The Albanese government is facing criticism over a lack of transparency regarding taxpayer spending on Welcome to Country ceremonies.
Figures recently obtained by Sky News Australia indicate that almost $40,000 was spent by approximately half of the government departments in the last financial year on the Indigenous tradition.
The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations tops the list with an expenditure of $14,261, followed by Home Affairs at $11,887. Other departments have spent amounts ranging from $1,600 to $2,950. The public broadcaster ABC alone spent over $7,000 on the practice.
Concerns were raised as the average departmental spend per ceremony is significantly higher than the $350 advised by the ACT Government. Coalition senators James McGrath and Hollie Hughes have questioned the ceremonial costs, with McGrath stating:
“I don’t think there’s enough transparency in terms of the costings, and I also don’t think there’s enough transparency in the responses from government departments.”
McGrath also accused some Welcome to Country ceremonies of being used as a "political tool."
Dr. Richard Fejo, a Larrakia elder, defended the practice, stating that traditional owners have the right to speak for their country and set the price for the ceremonies. He expressed disagreement with the notion of undervaluing the ceremony.
The Albanese government's spokeswoman affirmed that Welcome to Country ceremonies have been a standard part of official events since 2008, involving both Coalition and Labor leaders.