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Sydney Aboriginal Experiences

Women learning about Aboriginal culture on a tour with Aboriginal
Women learning about Aboriginal culture on a tour with Aboriginal Cultural Tours, Barangaroo Reserve.

You don’t have to travel to the outback to encounter Aboriginal culture — there are plenty of ways to connect with Australia’s First Peoples right here in Sydney.  

Connect with an ancient people
Australia’s Aboriginal people are custodians of the oldest living culture on Earth, as Dreamtime SouthernX‘s Aunty Margret Campbell will tell you on her fascinating The Rocks Aboriginal Dreaming Tour (Illi Langi). On this 90-minute walking tour through the historic harbourside The Rocks precinct and surrounds, Margret and her team offers insights into the local Gadigal Aboriginal people’s deep spiritual connection with the waters and land of Sydney Harbour, a bond that’s developed over tens of thousands of years.  

Learn about Sydney’s original inhabitants 
An island of lush vegetation right in the centre of the city, Sydney’s harbourside Royal Botanic Garden was established in 1816. For the Gadigal people, the original inhabitants of the area, the history of the garden’s land on extends back over millennia. Take the Royal Botanic Garden’s 90-minute Aboriginal Culture Tour and an Aboriginal guide will introduce you to some of many native plants the Gadigal people used for food and medicine, and for making tools. You’ll even get to taste some traditional bush foods along the way. The tours run on most Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10am.  

Shop an authentic Aboriginal market 
One fun way to immerse yourself in Aboriginal culture is to visit the renowned Blak Markets. At these vibrant marketplaces you’ll find market stalls offering Aboriginal arts and crafts, clothes, jewellery, beauty products featuring native Australian botanicals, and bush foods. There’s also live music featuring Indigenous performers, cultural presentations and art workshops. They’re held eight times throughout the year, at various venues around Sydney – visit the Blak Markets website for the location of the next market, and for news of pop-up shops. 

Immerse yourself in Aboriginal art 
There are many opportunities to see contemporary and traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and artefacts in Sydney. The Museum of Contemporary Art in The Rocks has a significant collection of Indigenous art sourced from across the country and ranging from paintings to photography. Yiribana Gallery at the Art Gallery of NSW is one of the largest spaces dedicated to Indigenous art in Australia. And through written texts, images and artefacts, the Australian Museum, opposite Hyde Park at the eastern fringe of the city centre, explores the diversity of Aboriginal Australia and traces the impact of European society on Indigenous cultures. 

Discover the power of Aboriginal dance 
Sydney-based Bangarra — the Wiradjuri Aboriginal word meaning “to make fire”— is an award-winning contemporary Aboriginal dance company. Bangarra’s visually striking performances feature a cast of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers, directors and performers to tell moving, authentic stories. Bangarra’s powerful performances dig deep into Aboriginal culture and explore pressing social themes – be sure to check the What’s On section of Bangarra’s website for details of upcoming productions.  

Meet an influential Aboriginal couple 
The recently developed Barangaroo precinct, next to the inner-city Darling Harbour entertainment quarter, was named for an 18th-century Cammeraygal Aboriginal woman who was one of the key figures in the first dealings with European settlers. Take an immersive Barangaroo Aboriginal Cultural Tour of the 6-hectare Barangaroo Reserve — home to some 75,000 Australian native trees and shrubs – with an Aboriginal educator and you’ll learn of the long history of the area and its importance to the local Gadigal people. Fun fact: Barangaroo was married to Bennelong, another key figure in the local peoples’ first interactions with colonists. Bennelong is commemorated at Bennelong Point, the site of the Sydney Opera House. 

Find out how to throw a boomerang 
Ever wanted to try your hand at throwing a boomerang? At the Muru Mittigar Cultural Education Centre in Rouse Hill, a 45-minute drive north of Sydney, you’ll learn all about this the V-shaped hunting weapon. The returning boomerang is curved on one side and flat on the other, giving it a unique aerodynamic drag that brings it back to the thrower – once you’ve mastered a few tips from the centre’s guides. You’ll also learn about the cultural significance of the boomerang to the Darug Aboriginal people of the outer Sydney region – the weapons could also be used as percussion instruments and are painted for use in ceremonies.  


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