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7 incredible Aboriginal experiences that will change your view of Sydney

You don’t have to travel to the outback to encounter Aboriginal culture.

These Sydney Aboriginal Tours will take you on a cultural journey, uncovering the history of Australia from a perspective that’s not often in the guidebooks.

The tours cover everything from culture to food art and crafts. They will leave you in awe of our strong First Nations people.

Image credit: Destination NSW

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 offer insights into the local Gadigal Aboriginal people’s deep spiritual connection with the waters and land of Sydney Harbour.

Sydney Aboriginal Tours
Margret Campbell of Dreamtime Southern X leading a guided Aboriginal cultural tour in Sydney. Credit: Destination NSW

Learn about Sydney’s original inhabitants

Established in 1916, Sydney’s harbourside Royal Botanic Garden is a slice of lush vegetation in the centre of the city. For the Gadigal people, the history of the garden’s land extends back over millennia.

On the Garden’s 90-minute Aboriginal Culture Tour, an Aboriginal guide will introduce you to dozens of native plants used for food and medicine and making tools.

You’ll even get to taste some traditional bush foods along the way. These Sydney Aboriginal tours run most Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10am.

Sydney botanic gardens
Sydney Harbour from the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney. Credit: Destination NSW

Shop an authentic Aboriginal market

Sydney’s renowned Blak Market is a vibrant marketplace filled with stalls selling Aboriginal art and craft, clothes, jewellery, bush foods and beauty products.

Held eight times throughout the year, the Blak Market also has live Indigenous performers, cultural presentations and art workshops.

This is a pop-up market. Visit the Blak Markets website to find the exact location for your specific dates.

Immerse yourself in Aboriginal art

The Museum of Contemporary Art in The Rocks has a significant collection of Indigenous art sourced from across Australia. The collection includes paintings, sculpture and photography.

Yiribana Gallery at the Art Gallery of NSW is one of the largest spaces dedicated to Indigenous art in Australia.

The Australian Museum, opposite Hyde Park, houses written texts, images and artefacts that champion the diversity of Aboriginal Australia and trace the devastating impact of European society on Indigenous cultures.

Sydney botanic gardens
Sydney Harbour from the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney. Credit: Destination NSW

Discover the power of Aboriginal dance

Sydney-based Bangarra is an award-winning contemporary Aboriginal dance company. Bangarra is a Wiradjuri word  meaning “to make fire”. And this Sydney Aboriginal tour will certainly ignite the imagination.

Bangarra’s visually striking performances feature a cast of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers, directors and performers to tell moving, authentic stories. The powerful performances dig deep into Aboriginal culture and explore pressing social themes.

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 was named after an 18th-century Cammeraygal Aboriginal woman.

The first written account of Barangaroo (1790) describes her as a woman in her early 40s, worldly and wise. Her first husband died from smallpox. Colonists kidnapped her second husband, Bennelong in 1789 and kept him shackled for months.

In history books, Bennelong is known for “befriending” the colonists and dressing in European clothes. That record and his motivation are up for interpretation. Bennelong Point, the site of the Sydney Opera House was named after him.

Barangaroo was a skilled fisherwoman who provided for her clan with fish caught in Sydney harbour. Early reports suggest she was outraged when she witnessed the settlers pulling 4000 salmon from the waterway in one day. The Cammeraygal never took more than they needed.

In 1791, Barangaroo died shortly after giving birth. After a traditional cremation ceremony with her fishing gear, Bennelong spread his wife’s ashes in Governor Phillip’s garden, the present-day Circular Quay.

The Barangaroo Aboriginal Cultural Tour explores the six-hectare Barangaroo Reserve and its 75,000 Australian native trees and shrubs. With the help of an Aboriginal educator, you’ll learn of the long history of the area and its importance to the local Gadigal people. The tour will also give you more of an insight into Barangaroo and Bennalong and how their lives changed with the arrival of Europeans.

Learn how to throw a boomerang

At the Muru Mittigar Cultural Education Centre in Rouse Hill, a 45-minute drive north of Sydney, you’ll learn all about the fascinating boomerang.

The Aboriginal weapon is curved on one side and flat on the other, giving it a unique aerodynamic drag that brings it back to the thrower. Indigenous Australians also used boomerangs as percussion instruments and painted them for use in ceremonies.

On this Sydney Aboriginal tour, you’ll learn about the cultural significance of the boomerang to the Darug Aboriginal people of the outer Sydney region.  And you will get a chance to test your throwing skills.

Sydney Aboriginal Tours

This article was produced with content supplied by Destination NSW and is a Signature Luxury Travel & Style digital exclusive. Be the first to see more exclusive online content by subscribing to the enewsletter.

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