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Aboriginal Sydney - a guide for visitors

Updated on March 4, 2015

Learn about Indigenous Australian History and Culture on your visit to Sydney

Many people consider Australia to have a very short history however Aboriginal Australian's have occupied this land for over 60,000 years. Their culture is rich with art and stories that are inspiring and interesting.

While the best place to learn about Aboriginal Culture is in outback Australia any visitor to Sydney should try to include at least one of the places below.

image By Pimlottc (Own work) GFDL via Wikimedia Commons

Australian Museum - an interactive indigenous Australian experience

If you are at all interested in the culture and history of the first Australians then this museum is worth a visit. There is a good range of interactive exhibits that are suitable for both adults and children. Listen to dream time stories, learn about the Stolen Generation, a view a collection of boomerangs, didgeridoos and other artifacts.

The exhibit includes the problems faced by aboriginal communities both in the past and today. Their website has a wealth of information and good background for learning more about indigenous culture.

Key Facts - Australian Museum

When: 9.30am to 5.00pm every day except 25 December

Where: corner of College Street and William Street Sydney - opposite Hyde Park

Why: Large aboriginal cultural collection and lots more

How: short walk from Museum or Town Hall station

Visit Australian Museum websitefor more details.

FIrst encounters garden Royal Botanic Gardens
FIrst encounters garden Royal Botanic Gardens

Cadi Jam Ora: First Encounters Gardens

Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

The Cadi Jam Ora Gardens display the plants used for food and medicine by the Cadigal people, the first inhabitants of this part of Sydney. . A 50 metre long storyline with interpretation panels note historical incidences and are very informative. There is a native shelter, some beautiful grass tress and plenty of signs and labels.

The Aboriginal heritage tours are run every Friday and last for about 1 and half hours. During the tour you learn more about traditional music, dance, food and medicine. You may even get to taste some of the bush foods. Bookings are essential for these tours. Ph 9231 8134

Image taken by author

Key Facts - Royal Botanic Gardens Aboriginal Heritage Tours

When: 10am Fridays (as at Sept 2010)

Where: Walks depart from the Information Counter at the Palm Grove Centre ( see the website for a map)

Why: learn more about the first Australians

How: short walk from Martin Place Station

Visit Royal Botanic Gardens for more details.

There are 3 different types of boomerangs returning, non-returning and ceremonial.

Yiribana Gallery - Art Gallery of New South Wales

Ngarrgoorroon Art Gallery NSW
Ngarrgoorroon Art Gallery NSW

The Yiribana Gallery at the Art Gallery of NSW is home to the largest permanent collection of Indigenous Australian art in Australia and amazingly entry in free! The collection includes both traditional and contemporary works by indigenous artists and features bark painting, sculpture, weaving, prints, photography and watercolours.

If you are interested but are not taking a trip down under try the free online tour

Image taken by author

Key Facts - Art Gallery of NSW

When: Free guided tours of the Aboriginal collection at 11am daily. Gallery open 10-5pm daily and 9pm on Wednesdays

Where: Art Gallery Road, The Domain,

Why: For the free tour and talk on Australian Aboriginal Art

How: short walk from Martin Place Station or Bus 441 from the QVB

Visit Art Gallery of NSW for more details.

Muru Mittigar Cultural Centre - An authentic Indigenous experience only 1 hour from Sydney

I first visited Muru Mittigar a couple of years ago on a half-day "experience". It was great, firstly we learned about the symbols used in Aboriginal art and then painted our own boomerangs. We had a talk about the music and culture, followed by a great BBQ lunch with Kangaroo and emu among other things. After lunch we learnt how to throw a boomerang... mine did not make it back to me so I guess I didn't learn much ;-)

The centre is located near Penrith in Sydney's west. It's a bit of a hike but if you are looking for an authentic aboriginal experience it is really worth the drive. Run by the local aboriginal community there is a good range of arts and crafts and this is a good place to purchase your dijierdoo if you plan to buy one while you are in Oz. Visit their website to see the full range of things you are do at the Muru Mittigar Cultural Centre.

Boomerang painted and image taken by author

Key Facts - Muru Mittigar Cultural Centre

When: Monday to Friday 9-4pm

Where: 89 - 151 Old Castlereagh Road, Castlereagh

Why: paint and throw a boomerang and eat some emu sausages

How: Car is best but can take a train to Penrith and a bus or cab

Visit Muru Mittigar websitefor more details.

At the time of European settlement, Aboriginal people had been living in the Sydney region for at least 40,000 years.

Blue Mountains Walkabout - A Blue Mountains tour with a difference

This tour is highly recommended. It's probably the most complete Aboriginal experience you can get while you are in Sydney. You explore the beautiful Blue Mountains with a local Aboriginal guide who was raised in the area and has spent his life studying the local environment. The tour consists of a 4 hour bushwalk and 3 hours of hands on style activities including bark and body painting, bush tucker tasting and a swim in the billabong in warm weather.

Image website of Blue Mountains Walkabout used with permission

Key Facts - Blue Mountains Walkabout

When: 10.30am Monday to Friday and 10.45 am on weekends

Where: Tour departs from Falconbridge Station in the Blue Mountains.

Why: for a "real" aboriginal experience you will not forget

How: Take the train from Sydney - detailed instructions on the Blue Mountains walkabout website.

Visit Blue Mountains Walkabout for more details.

There are over 100,000 rock art sites in Australia

Aboriginal Rock Carvings - Indigenous Rock art in Sydney's National Parks

There are several examples of rock carvings in the national parks around Sydney.

Berry Island reserve - less than 20 minutes from the city. Gadyan Track and learn the story of the Cammeraigal who used the area as a campsite. Read about this walk on my Sydney Walks page

Another site that can be reached by public transport is the Royal National Park at Bundeena. To get to the park catch the train to Cronulla and ferry to Bundeena. The best examples are at Jibbon Headland, take the walking track from Bundeena to Marley Head. There are signs with descriptions and among the engravings are boomerangs, sharks, fish and whale.

If you have a car there are some amazing engravings at West Head in Kuringai National Park The Basin Engraving Site and The Elvina Engraving Site - are located off West Head Road between Elvina Nature Trail and West Head are all easily accessible and well signposted.

Want more ideas for exploring Aboriginal culture in Sydney? Check out this article on Indigenous Sydney – Exploring Aboriginal Culture on my Sydney blog.

If you know of any other great Aboriginal experiences in Sydney please let me know


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