Sydney Opera House: Welcome to Country

Sydney Opera House: Welcome to Country
Allen Madden
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
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Gadigal Elder Allen Madden performs a 'Welcome to Country' at the Sydney Opera House for the Deadly Awards in 2008. The Deadlys (1994 – 2014) were the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music, sport, arts and community awards.

This is a good example of how the traditional welcome to country can be conveyed through sound and moving image. The decision to film Madden speaking in front of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House – two of Sydney's most iconic contemporary structures – effectively reminds the audience that the Opera House, and Sydney itself, is built on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation.

The welcome uses the iconography of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags superimposed onto Sydney Harbour and the Opera House to highlight a feeling of pride as well as asserting an unbroken connection to Country of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The clip uses the power of the spoken work alongside images of contemporary Sydney to reflect the contemporary and changing nature of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and successfully draws a continuous line from the past into the present for a national and international audience. The importance of music in ceremony is reflected in the didjeridu soundtrack – an obvious choice as it is the instrument most connected with Aboriginal culture.

Inside the Opera House the ceremony continues with Madden introducing dancers who perform a dance of welcome accompanied by music. The performance, with its colourful sets and costumes, adds gravitas and authenticity to the awards ceremony.

See a Welcome to Country performed by Bennelong's descendant, Aboriginal actor Ben Blakeney OAM (1937–2003), at the opening of the Sydney Opera House in Queen at the Opera House (1973).

Notes by Beth Taylor