Thursday, October 20, 2011

....Also Weddings And Bar Mitzvahs

IN A POST BELOW below, mention was made of a long-ish document in which the CSIRO lays out the correct way to hire those welcome-to-countriers, smoke purifiers and digeridoo players needed to keep the organisation’s laboratories free of evil spirits. While those efforts appear to have had no reformative effect on the Climate Change Unit, the greater curiosity is just how much public money went into the guide’s preparation. The sum would not have been small, and the inspiration for such a handbook is an even greater jaw-dropper. Is the scientific organisation now shipping shamans in such numbers that formal protocols are needed for their transport and handling?

Well forget the CSIRO. Its guidelines are but the few words on a Fantails wrapper in comparison with the masterwork of cultural sensitivity prepared by the government of NSW. It is all of 1,643 words and nails the going rate for renting blackfellas to the last cent. The very last cent. For example, the makeup allowance for "Category One Traditional Dancer (inexperienced)" is $12.43 on top of the $104 hourly rate ("three hour minimum").

The entire document is available here -- -- which brings up a nasty Word file. To save readers time and trouble the entire brief is pasted below.

You will start giggling on the first page, and by the time you reach the fee schedule at the very end, the suspicion will be that the document is a wicked, patronising parody. That would be part right. It is wicked and it is patronising, but it is no parody – especially not at $529.80 (“certified agreement”) for a smoke celebrant (2005 rates).

And don't skip the section dealing with the Risk Management. Here it is:




The guidelines relate exclusively to Aboriginal cultural practices which are unique to Aboriginal people. These cultural practices include:

  • Welcome to Country
  • Smoking Ceremonies
  • Personal or Cultural Histories
  • Dance or other Performance

Aboriginal protocols are increasingly being used in NSW government and community events and ceremonies. In 2001, all NSW Centenary of Federation events opened with an Aboriginal Welcome to Country.

The policy scope should consider the value of the service being offered, the expertise required to deliver that service as well as the length of time taken for the delivery of the service.

A further consideration is the importance of the occasion. That is, should a Welcome to Country for a school event attract the same fee as a Welcome to Country for a significant NSW Government event?

The policy will provide recommended fee for service guidelines for adoption by the NSW Government, Government agencies, local government and other community organisations.


The purpose of the policy is to:

  • Identify a recommended minimum Fee for Service for Aboriginal Cultural performances
  • Identify Aboriginal practices that should be included in the guidelines
  • Develop a policy that complements the Aboriginal Protocols’ Policy currently being developed by the NSW Premier’s Department


The policy objectives are to:

  • Develop a recommended minimum Fee for Service that properly renumerates and recognises Aboriginal cultural service;
  • that is agreed to by all stakeholders and;
  • that it is formally adopted by the NSW government.

The outcomes of this policy are to:

  • Provide the NSW government and other organisations with an acceptable fee schedule for Aboriginal cultural services
  • Provide Aboriginal people with an acceptable fee schedule for their cultural services
  • Assist NSW government agencies and other organisations to properly renumerate Aboriginal cultural performers
  • Provide consistency of fees for cultural performance across the NSW Government and other sectors
  • Encourage NSW government and other sectors’ recognition and value of Aboriginal cultural knowledge and protocols
  • Encourage the inclusion of Aboriginal protocols in government and other sectors’ events or ceremonies


The risks involved in developing and implementing this policy include:

  • Resistance from some Aboriginal performers/speakers to setting a standard fee. This may be overcome by producing a recommended minimum fee that individuals can negotiate from.
  • Difficulty in measuring and assigning dollar values to cultural knowledge and performance.
  • Budget restrictions compelling organisations to reduce or omit Aboriginal performers from events and ceremonies. This may be tempered by the recommendations of the Aboriginal Protocols’ Policy being developed by the Premier’s Department.
  • Resentment from the community about individuals being paid for cultural knowledge.
  • Formalising the process may result in payments no longer being made in cash.
  • Potential confusion for non-professional Aboriginal performers being asked to provide an ABN number to receive payment for services. Those community members not working professionally will be advised to complete a Statement by a Supplier Form.


Criteria for evaluation of the policy include the following:

  • Endorsement of the policy by the NSW government
  • Aboriginal protocols included in an increasing number of government and community events
  • Enquiries to the Department about the guidelines
  • The number of copies of the guidelines provided to organisations and agencies
  • Aboriginal community knowledge of the guidelines


Welcome to Country is widely recognised across the NSW public service as an important Aboriginal protocol.

Welcome to Country is usually performed by a senior community member of the land that the event is being held on. Where possible, the local Aboriginal Land Council may provide the appropriate person to perform the Welcome.

Fees for Welcome to Country must take into account a number of factors:

·        The length of the Welcome and the time taken to travel to the event
·        The knowledge imparted in the Welcome
·        The importance of the particular event 
·        Preparation for the event
·        The cost of travel to the event

The common fee offered by most government and community organisations for Welcome to Country is a minimum $100.00 to a maximum $300.00. The fee variables include the importance of the event and the knowledge imparted in the Welcome.

