ACCORDING to Tourism Research Australia, while 11% of international travellers will take part in an indigenous experience on their holiday to Australia, only 1% of domestic travellers do the same. With international borders closed, there has never been a better time to get to know the culture and traditions of Aboriginal Australians, and luckily there are plenty to enjoy in NSW. Sarah Beyer discovers just some of what the state has to offer.
Across NSW, Aboriginal culture is vibrant and diverse, with a range of experiences allowing travellers the chance to gather on country and learn from the traditional owners. You can take an Aboriginal-led guided tour, follow ancient songlines on walking tracks, experience traditional ceremonies and visit Aboriginal rock art in many of the state’s national parks.
Gadigal & Eora Country, Sydney
Before Sydney grew into the metropolis it is today, the Gadigal and Eora people lived on the land. You can explore the city through the eyes of its Indigenous people on tours with Dreamtime Southern X, an Aboriginal privately-owned company which offers a range of walking and bus tours connecting visitors with the Dreamtime of Sydney.
If you’re looking for a tour focusing on one area of the city, try the Aboriginal Heritage Tour in the Sydney Royal Botanic Garden which teaches travellers Aboriginal plant uses and culture and gives them the chance to taste bush foods, or else the Barangaroo Aboriginal Cultural Tours which offers a hands-on educational tour of the precinct which is the only large public park exclusively planted with natives in NSW.
Alternatively, visit the Australian Museum and head to the permanent Bayala Nura: Yarning Country exhibition to discover Australia’s Indigenous people through their artefacts and stories.
Yuin Country, South Coast
Narooma and the Tilba region of the south coast is part of Yuin country, and visitors to this part of the state can experience Indigenous culture with Ngaran Ngaran Culture Awareness (NNCA).
NNCA offers an immersive cultural experience with the Yuin Retreat. Over three days, travellers will visit many parts of the Narooma region that have held sacred significance to the Yuin Aboriginal community for tens of thousands of years.
The tour begins on the evening of day one with a welcome to Yuin country including language, song and smoking ceremony. Highlights of the next two days include a sunrise ceremony, Gulaga National Park guided day walk tour or Djirringanj dreaming experience, Indigenous dining prepared by expert chefs and discovery of Aboriginal wellness. Travellers will participate in and witness Aboriginal dance, yidaki (didgeridoo) and yarning circles, while learning from knowledgeable Aboriginal guides.
Gumbaynggirr country, Coffs Harbour
Travellers can combine a love for adventure with learning about the local Aboriginal community when they join Wajaana Yaam Gumbaynggirr Adventure Tours. “Wajaana Yaam” translates to ‘from this country’ in the local Gumbaynggirr language and the tour operator offers a range of stand up paddle-boarding adventures all run by local Aboriginal people.
The tours explore Coffs Harbour’s Solitary Islands Marine Park across 2.5 hours, starting from three different locations depending on the tide. You’ll paddle with the direct descendants of the world’s first stand up paddlers and get a chance to connect to the land and the sea through the stories and language of the local Indigenous people, along with collecting and tasting seasonal bush tucker.
If paddle boarding isn’t your thing, Unkya Local Aboriginal Land Council Cultural Eco Tours runs two Aboriginal experiences operating out of Scotts Head and Gaagal Wanggaan (South Beach) National Park near Mackville, sharing and promoting the unique Gumbaynggirr spirituality and culture.
The Gaagal Yuludarla (Ocean Dreaming) Tour is a 1.5 hour walk around Scott’s Head Headland and Junay Gaagal (Little Beach) where travellers will get to hear about food sources and hunting methods, totems and creation stories, see a traditional fish trap and taste bush tucker along the way.
For a longer tour, the 3.5 hour Gaagal Wanggann (South Beach) Tour takes in Aboriginal-owned Gaagal Wanggaan (South Beach) National Park. You’ll get a chance to hear about the culture and heritage of the Gumbaynggirr people from your local Aboriginal guide, as well as learning about the ecosystems within the national park. Your guide will tell you about how the land, rivers and ocean are the first people’s food source, medicine and way of life.
Worimi country, Port Stephens
Get your heart racing and learn about Aboriginal culture at the same time with Sand Dune Adventures in Port Stephens. You’ll hop on a quad bike tour and explore the majestic and traditional landscape of the Worimi sand dunes. The area has been recorded as the largest coastal moving sand mass in the Southern Hemisphere and is a significant area to the local Worimi Aboriginal people. The tour ventures into exclusive Aboriginal land and gives travellers a hands-on interactive experience of the richness of the Worimi culture and heritage. Dig for fresh water, learn about bush resources, ride past ancient camp sites and sand board down one of the largest dunes on the beach over 1.5 hours.
Wiradjuri country, Wagga Wagga
Discover Wiradjuri culture in an intimate setting with Bundyi Cultural Tours. Owned and operated by Wiradjuri man Mark Saddler, you’ll get a chance to meet Australian bush animals, learn how a didgeridoo, spear or stone axe is made and find out more about the oldest living culture. Each and every tour is designed so that travellers will get to feel part of the land and get up close and personal with Indigenous culture. Options include full- and half-day tours by bus or 4WD in the Riverina area, as well as a two hour walking tour around Wagga Wagga, taking in the Murrumbidgee River.
BBQ meals and morning tea are included on some tours, as well as local transfers from your accommodation, while Bundyi Cultural Tours can also create a custom private tour for travellers, such as the Wiradjuri Culture and Winery Private tour which visits areas special to the Wiradjuri people as well as stopping at Courabyra Wines for lunch.
Luckily, selling NSW is even easier now, with all the experiences featured ready to work with the trade. For full details of experiences, see Destination NSW’s Trade Toolkit, which includes on-demand trade training tools and resources. Travel distributors based in Australia and overseas are invited to access this free resource via Destination NSW’s dedicated landing page for the trade. CLICK HERE to access the toolkit.