking to Sky News on Monday about the reports, Shadow Indigenous Australians Minister Jacinta Nampijinpa Price said overuse of Welcome to Country could actually make people feel unwelcome in their country.

“I have a feeling that a lot of people feel that way about it,” Senator Price said.

“You know, I was born here, I belong to this country like everyone else, why should we constantly be welcome in the country we were born in? Again, I think you should reserve these things for special occasions, if there are foreign dignitaries or something.’

Senator Price said Australians should not have to “deal with this at every opportunity”

“I feel funny when people will actually say, I want to acknowledge and show our respect to all the indigenous people in the room, and you look around and sometimes you’re the only one in the room,” she said.

“And like, okay, can we just keep going? Why are we exposed here? Let’s just move on, let’s get on with the job, let’s do things in a practical sense to produce results on the ground, and just stop with the waffle and the nonsense.”

Last year, the council in South Australia sparked a wave of discontent after it voted to stop reading recognition of the state at meetings.

The Northern Territories Council passed a motion without notice in November “that the Council delete the country’s recognition and banner on correspondence”.

“This is democracy,” said Mayor Sue Scarman Advertiser. “It was a council proposal and it was passed, so I support it. My personal view is now null and void.

The decision sparked anger from the local indigenous community, with one calling it “outrageous”. Ngadjuri elder Parry Agius said he was disappointed with the council’s decision.

“(I have) the feeling that the Ngadjuri people are not wanted in this place, in this region,” said Mr. Agius told the ABC. “The reason for the recognition is really to recognize that there were Aboriginal people before the area was colonized and there are Aboriginal people who now want to come back to the region for work, play, pleasure, for reconciliation and now that has weakened that approach.”

This comes after the Presbyterian Church in Australia banned its congregations from using the state’s confessions in worship because it deemed them “inappropriate” for worship.

“The church has a long tradition of saying what we should do in Sunday worship – it should just be what the Bible says and not add other things,” church spokesman John McClean said at the time.

“When you want to worship, our focus is on God and who He is and we praise and glorify Him. It was decided that recognition of the country or welcome to the country would not be appropriate.”

frank.chung@news.com.au

— with Georgina Noack

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