Where the Welcome to Country is provided by a senior community member transport should be made available to and from the venue.


Didgeridoo players are frequently used in Welcome ceremonies to ‘call’ speakers, special guests and the audience to begin the ceremony. A didgeridoo player may also be used as a soloist in other parts of the ceremony.

Professional didgeridoo players, registered with an agent, charge a standard industry fee. Fees may be negotiable, according to individual performers needs and the type of performance required.

The National Musicians Enterprise Agreement, certified in July 2003, contains the following minimum rates for musicians.

Category 1 performer, for a minimum 3 hour performance:

3 x $104.00 per hour + $12.43 make up and costume allowance + $ 4.00 instrument allowance + $28.37 rehearsal rate.

Total cost is $356.80 per performance

Fees vary within the industry, from agent to agent and performer to performer. Agent fees, administration, transport and insurance costs may be charged on top of the award minimum.


Nature, an Aboriginal didgeridoo duo who were used extensively during NSW Centenary of Federation celebrations, charge between $450.00 to $800.00 per performance.

The EORA Centre for Visual and Performing Arts (TAFE) often assists with requests for student musicians/didgeridoo players. The EORA Centre recommends a minimum fee of $150.00 per performance.


Smoking ceremonies are performed to cleanse the land. Smoking ceremonies are performed by Aboriginal people with particular specialised cultural knowledge. They are usually only performed at significant functions or on important occasions.

There are a number of costs associated with performing smoking ceremonies including collecting and making ochre, acquiring appropriate kindling and foliage and travel costs. These costs should be recognised and met by payment on top of the minimum fee.

The National Performers Enterprise Agreement, to be certified in July 2003, contains the following minimum rates for musicians.

Category 2 performer, for a minimum 3 hour performance:

3 x $163.00 + 12.43 wardrobe and makeup + rehearsal rate 28.37

Total cost is $ 529.80 per performance.


Dancers are often used as part of Welcome ceremonies.  There are many professional Aboriginal dance troupes and individuals in NSW. Charges vary according to level of training, the size of the company, the nature of the dance required and whether the dancers charge by the hour or per performance.
Professional dance companies include charges for agent fees, travel, insurance and other administrative costs.

The National Performers Enterprise Agreement, certified in July 2003, contains the following minimum rates for dancers, both experienced and inexperienced.

Category 1 Dancer (inexperienced) for a minimum 3 hour performance:

$127.85 + 12.43 wardrobe and makeup + rehearsal rate 28.37

Total cost is $ 424.35 per performance.

Category 1 Dancer (experienced)

$135.85 +12.43 wardrobe and makeup + rehearsal rate 28.37

Total cost is $ 448.35 per performance.


Aboriginal people are asked to give personal or cultural histories to educate the wider Australian community about Aboriginal history and culture.

National Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC provide opportunities for Aboriginal people to speak at forums, public meetings, schools and at local and state government functions.

The guest lecture may be personal, historical and provide audiences with knowledge of Aboriginal cultural heritage or practice.

The Department of Education provides no recommended fee for Aboriginal guest speakers at NSW schools and many speakers volunteer their services.

The NSWAECG Incorporated has no official recommended fee for Aboriginal people providing personal or cultural histories.

The University of Sydney (Academic and Teaching Staff) Enterprise Agreement 1999 – 2002 provides the following Casual Academic Rates for guest lecturers.

For a lecture (1 hour delivery and up to 2 hours associated working time)

$106.45 + 4%


Payment for performers of Aboriginal protocols by the NSW government will be largely determined by government procedures.

Professional performers will asked to provide an ABN number before payment can be made.

Some Aboriginal people may not have been registered as a business and others may be receiving a pension or other government income support. In these cases, a Statement by a Supplier form must be completed to receive payment. This will ensure that earnings are not taxed at the highest margin.


The NSW Aboriginal Land Council and Local Aboriginal Land Councils can identify people who can perform Welcome to Country and assist with other relevant information for a Welcome Ceremony. They may also identify appropriate Aboriginal people to perform Welcome to Country and other protocols.

Some Land Councils have Officers who perform these ceremonies.

NSW Aboriginal Land Council
Ph       (02) 9689 4444 

The NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (NSWAECG) Incorporated can recommend Aboriginal speakers and guest lecturers for cultural and personal histories.

NSWAECG Incorporated
Ph:      (02) 9550 5666

The EORA Centre for Visual and Performing Arts
Ph:      (02) 9217 4878

2.8  The recommended fees contained in these guidelines are a minimum fee only. They provide a starting point for negotiation between the NSW Government and Aboriginal people performing cultural protocols.

