Experiencing Australia’s Aboriginal Heritage

aboriginal cultureAustralia’s Aboriginal heritage is an imperative aspect of the country’s history and culture. When travelling to Australia, visitors often discount the importance of Aboriginal culture to the development of the country’s present day values and traditions. Similarly, many Australians bypass the significance of the ancestors of our land in current constructions of who and what we are as a country. Therefore, appreciating the significance of Aboriginal heritage in Australia is an imperative of all inhabitants and travellers. One way in which this can be achieved is by visiting the most significant Aboriginal heritage sites and communities in the country.

Aboriginal History

Australia’s indigenous culture is one of the oldest in the world, dating back 50,000-65,000 years. The preservation of Aboriginal communities can be attributed to their ability to adapt and change with the passage of time and their continued passing down of knowledge, arts, rituals and performances through the generations. Elders speak and teach languages to younger generations, and protect cultural materials, sacred and significant sites and objects.

There were about 600 different clan groups or nations of Aboriginal people around Australia when European settlers arrived. The preservation of aboriginal communities’ sacred sites, dreamtime stories, performance ceremonies and  visual arts is key to preserving this ancient and precious culture. Aboriginal tourism has recently emerged as an industry. Through the provision of tours that promote Aboriginal culture and lifestyle, tourists can witness firsthand the rich cultural experience Aboriginal communities offer.

Aboriginal Heritage Sites

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory is the foremost site of Aboriginal cultural tourism in Australia.

Uluru – also known as the red centre, the red monolith or Ayers Rock – is easily the symbol of Aboriginality in Australia and is the doorstep to some of the most ancient and emblematic Aboriginal sites in the country. Tours around Alice Springs allow you to witness the red centre firsthand, and take part in a safari or peer into Aboriginal tradition with the help of arts and other structures. In Alice Springs, be sure to check out the Aboriginal Art Store to experience how Aboriginal artists have passed down their unique and impressive artistic skills through the generations.

The Northern Territory also offers the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park (believed to have 5000 significant rock art sites), the Katherine Gorge and Tennant Creek as ideal sites to visit to experience authentic Aboriginal culture, whether it be in the past or the present.

Aboriginal Sites in the Sydney Region

Sydney surrounds offer a myriad of Aboriginal sites that will give you great insight into Aboriginal Art and Culture. Sites around the Blue Mountains and Sydney’s North Shore are are ideal Aboriginal heritage sites for those who are pressed for time or on a budget. The Sydney region is home to more than 5,500 rock engraving sites, with over 600 of these situated in the inner area of Sydney.

The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains is a unique and iconic site that is named after the Aboriginal dream-time legend, involving three sisters: Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo. There are also a number of noteworthy burial grounds, quarry sites, rock shelters in the greater Sydney region, including Port Hacking, Balls Head and Hunter Valley.

Aboriginal Rock Art

Aboriginal rock art is by far one of the most important and noteworthy remains of ancient Aboriginal heritage visible in Australia today.

The most prolific and well-known sites to witness ancient Aboriginal rock art include: the Burrup Peninsula and Woodstock Abydos reserves in Western Australia, which are some of the oldest and largest open-air rock sites in the world; engravings in the Olary Region of South Australia, which are the oldest dated rock art on Earth; and the Djulirri rock shelter in north-west Arnhem land.

Observing contemporary Aboriginal artwork is also imperative to view how the art form has changed and adapted over years. It is essential that Australians and travellers alike recognise the importance of indigenous Aboriginals to our country’s past and to its future. Supporting the Aboriginal Arts Gallery and Store is key to acknowledging the important role Aboriginal communities have played in the development of the Australian nation and identity. It is vital that we continue to foster and support Aboriginal communities today through Aboriginal tourism and an appreciation of Aboriginal artwork.

About Sam Oldfield

Growing up in Santa Cruz, California, I was a keen surfer and beach junkie from early on. My first overseas trip was to the Caribbean, and I've been chasing the summer sun ever since. I wrapped up my media degree at uni, and decided to move to Australia. The land downunder is full of beaches, babes and brilliant adventures. I'm just hitch-hiking my way around this sunny paradise, one travel blog at a time.
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