Best Family-Friendly Indigenous Experiences Down Under

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Help your kids get a greater understanding of Aboriginal culture with one of these awesome activities. By Angela Saurine

TOP DIDJ CULTURAL EXPERIENCE
Katherine, Northern Territory

Manuel Pamkal from Top Didj

Try throwing a spear at a fake kangaroo target and learn how to light a fire by rubbing two sticks together at the Top Didj Cultural Experience at Katherine in the Northern Territory. Aboriginal artist Manuel Pamkal plays a traditional welcoming tune on the didgeridoo before sharing stories about growing up in the bush, living off the land, tribal life and his family tree. He also teaches the technique of Rarrk painting (cross hatch), with guests able to join in and take home a souvenir. As a bonus there’s always wallaby joeys hopping around! The two-hour experience happens twice a day.
topdidj.com

A girl learning Rarrk painting at Top Didj

DOT PAINTING WORKSHOP
Ayers Rock Resort, Northern Territory

A guided garden walk at Ayers Rock Resort

Sit with Anangu Indigenous artists and learn about the different symbols depicting Creation Time (Tjukurpa) stories before creating your own dot painting. The Maruku Arts Dot Painting Workshops are held every morning and afternoon near the Town Square Lawn Area at Ayers Rock Resort. After the class, check out the Indigenous Art Markets to see local artists at work and perhaps buy an authentic piece of art or craft to take home. Other free cultural activities at the resort include didgeridoo workshops, a native food experience, and bush yarns learning about weapons used for hunting and gathering bush tucker.
ayersrockresort.com.au

WAJAANA YAAM GUMBAYNGGIRR ADVENTURE TOURS
Coffs Harbour, NSW

Go SUPing with Wajaana Yaam Adventure Tours

Paddle along a creek with the descendants of the world’s first stand-up paddle boarders with Wajaana Yaam Gumbaynggirr Adventure Tours at Coffs Harbour on the NSW North Coast. Don’t worry if you’ve never tried SUP before – no experience is necessary. The 2.5-hour tour begins with a brief demonstration. Guests will hear stories about the area from an Indigenous guide, learn about the local language and collect and try bush tucker. The tours are held at three locations depending on guest requirements and the tides, including Coffs Creek, Red Rock and Moonee, with the latter also offering kids the chance to backflip off a rope swing into the water.
wajaanayaam.com.au

TJAPUKAI ABORIGINAL CULTURAL PARK
Cairns, Queensland

The Aboriginal Cultural Village at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park in Queensland

This cultural park offers loads of fantastic Indigenous experiences all in the one place. You can see a traditional corroboree performance, try throwing a boomerang or spear and learn to make jewellery from materials found in the rainforest. You can also hear a traditional warrior explains how tools and weapons were used by Aborigines for hunting and survival in the cultural village, paint a boomerang in traditional Aboriginal style, and taste food cooked in a Bayngga underground oven. In the evening, the Nightfire experience provides the opportunity to meet the Indigenous rainforest people, Bama, who paint your face to link you to their traditional land. It also includes a corroboree and ceremonial fire.
tjapukai.com.au

HUNTERS CREEK TAGALONG TOUR
The Kimberley, Western Australia

Catch mud crabs with Brian Lee’s Tagalong Tour

Colourful Indigenous guide Brian Lee teaches kids how to spear fish, hunt for mud crabs and use shells as a whistle as they stroll along the banks of Hunters Creek at Cape Leveque in Western Australia’s Kimberley region. As well as learning the traditional ways of the Bardi people, guests on his tours, based out of the remote Kooljaman wilderness camp, will also hear stories of white settlement on the Dampier Peninsula before gathering under the shade of a tree to cook up their catch on an open fire.
kooljaman.com.au/tours/hunter-creek-tagalong

TANDANYA NATIONAL ABORIGINAL CULTURAL INSTITUTE
Adelaide, South Australia

Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute. Image South Australian Tourism Commission

See a yidaki (didgeridoo) being played or a performance by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dancers and hear their stories at Australia’s oldest Aboriginal-owned and managed multi-arts centre. Tandanya is a Kaurna word for ‘place of the Red Kangaroo’. The galleries play host to at least 12 exhibitions a year.
tandanya.com.au

