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As visiting G20 leaders trooped one by one into their summit venue, it was a warm hug for the host and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott from his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.
Each leader came into the room at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre one at a time, stopped to shake Abbott’s hand and posed for a photo before walking out of the room in the other direction.
When Modi, the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Australia in 28 years after Rajiv Gandhi in 1986, made his entry, he gave Abbott a hearty hug.
Abbott greeted the dignitaries as he stood in the middle of the room in front of a turquoise wall with the words “Australia 2014” and “G20 Summit Brisbane 2014”.
Abbott, who has urged world leaders to speak from the heart rather than a script at the summit of the Group of 20 industrialised and major emerging economies, will host Modi in Canberra on Tuesday for bilateral talks.
The meeting between the premiers of India and Australia will be the second in two months. Abbott was in New Delhi in September where the two countries signed a landmark civil nuclear deal.
When Modi was in Japan in August, he received an unexpected hug from usually stiff Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The Japanese Premier hosted a dinner for Modi last night reflecting the growing warmth and affection between the two leaders.
Before their arrival inside the Convention centre, G20 leaders were formally and ceremonially welcomed by ‘Traditional Owners’ through performances of song and dance.
Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders have maintained a continuous connection to people, culture and country longer than any other humans on the planet.
Just as it was customary, for millennia, for groups of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders to ceremonially welcome other groups passing through or visiting their lands, so it has become customary in modern Australia for the Traditional Owners of a local area to welcome visitors to their lands, and the lands of their ancestors.
In welcoming the G20 leaders to Brisbane, the Traditional Owners also formally welcomed them to Australia, on behalf of the nation, symbolically speaking not just for all Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders, but all Australians.
A Welcome to Country can take many forms – it may be spoken, sung or danced.