Culture

12 Unique Indigenous-Led Experiences That Will Show You Australia In A Whole New Light

The culture of Indigenous Australians is the oldest in the world. As the traditional custodians of the country, it makes sense that the best way to understand and explore Australia is through Indigenous-led experiences.

From dance and food festivals, to epic bush walks, to tackling the largest sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere, there’s no better way to understand Australia than by signing up for an experience led by those who know this country best.

Here are 12 of the best Indigenous-led experiences to get a little (or a lot) of culture in you.

#1 Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival, QLD

 

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The Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival is considered one of the most culturally significant events in Australia. It happens every two years on traditional Bora ground in the bushland near Laura, which is north of Cairns and the central meeting place for people from the Cape.

Local Indigenous groups perform 30-minute dance sets over three days. The 2020 festival was cancelled, so they’ve set the next dates for July 2 to 4 in 2021, with tickets going on sale soon from their website.

#2 Sand Dune Adventures, Port Stephens

 

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Having just done this myself, let me just tell you that despite having grown up around beaches and visiting more than one desert, I’ve NEVER seen sand dunes this way. They are the largest coastal sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere, after all.

Sand Dune Adventures is led by local Indigenous guides, who know exactly how to show you the best of their land (and HOLY CRAP it’s breath-taking), while keeping it perfectly preserved. Also the quad bikes are just super fun.

#3 The Karijini Experience, NT

 

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This five-day annual festival on the traditional lands of the Banjima people connects people to the ridiculously beautiful landscape of Karijini National Park through a program of diverse and inclusive experiences — like authentic, high-quality arts, culture, music and food.

You can find more details and book tickets on their website, here.

#4 Maruka Arts, NT

 

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Head to Maruka Arts, near Uluru, and peruse an extensive range of paintings and distinctive punu (wooden carvings) by about 900 Anangu artists (Indigenous people from the Western and Central Deserts of Australia).

Go deeper than the gallery and join in a dot-painting workshop, where a local Anangu artist will guide your through the traditional art form, symbols and tools.

#5 Dreamtime Dive, Cairns

 

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I mean, you’re basically going to Cairns for the Great Barrier Reef right? So get the whole picture with Dreamtime Dive. Indigenous sea rangers not only show you this natural wonder, they explain its cultural significance to the Dreamtime and Indigenous heritage of the area.

They also carry the highest level of eco accreditation possible, so your adventure won’t damage the beauty around you.

#6 Blue Mountains Walkabout, NSW

 

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Everyone flocks to the Three Sisters, as they should, but what most visitors don’t get to experience the ceremonial sites, rock art, bush tucker and Dreamtime stories of the area.

With Blue Mountains Walkabout, a guide from the local Darug people will take you along an ancient songline that runs through the national park. Leave the crowds behind and get into the thick rainforest, secret sandstone caves and swimmable billabongs and waterfalls that most tourist never see.

#7 RT Tours Australia, NT

View to Simpsons Gap – Rrengetyirpe

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How about a traditional Indigenous dinner under the clearest of night skies in Alice Springs? With RT Tours, local Arrernte guide, Bob Taylor, takes you for a ride along the western MacDonnell Ranges. You can go for lunch or dinner, but it’s hard to pass up sipping a drink while watching the sun set and change the colour of the rocks around you.

He’ll prepare you a three-course meal in a bush oven, featuring traditional local flavours. He’ll show teach you a bit about his cooking style and traditional bush foods while he’s at it.

#8 Walk About Adventures, Daintree

 

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If you’ve ever crossed the river north of Cairns into the ancient Port Douglas Daintree Rainforest, then you’ve experienced the deep feeling of awe it inspires and you won’t be shocked to discover it’s a got a very long heritage.

As a 100% Indigenous-owned and -operated tour company, Walk About Adventures help you learn more about the significance of this stunning corner of our country, guiding your around this Kuku Yalanji country and teaching you about the environment, how to find bush food and medicines and about the local cultural heritage and traditions.

#9 Taste Of Kakadu, NT

 

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This 10-day traditional food festival celebrates Kakadu‘s cuisine, culture and country. Taste Of Kakadu will not only feed you — with degustation dinners, no less — but also let you study the landscape that inspired local Indigenous dishes, and learn to forage for yourself. It brings a whole new take on farm-to-plate.

While the 2020 festival was cancelled due to Covid, it’s expected to return next May. Check the website for details.

#10 GARMA Festival

 

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1000 kilometres east of Darwin, you’ll find Gove Peninsula — the site of annual GARMA festival. Established by the Yothu Yindi Foundation, it’s a four days celebration of the Yolngu people and their rich cultural heritage.

From language workshops to astronomy tours to arts and crafts workshops to a chance to listen to ancient storytelling and so much more — you’ll leave with a much deeper understanding of Australia’s Indigenous people.

Held every August, the next festival dates are set for July 30 to August 2, 2021.

#11 Tiwi Islands Art Centre Tour, Tiwi Islands

 

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Book a permit, then take a two-and-a-half hour ferry from Darwin over to Wurrumiyanga in the Tiwi Islands. Once there, you can visit town’s main art centre and even meet the local artists of Bathurst Island  — a place that’s famous for its carvings and textile designs –and watch them craft their work.

Here you’ll find a culture that’s lived in isolation for about 7000 years, with a Polynesia influence that makes it unique from even the Indigenous cultures of the mainland.

#12 Parrtjima — A Festival in Light, Alice Springs

 

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As the only authentic Aboriginal light festival of its kind, Parrtjima is an unmissable, 10-night festival. Against the already epic backdrop of the MacDonnell Ranges, you can wander through music and light installations and join live talks and events from a number Aboriginal artists.

Held each April, the next festival dates are locked in for April 9 to 18 in 2021. You can find more details and keep up to date over on their website.

(Lead Image: Instagram / @jackieallenyoga)