The Rocks, Sydney, New South Wales © Archie Sartracom/Tourism Australia
From museums, galleries and cultural centres to award-winning walking tours, explore the Aboriginal heart of Australia’s urban centres.
New South Wales
Australian Museum – Waranara First Nations Tour
Learn about the beliefs and lifestyles of the world’s oldest living culture, in the country’s oldest museum, with a personalised guided tour of the First Nations galleries at the Australian Museum in the heart of Sydney. In one of the finest collections of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artefacts, the museum houses more than 40,000 Indigenous Australian weapons, body ornaments, tools, bark paintings, toys and contemporary art and sculpture from across the country. Highlights include grindstones more than 32,000 years old, ancient bark drawings, modern dot paintings and carved emu eggs, as well as crocodile masks made from turtle shells, feathered headdresses and pearl-shell ornaments still worn for rituals and ceremonial dances in the Torres Strait Islands. There are also intricately woven baskets, art made from ghost fishing nets, exquisite shell jewellery, drums, canoes and ingenious tools for hunting and fishing.
Dreamtime Southern X – The Rocks Aboriginal Dreaming Tour
Join the leisurely 90-minute walking tour of Sydney’s famous foreshore with Dreamtime Southern X and see how the harbour landscape reverberates with spiritual significance and continues to influence modern Aboriginal culture. Guides share stories that offer glimpses of what Australia was like before colonisation. Listen to the Creation stories that shaped Sydney, learn how the Eora people reacted to the coming of the Europeans and how the saltwater people practised seasonal food sustainability. Discover the ongoing connection to Country and the true meaning behind the colours of the Aboriginal flag, taste bush tucker plucked from trees growing on city streets, and visit sacred Aboriginal sites hidden in the heart of the city’s most popular tourist precinct. This tour will give you a new perspective on the harbour city.
The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney – Aboriginal Cultural Tour
The 90-minute Aboriginal Cultural Tour through Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden provides a unique opportunity to learn about the uses of native trees and plants by Australia’s First Nations People, whilst also learning about the diverse history and culture of the Cadigal people – the Traditional Custodians of the Sydney city area. Depending on what’s in season, you’ll also be able to forage and taste some Australian bush foods. Other programs include Aboriginal bush foods experiences where you will learn how to identify seasonal bush foods followed by a unique and modern dining experience utilising these ingredients.
Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience at Rainforestation Nature Park
If you’re keen on learning to throw a boomerang or want to see a didgeridoo or spear throwing presentation, Cairns’ Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience at Rainforestation Nature Park is the place to come. Set amid 40 hectares of World Heritage-listed rainforest, a 30-minute drive north of Cairns city, this eco-friendly, family-owned nature park has called the jungle home since 1974. The Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience provides an in-depth look into authentic Indigenous culture. The experience’s authenticity earned it gold in the Queensland Tourism Awards for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Culture. During the activity, you’ll enjoy a tradition Indigenous dance in a rainforest amphitheatre, where the tropical trees, vines and flora act as the theatre’s living walls.
Spirits of the Red Sand
There are few opportunities to learn about Queensland’s Aboriginal community that are quite as comprehensive, and at times confronting, as Spirits of the Red Sand, a show based on real-life Aboriginal encounters with the British in the 1800s. As part of the two-and-a-half hour show, you’ll enjoy a barbecue dinner where you can mingle with the actors, hear their stories and learn more about their experiences in this part of the state. The ‘set’ is an authentic 19th-century town, halfway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. As part of the audience you’ll move between different set locations over the course of the evening, making you feel part of the action. Welcome to Country Aboriginal Experience’ offers an interactive discovery into traditional Aboriginal life including ancient ceremonies and traditions, whilst unique cultural experiences for are available for groups including cruise and cultural education experiences and cultural awareness programs.
Koorie Heritage Trust
So many of Australia’s absorbing Indigenous experiences happen against a backdrop of red dirt or blue ocean, but our Aboriginal history is just as compelling in the cities as it is in the outback. And the Koorie Heritage Trust in Melbourne is one of the best places to immerse yourself in that urban Aboriginal culture. With the motto “Gnokan Danna Murra Kor-ki” – which translates as “Give me your hand my friend” – the trust’s mission is to give visitors a deeper understanding of both the past and present. Wander the museum-style collections of art, photography, oral history and objects at its headquarters in Federation Square. Alternatively, take a walking tour with an Indigenous guide, who will share some of their own story as they help you discover some of the city’s most important traditional landmarks.
Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne – Aboriginal Heritage Walk
Long before Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens were established in 1846, these lands were used as a camping and meeting place by the local Boon wurrung and Woi wurrung people. To learn more about the traditions that have been passed down through countless generations, the daily Aboriginal Heritage Walk explores the ways that spirit, connection and land intertwine in Aboriginal culture. The 90-minute experience includes a traditional smoking ceremony, an introduction to bush medicines and samples of native bush foods. Understanding which plants were best suited for which purpose and when was the best time to harvest them was essential knowledge for Australia’s earliest inhabitants; this is an excellent opportunity to gain insight into the traditional way of life.
Dale Tilbrook Experiences
With Dale Tilbrook, a Wardandi Bibbulmun woman, enjoy a captivating dive into Aboriginal food, medicine, culture and art with an emphasis on bush tucker as a food and medicine. During Dale’s two signature bush food experiences enjoy tasting a huge range of bush tucker like quandongs, Kakadu plum, native finger limes, muntries, salty grapes, native spinach, saltbush and other herbs and spices. Bush herbs are added to kangaroo and emu to provide extra flavour. In the ‘Aboriginal Art and Dreamtime Stories’ experience, the history of Aboriginal art and dot painting is explored, and participants create their own piece to take home. Dale’s storytelling skills come to the fore when she delves into ‘Local History and Culture’. Meet in the Swan Valley at Maalinup Aboriginal Gallery or Dale can meet you at your location. Bush Tucker Talk and Tasting is also available at Mandoon Estate Winery.
Go Cultural Aboriginal Tours & Experiences
Go Cultural Aboriginal Tours & Experiences offers walking tours around Perth’s easily accessible waterfront. Noongar guide Walter McGuire leads these tours, sharing unique insights spanning culture, bush food and spirituality along the way. Learn of the six seasons observed by Aboriginal people, see how they relate to the edible plants still growing in Perth city, hear spiritual Creation stories and expect to learn the Aboriginal names of iconic parts of Perth. By the end of the walk, you’ll glimpse Perth through Aboriginal eyes, as it was before European settlement. A three-hour extended cultural tour includes hands-on elements such as paint-making using natural ochres and handling hunting weapons and other traditional implements.
Narlijia Experiences Broome
Local Yawuru man, Bart Pigram, shares generational knowledge and ancient stories of Broome’s saltwater Yawuru people through the fascinating Narlijia Experiences Broome Mangrove Discovery tour around Roebuck Bay. In Yawuru Aboriginal language, Narlijia means ‘true for you’ and Bart embraces the opportunity to create a deeper connection between cultures. Learn about the traditional use of mangrove wood, visit Buccaneer Rock and hear the Dreamtime stories of the region. There may be an opportunity to taste some bush tucker sourced from the mangrove forest and foreshore or an amazing oyster fresh off the rock. View the remnants of (Asian) fish traps and be regaled with stories from historic Broome’s pearling days.