Out-of-home (OOH) advertising company Total Outdoor Media (TOM) has announced the roll-out of a landmark Koori Country Nameplate initiative, whereby each of TOM’s large-format billboards will name and pay respects to First Nations People and the original Indigenous country in which each billboard sits.
As part of the initiative, which will become a permanent fixture on all TOM inventory from this week, each billboard will carry with it a nameplate depicting the corresponding country name of the traditional owners of the land.
[According to the Aboriginal Heritage Council’s Registered Aboriginal Parties of Victoria website, there are currently 11 registered Indigenous land parties in Victoria that cover approximately 74% of the landscape.]
Regional outdoor media provider TOM currently owns inventory located in eight of these traditional countries, providing an opportunity to use its billboard footprint to help acknowledge and pay respects to each individual party and their unique language, culture and people.
In order to gain support for the project, TOM reached out to the CEOs of each of the Registered Aboriginal Parties seeking their permission to respectfully acknowledge country and region, with TOM managing director Ged Hart confirming the response so far had been overwhelmingly positive.
“For the past 18 months we have been consulting with various party CEOs and elders in order to gain support for the initiative and ensure our Country nameplates are accurate and depict the correct traditional landowners of each region.
“Through this consultative process we recognised how sensitive and tricky the landscape was and understand there are some country lines that overlap and are still being reviewed. We acknowledge that over time some names may need to be updated to reflect any changes that take place. It’s therefore important that we maintain an open dialogue with the landowners in order to make any amendments as these occur through the ongoing Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) process.
“Our inventory is located in many Victorian regions like Geelong, Traralgon, Ballarat, Wangaratta, Cobram, Mildura, Sea Lake, Moe, Shepparton, Portland, Horsham, Hamilton, Orbost and Warnambool among others.
“To me, it became hugely important to use this media platform that we have, to play some small role in acknowledging Country and respecting the First Nations people,” Hart said.
Hart added the timing of the roll-out was important, with next month marking NAIDOC week (July 4 – 11), and this year’s theme of Heal Country, Heal our Nation.
“This year’s NAIDOC theme places a huge significance on the importance of Country, so it was important for us to be ready to roll out the traditional country place names after 18 months of research and consultation with the traditional landowners.
“If we can use our voice, no matter how small, to make a meaningful contribution to the conversation, hopefully we can, in some small way, encourage other industries and businesses to join in.
“This is not a political statement, to me it’s about using our influence and media platform for good. My early years of travelling Australia and my experiences working in North-West Australia in the 1980s has certainly shaped my thinking towards recognising our First Nations.
“Longer term I would love to see other outdoor media companies across Australia join the initiative and add the traditional country names to their own billboards; together we can use our inventory and respective platforms to be part of a much wider conversation.
“I believe it’s important that business owners in Australia use their voice and influence to affect positive change in the world and community around us. For me, recognition and respect to our original landowners is the first step to having a stronger dialogue with and understanding of our First Nations people.
“While at a personal level this was something that I have wanted to do for a long time, the initiative will also allow locals and tourists travelling around the state to have a better understanding of Country while learning about the specific traditional place names, thus encouraging others to do the same,” Hart said.