Where to find amazing First Nations experiences in Australia
See the Great Barrier Reef with fresh eyes in Cairns/Gimuy
Image: Tourism and Events Queensland
No matter how many times you’ve visited the Great Barrier Reef, prepare to see this World Heritage wonder anew on a day trip from Cairns/Gimuy with Dreamtime Snorkel. As you cruise to the outer reef, Indigenous ‘sea rangers’ will share with you its fascinating Creation story. Then, while you flipper between the corals, your guides will point out significant species among a dazzling array of marine life,. Back on board, there’s a delicious lunch featuring native ingredients to tuck into as the sea rangers share their cultural links to the critters you spotted.
This action-packed day trip is just one of many ways to engage with the rich First Nations cultures of the Cairns/Gimuy region. For a taste of Kuku Yalanji rainforest culture, join Walkabout Cultural Adventures for a thrilling excursion into the Daintree Rainforest, or unleash your creativity at an art class with Kuku Yalanji artist Brain ‘Binna’ Swindley at Janbal Gallery.
Where to stay: YHA Cairns Central
Walk in the footsteps of palawa people in Tasmania/lutruwita
Image: Tayla Gentle
Many people still erroneously believe that palawa (Aboriginal Tasmanian) cultures and peoples were lost following the atrocities of the early decades of colonisation. But take a takara nipaluna (Walking Hobart) tour with palawa and Warlpiri woman Nunami Sculthorpe-Green in Hobart/nipaluna, and you’ll discover how palawa peoples continue to maintain their cultures today thanks in part to the Aboriginal resistance, who in 1832 progressed to the city’s Old Government House to negotiate an end to the Black War (mid–1820s-1832) between British colonists and local Aboriginal peoples.
For a deeper immersion into palawa Country, sign up for the wukalina Walk, a four-day Traditional Owner-led experience in the Bay of Fires/larapuna region of northeast Tasmania/lutruwita.
Where to stay: YHA Hobart Central
Scale the Sydney Harbour Bridge with an Indigenous storyteller
Image: Destination NSW
Ascending to the peak of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a quintessential Sydney/Warrane experience. Climb those 1,332 steps in the company of an Indigenous storyteller guide on the Burrawa Climb, and you’re guaranteed to learn something new as you soak up the superb views. Like where huge middens (ancient pile of shells and animal bones) once stood before they were crushed to make lime slurry for building the colony. 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). Expect to return to terra firma inspired to seek out more of the city’s Aboriginal stories, perhaps starting at the Australian Museum’s superbly curated First Nations galleries, Garrigarrang and Bayala Nura.
Where to stay: YHA Sydney Harbour – The Rocks, YHA Sydney Central
Uncover the hidden cultural gems of Broome/Rubibi
Image: Tourism Western Australia/@aeroture_au
Red-dirt deserts meet the azure turquoise sea to mesmerising effect in the Western Australian tourism hub of Broome/Rubibi. Yawuru man and a descendant of local pealing workers, Bart Pigram, knows this awe-inspiring Country and its storied history like the back of his hand – knowledge he generously shares on his fun and engaging Mangrove Discovery Experience. Expect to hear multi-layered stories of local life and culture as you wander among the mangroves, spotting wildlife and identifying significant plant species as you go.
North of Broome/Rubibi on the ruggedly beautiful Dampier Peninsula, Bardi man and fourth-generation pearler Terry Hunter also weaves his culture and pearling heritage into his fascinating Borrgoron Coast to Creek Tours, operated out of Cygnet Bay Peal Farm.
Where to stay: YHA Broome
Experience Aboriginal cultures in Melbourne/Narrm with all your senses
Image: Visit Victoria
You don’t need to ‘go bush’ to explore Indigenous connections to nature, as you’ll quickly learn on a journey into the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne with a First Nations guide. Discover the deep connection of the Kulin Nation to this important cultural site for as you learn about significant native plants and their traditional uses on an Aboriginal Heritage Walk. The tour ends with a refreshing cup of lemon myrtle tea – if you’re hungry for more native foods, head over to Federation Square to get a literal taste of First Nations cultures at Big Esso, where charismatic Torres Strait Islander chef Nornie Bero, is known for delicious reinterpretations of traditional dishes.
Where to stay: YHA Melbourne Central
Kick a footy with Tiwi Islanders in the Northern Territory
Image: Tourism NT/Shaana McNaught
If you had to guess where Australia’s most diehard AFL (Australian Football League) fans hail from, what would your answer be? If it’s the Tiwi Islands, a 2.5-hour ferry ride from Darwin/Gulumerrdgen, you’d be right. It’s just one quirky facet of Tiwi culture you’ll experience on a day trip to this remote Aboriginal community, operated from April to November. When you disembark on Bathurst Island, you’ll also experience a traditional Welcome to Country, learn about the distinctive screen printing techniques used by local artisans, enjoy a typical Tiwi morning tea and more. You might even get a chance to a kick of the footy with the next generation of AFL stars.
Back in Darwin, uncover more First Nations cultures at Top Didj Cultural Experience and Art Gallery, where you can shop for authentic Aboriginal art and interact with artists on the Top Didj Cultural Experience.
Where to stay: YHA Darwin
Take a tour with Ngarrindjeri guides in the Fleurieu Peninsula
Image: South Australian Tourism Commission
The Ngarrindjeri people are the Traditional Custodians of lands stretching from the Fleurieu Peninsula (south of Adelaide) to the Coorong and lower Murray River. A great place to start learning about their history and ancient culture is with Kool Tours, a fast-growing, Indigenous-owned provider of immersive walking tours on Ngarrindjeri tribal land. Traverse the Yundi Nature Trail, or visit Port Elliot's Ratalang/Basham's Beach or Granite Island under the wing of knowledgeable local elder, Mark Koolmatrie. If you're heading home through Adelaide, continue your exploration at the SA Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of Aboriginal artefacts and featuring exhibits curated in partnership with Aboriginal people and communities.
Where to stay: YHA Port Elliot, YHA Adelaide Central
Words: Sarah Reid
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