THE Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, supposedly opened up a new front in the culture wars two years ago by dismissing the practice of acknowledging traditional owners as a ''genuflection to political correctness''.
But a leading Aboriginal arts administrator has echoed Mr Abbott's criticisms, saying the recognition of indigenous people at public events is tokenistic and ''said because it's part and parcel of being PC''.
The head of indigenous programming at the Sydney Opera House, Rhoda Roberts, said she was ''somewhat dismayed'' by ceremonies in which Aboriginal custodians welcome people to their land and the acknowledgement of country that is said as a sign of respect.
''It's difficult. I think what's happened is that everyone's got excited about doing the right thing and being PC,'' she said.
Ms Roberts said these ceremonies were often conducted in a perfunctory way.
''I say tokenism in that it's wonderful you're doing it but I often feel you don't have any heart for it,'' she said.
''I want to put the spirit and the heart into it.''
A welcome to country is where traditional Aboriginal custodians welcome people to their land, while an acknowledgement of country is the way other people show respect for the custodians of the land on which an event takes place.
Ms Roberts said the ceremonies were developed by members of the Aboriginal National Theatre Trust in the 1980s, who adopted it from a practice they used to show respect to Aboriginal elders.
Ms Roberts's employer, the Sydney Opera House, is one of many government institutions that regularly incorporate both ceremonies into its functions and events.
The Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council charges between $385 and $450 for a welcome to country ceremony, with a 20 per cent surcharge for night and weekend bookings.
The council's chief executive, Paul Morris, said it was a vital part of promoting and acknowledging Aboriginal people.
''That may be viewed as tokenistic by some but not by this land council,'' he said.
Mr Morris said it would be a backward step to stop performing the welcome to country or acknowledgement of country, ''especially in Sydney where the so-called traditional way of life was changed many years ago''.
The NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Victor Dominello, said he values the acknowledgement of country and its traditional owners.
"It is a reminder to the whole community of our history, our unique Aboriginal culture and the respect we have for that culture," he said.
However, Ms Roberts said it was not enough to pay lip service to the traditional owners of the land.
In acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land, Ms Roberts said people should be able to explain what it means to them: ''Or is it something you just say because you're PC?
''Now the next phase of it is to actually understand the spirituality of it.''
Before this year's Message Sticks festival, the traditional custodians were acknowledged with a chant sung by Opera House staff.
Ms Roberts suggested other practices such as marking people with ochre or sweat could make the acknowledgement more meaningful.
''It isn't just about the spoken word,'' she said.
''It isn't about just getting up and saying welcome. It can be played in, it can be smoked in, it can be sung in, it can be danced in and I guess that's where we've moved within the arts.''