Recommended Minimum Fee
All rates are per performance

Welcome to Country            :                       $ 100. 00

Musicians Certified Agreement
2003-2005:                                                   $ 356.80

Smoking Ceremony                           
Performers Certified Agreement
2003-2005:                                                   $ 529.80

Dancer, Category 1              
Performers Certified Agreement
2003-2005:                                                   $ 424.35

Dancer, Category 1              
Performers Certified Agreement
2003-2005:                                                   $ 448.35

Guest Lecture
 (1 hour delivery and
up to 2 hours associated
working time)
University of Sydney
(Academic and Teaching Staff)
Enterprise Agreement
1999 – 2002:                                                            $ 106.45 + 4%


  1. I reckon these aboriginal smoking services and dancing routines need to be expanded - like the use of nulla-nullas in parliamentary question time to settle disputes. Regarding the fees structure for experienced and non experienced native dancers, Professor how will I be able to spot the difference? Surely a dress code should also be in order. I've witnessed some ceremonies where the dancers performed in jeans and thongs thus lessening the appeal for my culturally inexperienced and insensitive eyes.

  2. Anyone in the admittedly diminishing band concerned about the rapidly declining standards in the universities should take note of the rate paid by the University of Sydney to casual lecturers ($104 for up to 3 hours work requiring expertise) with the rates paid to any of the categories of Aboriginal shamans. Note too how the State is selecting particular organisations to determine which Aborigines are eligible to participate in these rackets. All this is so wrong on so many levels.

  3. ernie drongo has a lot to answer for...

  4. Since Ernie Dingo was the originator of the Welcome to Country panto, surely there should be a flow-through of royalties to him?

    Or are these experienced and inexperienced (are they the ones in bright nappies?) characters hogging all the takings?

    In this far pavilion, all Welcomes have been now dropped [after it was suggested a special addendum be attached, thanking the Australian service personnel for keeping the less-than- Dark-loving Japs out of the country in WW2], just like the second flagpole.

  5. Careful, Professor, or you will be sharing a cell with Bolta.

  6. "these guidelines are a minimum fee only. They provide a starting point for negotiation"

    Would you be entitled to negotiate on whether your celebrant is sufficiently black?

  7. Words fail me - "poor fella my country".
    When the real GFC hits in the not too distant future will there be enough money to go around for all this stupidity? Happily, I don't think so!

  8. PhillipGeorge(c)2011October 20, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    like the use of nulla-nullas in parliamentary question time to settle disputes

    good line.

    the core: where "toleration" is turned into the absolute moral virtue any number of people will be trying to outshine each other...

    the nature of vituosity driven by piety.

    you are in the Church of the Holy Fig Leaf?
    or Sacred Secularism...
    its one and the same

  9. Its all sad but true, a parody that Barry Humphries himself could never have dreamed up.

    "Difficulty in measuring and assigning dollar values to cultural knowledge and performance", surely that alone must have the hand-wringers out in force asking questions such as 'who are we to assess such cultural knowledge, better give Aunty the full rate."

    A didgeridoo was not an object common to all tribes/geographical areas, neither is the 'tradition' of such welcoming ceremonies, an invention as authentic as a ploughman's lunch or butter chicken.

  10. Smoking ceremony indeed... Talk about "Invented Traditions". It's a pity Professor Hobsbawm didn't include a chapter on this one...

    And why not go the whole hog? Have a full initiation ceremony that includes circumcision as well.

    What a rort.

  11. Imagine if this same process was to become de-rigueur in England.
    The British PM welcomes foreign guests to the opening ceremony, and apologises for the Norman conquest of England in 1066.
    The Angle, Saxon and Jute dancers then perform their welcome to the country pantomine with Morris Men doing whatever it is that they do, while gaily clad children dance around a may pole. They then apologise to the Romans for taking the country from them.
    The Romans then perform their welcoming ceremony clad in their centurion costumes and reading aloud from Julius Caesar's dairies (in Latin of course).The Roman welcoming committee then apologise to the Brittons for taking the country from them.
    The Brittons then perform their welcome to the county pantomine, with a host of bare-breasted Queen Boadiccas charging around the assembly in their chariots, while a horde of Druidic priests run through the assembled guests uttering dark incantations.
    Is this likely to happen? Of course not, these are all white people aren't they?

  12. Dunno about a circumcision, but if you read 1.4 closely you will find a renumeration is OK.

  13. The digeridoo is not part of NSW Aboriginal culture. It is an instrument of the "top end", north of Alice Springs. So they can save $356.80 there straight away.

  14. I wonder what ever happened to the Penis Touching Ceremonies? They seem to have dropped right out of sight.

  15. The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

    Australian Constitution, Section 116.

    IMPOSING ANY RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE - the absurd and heathen Welcome to Country, perhaps?

    RELIGIOUS TEST - identifying as an Aborigine, for example?

  16. My question [as a foreigner] is: why do you people put up with this bushwa?

    Is there a shortage of tar and feathers Down Under???