7 ways to create a culturally inclusive event

24 Feb 2023

This year, Australians will vote in a referendum for a First Nations Voice to Parliament. Diversity and First Nations wisdom is acknowledged and valued at ICC Sydney and we support to forging a new way together.

With an opportunity and an obligation to support a more inclusive future, we would like to share our experiences in creating culturally inclusive events that provide opportunities for First Nations businesses. If you’d like to learn more about the ‘From the Heart’ campaign to support an Indigenous Voice to parliament click here.

As an iconic destination, which stands and operates on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, ICC Sydney has a unique opportunity to foster and promote reconciliation. To acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and promote true reconciliation, ICC Sydney encourages its clients to activate authentic, cultural experiences at their next event.

Here are several ways event organisers can recognise and celebrate the culture and customs of the First Nations people at ICC Sydney.

1. Open with an Acknowledgement or Welcome to Country

An Acknowledgement of Country can be provided by any person wishing to demonstrate their respect for traditional custodians of the land. Welcoming and acknowledgement protocols show respect and promote the ongoing reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by creating a more inclusive environment for your event.

A Welcome to Country is an official welcome to an Aboriginal Nation by an Aboriginal Elder. Welcome to Country services are provided by ICC Sydney’s partner, the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC) and can take several forms including singing, dancing, smoking ceremonies, or a speech. This longstanding cultural protocol grants permission for your attendees to enter Gadigal Country, welcoming them and offering them safe passage in return for respecting the rules of the Custodians while on their Country.

2. Connect with Country through a Smoking Ceremony

Aboriginal Smoking Ceremonies are over 60,000 years old. Performed by an Aboriginal Elder or an Aboriginal person with specialised spiritual and cultural knowledge, the ancient custom involves burning various native plants to produce smoke which has cleansing properties. Smoking Ceremonies are seen as a gesture of goodwill, bringing people together and can also be a way of connecting with Country by speaking to and acknowledging ancestors of the land.

3. Inspire attendees with a live cultural performance

Kick off your event with a powerful performance by KARI Alumni Singers to acknowledge, celebrate and showcase First Nations people. The Alumni are an extremely talented Aboriginal vocal performance group, capturing audiences with their unique sound and performance style. Immerse and inspire your attendees with a combination of traditional and modern pieces with a cultural flare, whether it be a conference or gala dinner.

4. Incorporate indigenous ingredients into your menu

Provide your attendees with a taste of First Nations culture by infusing Australian native ingredients into your food and drinks menu. In collaboration with ICC Sydney’s award-winning culinary team, event organisers can create a bespoke menu that champions local produce such as indigenous thyme, Warrigal greens, waxflower and wattleseed. Working with ICC Sydney’s strong network of producers, pair your culturally inspired meal with some First Nations beverages such as Sobah non-alcoholic Beers and 100% Aboriginal, female-owned and operated Axel Vodka.

5. Discover the ancient heritage of the local area with Aunty Margret Campbell

Take your delegates into the Sydney sunshine where they can learn about indigenous flora and fauna that surrounds our harbourside venue. Facilitated by respected Elder Aunty Margret Campbell from Dreamtime Southern X, these cultural tours allow your delegates to discover the land of Tumbalong and the water of Gomora (known today as Darling Harbour) through the eyes of a cultural custodian, learning about the Dreamtime and how to walk Country with respect.

6Engage a First Nations business to supply your event needs

Diversify your supply chain by engaging with genuine First Nations businesses. Supply Nation is Australia’s leading database of verified Indigenous owned and operated businesses. Thinking of giving your attendees or speakers a personalised gift? Whether you are searching for conference satchels, stationery products, authentic native foods, beverages or botanicals, Supply Nation offers plenty of different options to choose from.

7. Engage a First Nations artist to create artwork and graphic design elements

Looking to create an event logo or marketing materials that celebrates the local destination in an authentic and meaningful way? Engage a First Nations artist to create specialised artwork to promote your event. ICC Sydney’s community partner Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative consists of 53 established and emerging professional artists from across New South Wales. They have astounding levels of creativity, knowledge and experience and can support event organisers to deliver specialised projects, including Reconciliation Action Plans, graphic design, public art, artist workshops and talks, artwork commissions, marketing campaigns and artwork licensing.