When ‘The Amazing Race Australia’ premieres on February 1, it will begin with a ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremony for the contestants given by the Kuku Yalanji people of far north Queensland.
Cousins Dwes Wiggan-Dann and Katherine Dann have said it’s important the show recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional custodians of the sacred land where the competition was filmed. As Aboriginal people themselves, they felt their “deep sense of belonging really showed” when the ceremony took place.
“The Welcome to Country we received was literally a time for us to ground ourselves in our country and really be accepted by the traditional owners of the area we visited,” Dwes told HuffPost Australia.
He explained the Kuku Yalanji people, who are the traditional owners of the rainforests in north Queensland, gave them “permission to travel and participate in the race on the sacred land”.
“Even though Katherine and I are Aboriginal people ourselves, I think our deep sense of belonging really showed when we were welcomed by the traditional owners,” said the Barda man who grew up in One Arm Point, an Aboriginal community in Dampier Peninsula in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia.
“That embrace really resonated with us and allowed us to genuinely be part of an area that’s not our home, our traditional cultural home.”
Reconciliation Australia, an organisation focusing on reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, explains “a Welcome to Country is delivered by Traditional Owners, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have been given permission from Traditional Owners, to welcome visitors to their Country”.
Usually occurring at the start of an event, it can involve dancing, singing, smoking ceremonies or a speech in traditional language or English.
“We might mean homeland, or tribal or clan area, and we might mean more than just a place on the map. For us, country is a word for all the values, places, resources, stories and cultural obligations associated with that area and its features. It describes the entirety of our ancestral domains.”
Dwes and Katherine form one of 14 teams competing on ‘The Amazing Race’ this year.
Katherine, who is also from the Kimberley region, said the duo wanted to set an example and prove to the rest of the country that there’s more to them than meets the eye.
“My biggest thing was to be showing that Dwes and I both knew the country as well as the city life... that we could navigate all different kinds of areas,” she told HuffPost Australia.
“We’re always challenging ourselves to be better and always want to achieve something great for our people,” added Dwes.
This year the show is hosted by Beau Ryan, with $250,000 in prize money up for grabs. The challenges were filmed in Australia instead of overseas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘The Amazing Race Australia’ premieres at 7:30pm Monday, February 1, on Channel 10.
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