Living in Australia

How to Experience Aboriginal Culture in Australia

Discover an ancient culture and it could change your life. At the very least, it will open your eyes to the wonder of a community of people who lived for and on the land, respecting it and its wildlife and embracing the mysterious spirit of the outback.

If you’d like to know how to experience Aboriginal culture in Australia, stick around because we have some really cool suggestions.

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Aboriginal culture in the form of a beautiful rock

Uluru, or Ayers Rock is the world’s second largest monolith (a large single upright block of stone), second only to Mount August in Western Australia. By far, however, Uluru is the more famous and is an enormous drawcard for tourists to the country. It is sacred to the Aboriginal people of the area known as the Pitjantjatjara Anangu and is one of Australia’s most instantly recognisable landmarks.

One of the more incredible things about Uluru is that it seems to change colour throughout the day and is at its most magnificent, bright red at daybreak and sunset. Climbing the rock will be prohibited from 26 October 2019 but in the interests of respecting Aboriginal culture, more than two thirds of visitors decline to climb it.

You can still experience Aboriginal culture at Ayers Rock Resort by participating in a dot painting workshop, or by taking a tour around the base of Uluru accompanied by a local guide. Walk the perimeter and explore the ancient rock art. Forage for bush tucker such as wild figs and bush plums, watch local Aboriginal artists and hear their Anangu stories of creation. The Anangu people request that tourists do not photograph particular parts of Uluru because of their beliefs.

Museums and art galleries

All major capital cities feature Aboriginal exhibits in their museums and art galleries. Even in smaller centres, particularly in regions where a strong Aboriginal culture exists, you’ll find fascinating exhibits. At Aboriginal Art Galleries in Sydney, you can view extraordinary examples of ancient artworks including hand-painted didgeridoos, exquisite dot paintings and hand-woven baskets. The Amagoa Aboriginal Modern Art Gallery of Australia in Melbourne showcases one of the country’s largest collections of Aboriginal art from famous and emerging indigenous artists.

Adelaide’s National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, also known as ‘Tandanya’ is Australia’s oldest Aboriginal-owned and managed multi-arts centre. There, you can view traditional art works and watch music, dance and theatre performances.

Cultural tours for an immersive experience

All over Australia, there are tourist operations that can put you in the middle of an immersive experience.

  • Daintree Dreaming Day Tour, Qld – In tropical North Queensland, you can join the Kuku Yalanji people who will take you hunting and gathering for bush tucker. It starts with a traditional smoking ceremony and takes you through lush rainforest complete with waterfalls and mountain ranges. Swim in the refreshing waters of Mossman Gorge, feast on a delicious lunch and learn traditional skills to hunt for fish, mussels and mud crabs.
  • Yawuru Saltwater Cruise, WA – Step aboard a 42ft catamaran and listen to stories from a descendant of the Yawuru people. You’ll learn about the traditional saltwater lives of his ancestors, the first people of Broome. Live music, bushfood tastings and fascinating stories make this a 3-hour tour you’ll never forget.
  • 1 Gorge Safari, NT – This two-and-a-half-hour cruise takes you on an interactive journey through a stunning gorge where you can swim in crystal clear waters. Learn about basket weaving, storytelling, spear throwing and didgeridoo playing and feast your eyes on the fascinating rock paintings on the cliffs.
  • Wukalina Walk, Tas – Spend four days on a guided walk around the Bay of Fires in north-eastern Tasmania. Your Palawa guides take you in the footsteps of their ancestors and tell stories about creation. You’ll participate in ancient cultural practices, eat native foods, meet the local wildlife including wallabies, kangaroos, possums and wombats, and enjoy traversing a range of terrains on foot.
  • Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Vic – Have a go at boomerang throwing, take a nature walk or visit an Aboriginal art site. There are plenty of tours to choose from at the Brambuk centre. The café onsite even offers kangaroo burgers and emu kebabs!
  • Coastal One Day Tour, Yorke Peninsula, SA – Journey down the Yorke Peninsula’s east coast and walk the cliff faces to discover stone tool quarries and ancient ochre. Depending on the tide, you could walk out to ancient fish trap to search for shellfish in the rocks. Gain insight into the Aboriginal history of the area and witness cultural ceremonies.
  • Aboriginal Heritage Tour, NSW – Go along to the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney and join an Aboriginal tour guide who will tell you about Aboriginal culture, artefacts and heritage. You’ll discover how native trees and plants have been used as tools, food and medicine, and you’ll even get to forage for and taste some bush foods.
  • Dharwra Aboriginal Cultural Tours, ACT – Journey back in time to ‘The Dreaming’ with an experienced Aboriginal guide who will tell you stories, teach you about ancestral history and introduce you to local bush tucker. They offer twilight tours, bush tucker cooking classes and even an introduction to the Ngunawal language.

Keep your eyes open for Aboriginal culture on display

You don’t have to go to a formal venue or embark on a tour to catch Aboriginal culture when you visit Australia. Hang around public spaces such as Darling Harbour in Sydney, Southbank in Melbourne and Salamanca Markets in Hobart and you’re bound to hear the haunting sounds of the didgeridoo played by buskers.

Aboriginal arts and crafts are often sold in local markets and you can often watch traditional craftspeople making them right there on the spot. Explore the local City Hall or Council library for temporary or permanent Aboriginal cultural exhibits.

Check the local entertainment magazine or online directory for upcoming performances, art shows, talks, lessons or excursions. Some cities and towns also hold Aboriginal festivals that you can go along to and experience bush tucker, arts and crafts, music, dance and talks.

When you visit Australia, you shouldn’t miss an opportunity to learn more about the ancient Aborigines and how they lived millennia ago. Their fascinating stories and ingenious tools and medicines will have you enthralled.

References

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