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
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 – Waranara First Nations Tour in the heart of Sydney. In one of the finest collections of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artefacts, the museum provides custodial care to 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 tools for hunting and fishing.
Burrawa Indigenous Climb Experience
See Sydney in a fresh light when you scale one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks with an Indigenous storyteller. Operated by BridgeClimb Sydney, the Burrawa Indigenous Climb Experience gives you the chance to take in sparkling views from the Sydney Harbour Bridge while hearing stories about Sydney’s rich Aboriginal heritage. Like where a three-metre-high midden (ancient pile of shells) once stood, revealing stories of intergenerational conservation. And how Cammeraygal woman Patyegarang became Australia’s first Aboriginal language teacher, instructing botanist and explorer William Dawes from a base at Tallawoladah (The Rocks). The three-hour journey to the peak of ‘The Coathanger’ (as the bridge is known to locals) is as eye-opening as it is educational, traversing 1,332 steps and taking you 134 metres above the water. You walk at an easy pace, and you end your trek back at ground level with a newfound appreciation for the city – and a certificate to prove it.
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 Bush Tucker Tour and Aboriginal Harbour Heritage Tour
Discover the rich culture of the Gadigal People and their deep connection to Country on an Aboriginal Bush Tucker Tour or Aboriginal Heritage Harbour Tour at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Led by a First Nations Education Officer, the tours provide a unique opportunity to learn about native flora and fauna and their significance and use by Aboriginal Peoples. On the traditional land of the Gadigal people, one of twenty-nine Aboriginal communities of the Sydney region, the Gardens were and continue to be a significant cultural site for Aboriginal people. The one-hour Aboriginal tours provide a unique opportunity to learn about the uses of native trees and plants by Australia’s First Nations People to make bushfoods, medicine, tools and technology.
Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience at Rainforestation Nature Park
Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience at Rainforestation Nature Park offers unique experiences in the beautiful World Heritage rainforest in Kuranda, just 30 minutes from Cairns. Watch dance performances by the Pamagirri Dancers, and take a Dreamtime Walk to learn and master the skills of boomerang and spear throwing. The Pamagirri Indigenous Guides come from different language groups across Queensland, but all share a strong connection to culture. Other experiences include the Pamagirri Mini-Mob and the Pamagirri Art Experience.
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 hearty 3-course dinner where you can meet and mingle with the cast. The ‘set’ is an authentic 19th-century town, located at Beenleigh – 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 like a part of the action. By day, the Welcome to Country Aboriginal Experience offers an interactive discovery into traditional Aboriginal life, including ancient ceremonies and traditions, didgeridoo playing, weaponry, boomerang painting, spear throwing, and an introduction to camp life.
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 First Peoples. 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 including Goomup (Elizabeth Quay) and Karrgatup (Kings Park). Noongar guide Walter McGuire shares unique insights spanning culture, bush food and spirituality. 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. Or discover Wadjemup (Rottnest Island) and learn the Noongar tales of the island’s notorious past. The tour includes a traditional sand/water ceremony, Noongar stories, song and language.
Narlijia Experiences Broome
Local Yawuru man, Bart Pigram, shares generational knowledge and ancient stories of Broome’s saltwater Yawuru people through his fascinating Mangrove Discovery tour and the Beach to Bay Tour Experience. In Yawuru Aboriginal language, Narlijia means ‘true for you’ and Bart embraces the opportunity to create a deeper connection between cultures. Hear the Dreamtime stories of the region, visit ancient shell middens, discover the significant marine ecosystem of Roebuck Bay and Dampier Creek and learn to identify certain flora, fauna and sites that are still traditionally used by the Djugun and Yawuru people. Bart’s tours combine ancient stories, cultural artefacts, and family history with the pearling phenomena that Broome was built on.