Australian iOS app Welcome to Country is educating users about numerous Indigenous peoples, cultures and heritage across the continent.
"What I want people to learn, indigenous and non-indigenous, is to acknowledge and recognise that before settlement there was almost 500 nations in Australia and these 500 nations still exist," said developer Tyson Mowarin, a Ngarluma man from Roebourne, Western Australia, in an interview with NITV News.
Welcome to Country is named after the traditional practice of the same name in which "an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander custodian or elder from the local area or region welcomes people to their land… through speech, song, dance, or ceremony," according to the Australian Capital Territory government's Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs.
The app uses GPS to offer the user a Welcome to Country video (for which they can enable push notifications) when they enter a tribal area for which one is available. They are for "educational purposes only", advises the app, and "must not be used as a substitute for an official, in-person Welcome to Country".
The app also offers other location-specific multimedia content, such as information about local languages, flora, and fauna, as well as a searchable list of tribes and groups.While there are hundreds of Indigenous groups in Australia, only about 40 are included in the app at present, with media concentrated around airports in an effort to educate tourists.
The Welcome to Country team is looking for financial partners to help expand the app. Mowarin aims for the app to include all regions, which will involve extensive work in liaising with elders and communities to gain their consent and co-operation in creating and gathering media across the country.
Simon te Brinke, who is working on the app with Mowarin, aims to gather additional media and information for the app from libraries and museums.
The Welcome to Country team hopes to distribute the app to schools, business and tourists. "The aim is to get Welcome to Country out there so Australians are acknowledging the 500 nations that existed here before settlement. It would be good if any kid in any school could tell you whose country they live on," said Mowarin.
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