Can you create your own musical ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ in a short one-minute orchestral piece of music? Love writing music and aged 12-23 this is an exciting opportunity for you!

One of the most meaningful things we do as a society is to acknowledge country, to recognise the land, place and history of our Indigenous people. Artology’s visionary new program, To Country, encourages the creation of short one-minute orchestral works composed by young Australians aged 12-23 years, that are played at the start of a concert as a musical acknowledge of country.

What is an Acknowledgement of Country?

An Acknowledgement of Country is an opportunity for anyone to show respect for Traditional Owners and the continuing connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to Country. The acknowledgement can be offered by any person and like a Welcome to Country, is given at the beginning of an event – such as a concert. The Acknowledgement of Country must be sincere and you should do some research on the Country you are acknowledging.

Now’s your chance to get involved and create your own one-minute acknowledge of country. You’ll work with mentor composers, including renowned composer Christopher Sainsbury. The workshops will focus on composition technique and the philosophy behind writing a musical acknowledgment of country. Upon completion, the compositions will be presented by youth orchestras around Australia for a concert or workshop presentation.

Submissions for the 2023 To Country program open in February 2023 with a deadline of 5pm, Monday 5 June 2023.

To Country introduction with mentors Lyle Chan and Christopher Sainsbury and participants from the 2022 program.


Artology commissioned three acknowledgements of country to offer examples of the diversity of styles for the program composed by our mentors. Read through their program notes as developing your own program notes for your piece is part of the submission process. 

Two Fires Talking by Christopher Sainsbury. Chris is a Dharug man of the Eora nation, and wrote this piece based on a little-known Aboriginal tradition when two clans gather, they each light a fire, and before the humans begin conversing, they sit and let the fires talk to each other. In its world premiere performance by the Queensland Youth Chamber Orchestra, it acknowledged the land of the Turrbal people where the performance took place.

A walk in the paradise garden by Lyle Chan. Composed on the lands of the Gadigal people. This music ultimately pays tribute to the Indigenous management of land and sea estates developed over millennia and recognises that whatever the solution is to our climate condition, there is no solution that does not incorporate the wisdom of the oldest people on earth. Recorded by the Australian Youth Orchestra.

Emu in the Sky by Jessica Wells. Indigenous peoples have used astronomy in their culture for thousands of years. The Emu in the Sky is seen near the Southern Cross constellation and it’s body is made up of the dark patches of sky between the stars. It is common between many Aboriginal language groups and highlights connections between sky and land, between living things and the environment. In this piece I wish to portray the beauty of the night sky, and contemplate and respect the vast knowledge and culture of Aboriginal people which encompasses our country. Recorded by the Australian Youth Orchestra.

Congratulations to everyone who entered in 2022. In no particular order the following composers have been selected to participate this year. Find out more on each composer here.


Concert: Saturday 27 August 2022, 3.45-4.30pm, Old Museum, Bowen Hills

Watch the livestream here.

Jonathan Platz (Age 14, Qld) 
Tanya Jones (Age 22, Qld)
Benjamin Raymond (Age 18, Tas)
Hayden Taylor (Age 18, Vic)
Neeharika Shyju (Age 15, Vic)
Timothy Jayatilaka (Age 18, NSW)


Concert: Saturday 24 September 2022, 2pm, Elder Hall

Watch the livestream here.

Sophie McLaren (Age 14, Vic)
Jasmine Lai (Age 16, Vic)
Huangkai Lai (Age 22, Vic)
Lauren McCormick (Age 22, SA)
Jack Brunialti-Sykes (Age 12, Vic)
Jussi Jenssen (Age 22, NSW) 


Concert: Sunday 6 November 2022, 2pm, Registrar-General’s Building

Olivia Bryant (Age 18, NSW)
Andrew Dharma (Age 13, NSW)
Jasper Tops (Age 15, NSW)
Abhinav Ananth (Age 15, NSW)
Tim Doubinski (Age 18, NSW) 
Henry Hall (Age 15, NSW)


Selected your instrumentation from the following list:

1 flute, 1 oboe, 1 clarinet or saxophone, 1 bassoon, 2 trumpets (Bb or C), 2 french horns, 1 trombone, strings (8 violin 1, 6 violin 2, 4 viola, 3 cello, 2 bass), timpani (sizes 32, 29, 26 & 23), percussion (no more than 2 players), electronics or recorded sound. We encourage you to contact us if you have any queries regarding instrumentation in particular percussion.

Percussion List: 2 bongos, bell tree, bass drum, castanets, snare drum, suspended cymbals (China, standard), glockenspiel, marimba, tambourine, tenor drum, triangle, tom-toms (Please note: 2 players only)


What is the difference between an Acknowledgement of Country and a Welcome to Country?

Acknowledgement of Country can be presented by anyone, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. A Welcome to Country can only be made by Indigenous people who are auspiced by an Indigenous Governance body. This project focuses only on Acknowledgement of Country.

Does my orchestral Acknowledgment of Country need to include words?

No. As the composer, you simply declare your intention in the program notes to acknowledgement country. You can also choose to make it clear in the title of your music that it is an acknowledgement of country.

Does my work acknowledge the region where it was written, or where it is performed?

The principle is that no matter where the music is written, it acknowledges where it is performed. So you do not need to know in advance which region or language group is being acknowledged.

What kind of music should it sound like – should it be fast or slow?

The music can be fast or slow, joyous or contemplative – this is entirely up to you, as any kind of music can have the intention to acknowledge country.


Should it sound like Indigenous music? Can I use Indigenous melodies?

There is no need to make it sound like Indigenous music, regardless of whether you are an Indigenous composer. Indigenous composers are free to draw on their own culture to write their music. Non-Indigenous composers should be aware that the only people who can use Indigenous melodies or other elements are Indigenous people or if you have gained permission by Indigenous people. Remember that the basic idea is to acknowledge the traditional custodians by respecting them. Before you start composing please check the orchestral instrumentation list provided here.

Can I reference an Indigenous story or custom or ritual in my music? Can I use an Indigenous word as the title of my music?

This is broadly called ‘Indigenous referencing’. In the past, Australian composers have freely used Indigenous words for titles of works and Indigenous customs as inspiration for their works. Today, non-Indigenous composers wanting to reference Indigenous elements are encouraged to gain permission from the relevant peoples. Again, Indigenous composers are free to draw from their own culture.