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Finding Aboriginal culture in Sydney

Here’s where to find some unique insights into Sydney’s rich Aboriginal culture.

By Georgia Rickard
Published: 24 March, 2017

Australia’s Aboriginal population might be the world’s most ancient living culture, but it’s flourishing right in the middle of Sydney. These new experiences offer authentic, meaningful ways to connect with some of Sydney’s friendliest locals, and gain genuine insights into Aboriginal ways of life at the same time.

Shop Sydney's most beautiful cultural markets

Blak Markets, Barangaroo, New South Wales

Sydney’s Blak Markets aren’t just a place to shop for Aboriginal products. Each event is a unique full-scale production, featuring song, dance, bush tucker foods, craft stalls, smoking ceremonies and entertainers, with profits returned to local Aboriginal communities. This month another layer of meaning has been added to the experience, with the markets finding a new permanent address. Barangaroo Reserve is a significant location for many reasons. Barangaroo was a prominent historical Aboriginal figure, and the entire suburb of Barangaroo was named in her honour. The reserve is located on a headland of native bush, recently restored in tribute to the foreshore that once existed here as Aboriginal people would have known it. It’s a vibrant cultural experience in a powerful, beautiful setting – and all within sight of Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Walk old footsteps in a new suburb

Barangaroo Reserve, Barangaroo, Sydney, New South Wales

The story of Barangaroo’s changing face offers its own insights into local history. This brand-new waterfront precinct is located on some of the most expensive real estate in the world, virtually underneath Sydney Harbour Bridge. But for decades it was the home of an industrial shipping port. Its recent transformation into a hip, buzzing neighbourhood is considered one of the most ambitious public land redevelopments in history, making this a unique place for an Aboriginal Cultural Tour. Over 90 minutes you’ll explore stories of local Aboriginal history, told to the theme of the city’s changing landscape. The guides are also highly knowledgeable about Barangaroo Reserve’s extensive native plant collection; you’ll finish the experience with new respect for the traditional Aboriginal approach to food and medicine.

Take a tour that's naturally different

Nura Diya, Taronga Zoo, Sydney, New South Wales

Any visit to Taronga Zoo Sydney is special – its edges meet the water of Sydney Harbour, with views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge – but in recent years an unusual experience has become available here. Book in for the Nura Diya tour, and one of the zoo’s Aboriginal guides will take you on a tour of the animals. Each tour is as individual and unique as the person taking it, with guides telling their own stories about their connection to land, and sharing their favourite aspects of the wildlife park with their guests. Expect to get up close to native creatures such as koalas, kangaroos, wallabies and emus, and learn about the strong links between Aboriginal people, the land and its wildlife. This is a great way to experience an iconic Sydney experience with additional cultural context.

Get lost and find yourself in the wild

Aboriginal Blue Mountains Walkabout, New South Wales

Jump on a train at Sydney’s Central Station and within 90 minutes you’ll be stepping into the Blue Mountains, for an experience sometimes described as emotional, meditative or deeply moving. Aboriginal guide Evan Yanna Muru’s full day walkabout tour takes hikers through valleys and caves and past sacred cultural sites deep into the rainforest. It asks them to slow down and reconsider the natural world using ancient Aboriginal knowledge, which in many ways translates to modern-day wisdom. The Blue Mountains are World Heritage listed for their outstanding beauty and biodiversity, so you’ll enjoy this area regardless of what you choose to do here, but this special exercise adds an extra level of poignancy.