KUKU YALANJI CULTURAL HABITAT TOURS
Port Douglas, Queensland

Go mud crabbing and gather food from the mangroves with brothers Linc and Brandon Walker at Cooya Beach, around 15 minutes’ drive north of Port Douglas, during this authentic tour. They will also teach you how to spear fish and share stories from their traditional land before returning to their family’s home to showcase Kuku Yalanji artefacts as they prepare the morning’s catch.
kycht.com.au

NGARAN NGARAN CULTURE AWARENESS
Narooma, NSW

Spend the weekend visiting sacred and significant sites in the area around Narooma on the NSW South Coast with Indigenous guide Dwayne ‘Naja’ Bannon-Harrison to learn more about the Yuin people’s creation stories, history and culture. The immersive tour also includes the rare opportunity to take part in traditional Aboriginal sunrise and beach ceremonies and yarning circles.     
ngaranaboriginalculture.com

DHARWRA CULTURAL TOURS
ACT

If you’re keen to see Aboriginal rock art, the Canberra region has some easily accessible options. Dharwara Cultural Tours takes you to sites of cultural significance, including places where you can see grinding grooves, a canoe tree and a shield tree. Experiences range from two-hour tours to full day tours which include a swim at Flea Creek in Namadgi National Park.  They also offer the chance to learn how to speak the Ngunawal language, take part in a traditional weaving workshop or join a bush tucker cooking class. Some tours are only suitable for children 12 and older.
thunderstone.net.au

NITA EXPERIENCE
Maria Island, Tasmania

An aerial view of Darlington on Maria Island. Photo: Flow Mountain Bike

Aboriginal people have been caring for Maria Island (Wukaluwikiwayna) for more than 50,000 years, adapting to changes in the landscape. Now on select dates throughout the year families can join Indigenous guides for a cultural tour on the island, on Tasmania’s east coast, to hear the stories of the Tyreddeme people. The one-hour tour starts at the Commissariat Store, which is located between Darlington Jetty and Darlington. Tickets are available to buy on the ferry or at the Triabunna Visitor Information Centre.
encountermaria.com.au

DREAMTIME WALK
Mossman Gorge Centre, Queensland

Families can learn about Indigenous culture during the Dreamtime Walk at Mossman Gorge

Learn about traditional plant uses and Kuku Yalanji culture during a guided walk through Mossman Gorge in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Daintree National Park. The 1.5-hour tour begins with a traditional smoking ceremony that cleanses and wards off bad spirits. The walk then meanders  through rainforest and takes in traditional huts or humpies. An Indigenous guide demonstrates traditional plant use, identifies bush food sources and provides an enchanting narrative of the rainforest and their special relationship with it. Also learn how to make bush soap and find out about ochre painting before enjoying traditional bush tea and damper.
mossmangorge.com.au

BRAMBUK CULTURAL CENTRE
The Grampians, Victoria

Experience everything from didgeridoo workshops to boomerang painting and throwing and bush food tasting at this cultural centre. You can also see two award-winning presentations in its Gariwerd Dreaming theatre. The Gariwerd Creation Story depicts the Aboriginal legend of Tchingal the giant emu and Waa the crow and the formation of the Grampians/Gariwerd mountains, while Gariwerd a Cultural Landscape illustrates the geology, flora and fauna and Aboriginal and European history of the region.
brambuk.com.au

MANDJOOGOORDAP DREAMING
Mandurah, Western Australia

If you find yourself on Western Australia’s South-West coast, don’t miss a tour with Indigenous guide George Walley from Mandurah Dreaming. The experienced educator, who grew up living with extended family in bush shelters, leads guests on the Mandjoogoordap Dreaming Tour along the foreshore as he shares his stories. The tour starts and finishes at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre and operates Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays on demand. Other tours, including canoe tours and cruises, are also available.
mandurahdreaming.com.au

Angela Saurine
Angela Saurine
Angela Saurine is an award-winning travel and lifestyle writer and proud mum who lives in Sydney. She started out in journalism in local newspapers before setting off to explore the world for two years, living at Whistler ski resort in Canada and in London. On her return home, her passion for adventure led to a role as national travel reporter at News Corp Australia – a position she held for four years before embarking on a freelance career. She loves skiing, islands, expedition cruising, eco-tourism and Indigenous tourism.