Acknowledging Country

Surrendering to the Grief of our Origins
Listening, Learning, Writing and Speaking the Truth

As a person of settler descent, this workshop has been made for those who wish to respond more deeply to the work that First Nations people have asked us to do – Acknowledge Country. It has been created with the support and encouragement of Aboriginal people who request that settlers share the emotional burden that they have been forced to carry, and do the work of sitting with the discomfort of our history.

“We cry for you because you haven’t got the meaning of this country. We have a gift we want to give you. And it’s the gift of pattern thinking. It’s the culture which is the blood of this country, of Aboriginal groups, of the ecology, of the land itself.” – David Mowaljarlai, Ngarinyin elder

This work suggests ways we might come into right relationship with First Nations people and with Country through honesty, care and deep listening. Only by resting on ethical foundations can spiritual depths be revealed, and co-creative flourishing unfurl.

The focus will be an exploration of the new Australian ritual of Acknowledging Country that for the last decade or so has taken place at the start of public gatherings. This ritual has emerged at a vital cultural moment, with the growing awareness and acceptance of Australia’s violent conquest history, and greater understanding of the ongoing impacts of colonial culture on both Aboriginal and settler cultures.

“Country” is an Aboriginal English word meaning both the visible and invisible world around us; people, plants, animals, landforms, weather systems, the animate spirit that infuses us all, the stories and the web of relationships between us.

To acknowledge Country, then, is to acknowledge an alive, sensing world. The implications of this are enormous, with the potential to disrupt the de-animated worldview that underpins the colonial paradigm. How might we fruitfully and respectfully engage with this other way of knowing, and learn the responsibilities and connections of deep belonging?

This workshop is available in a number of formats and timeframes and can be adapted to the needs of groups and organisations. It has been run both in-person over 1 or 2 days, and also via zoom over a number of weeks. The work aims to facilitate opportunities for profound connection to place and history with which to ground your words, enrich your understanding, and to grow your ongoing connections to Country. It includes somatic writing exercises, sharing of our writing, presentations and discussion.

This work is grounded in learning from Aboriginal and Indigenous people, including inspiration and encouragement from Tyson Yunkaporta, Yin Paradies, Jack Mitchell, Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Ian Hunter, and Joy Murphy Wandin.

This workshop Pays the Rent.


‘Maya Ward is receiving queries from settlers asking how to come back into the spirit of place in rigorous and respectful ways that are not in extractive relation, not overstepping or appropriating. It is a space of nuance and intense discomfort and danger, but it is generative.’ – Tyson Yunkaporta

Maya’s workshop was a rare and rich opportunity to engage with those parts of ourselves that usually linger timidly in the shadows. It was a safe place for all to take some brave steps on the path to accepting our legacy as settler-culture Australians. I am very grateful to Maya and my co-participants for undertaking this challenging and essential collective soul-work. – Sean Kavanagh

The workshop was a deep enquiry into what it is to be with our ‘settler peoples’ shame, and to allow that to transform into a frame of respect, responsibility and reciprocity. –  Luna White

This work isn’t linear, rather it develops, in layers and whirls, in our psyche. Maya helped us uncover, nourish and develop wondrous shoots and flowers of new awareness. She held a delicate space with humour and honesty and vulnerability. I’m very grateful. – Noni Turner

The work in detail:

Returning to the Roots: The European tradition: including Goethe, Jung, and the deep and repressed history of  nature connection.

Re-enchantment: tradition and the power of the spoken word.

Guided writing exercises and tools for engagement with body, history, soul and soil.

Rooting in Ancient Earth: The Aboriginal tradition. The Gift, the meaning of Country, Dreaming and Dadirri, (Deep Listening).

Guided writing exercises and tools for engagement with Country.

Speaking your words: a whole group sharing of experiences and acknowledgements.

While profoundly informed by teachings from Aboriginal people, this work deliberately draws from European traditions rather than appropriating cultural models not of my heritage. This course was first developed for the Jung Society of Melbourne, and so the thinking of Carl Jung underpins the approach. As both therapist and cultural agent Jung held space for difficult questions and saw the deeply personal as necessary for cultural and political transformation. He brought awareness of the archetypal realm (pattern thinking) and of Anima Mundi – the soulfulness and animacy of earth.

In the spirit of Jungian processes, the investigation will take a depth psychological approach to researching and creating your own Acknowledgement of Country. We use a tool Jung developed, Active Imagination, to sense and dialogue with Country. You will be invited to deeply, personally, and somatically engage in the practice of Acknowledging Country through invocation – speaking aloud to animate Country, and listening for words that feel true and real.

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