“Can you tell me another story?” my son asks shyly as my daughter runs the spiky flowers of a callistemon brush through the lengths of her hair. Jenny, founder of Galamban Extraordinary Aboriginal Culture Experiences and a member of the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community in Jervis Bay, happily acquiesces, sharing an enchanting yarn of how the land and the people were created by ancestral spirit brothers who took the form of wind and sea. While my wee Gumnut Baby is distracted by the pretty fern frond crown Jenny has kindly crafted to keep the sun off her little face, my spellbound boy laps up every word – as do I, adding them to the mental box of treasures I’ve been collecting since I was their age.
A connection to Australia’s Indigenous peoples and culture has never not been a part of my life. As a child, I listened with rapt attention to my father’s stories of his teenage adventures going “bush” in the Northern Territory to witness ceremonies and lore sacred to the men of the Larrakia language group. A seaman who found himself in Darwin at the end of the troubled 1950s, when Australia’s First Nations people were yet to be even officially recognised and the government’s removal policies were in full swing, my dad rejected the enforced divide. Instead, he embraced the culture of the Larrakia people as readily as they embraced him.
Having passed on the wayfarer gene, dad proudly waved me on when, at 17 and straight out of school, I hightailed it north in a beat-up old Kingswood. While confronted by the reality of my own privilege, I too connected with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Songlines – traditional storylines that cross the country connecting geographical and sacred sites in Aboriginal culture.
Connected to country
Having made the same commitment to raising my own children to understand the importance of connection and reconciliation, listening, learning and engaging with evolving Indigenous culture is now an everyday part of our travels. From one-on-one lessons in playing the didge and crafting tools from native bush materials to filling bellies with bush tucker and waxing philosophic on the true shared history of our country, the openness and generous spirit of First Nations people has led my kids on a path of connection to country and treasured friendships.
Genuine Indigenous experiences are now easier to access than ever with Tourism Australia’s Discover Aboriginal Experiences collective, a carefully curated collection of extraordinary experiences showcasing the world’s oldest living culture through the cornerstones of cultural insight, authenticity and meaningful connection.
Tourism Australia managing director, Phillipa Harrison, says: “Visiting Uluru, the spiritual heart of Australia, and learning about the culture and history of the Anangu people has been one of the most inspiring and rewarding experiences I’ve had in Australia. While Uluru itself is awe-inspiring from any angle, hearing the stories and traditions of the region from the local people is what makes this experience so profound.”
But beyond the obvious allure of Uluru, every part of Australia is Aboriginal country, and every part of that country has stories and experiences unique to it. And when you consider that the Indigenous peoples of Australia have danced, sung and recorded their stories on rock faces for a mind-boggling 60,000 years, there are many tales to be heard. Discover Aboriginal Experiences are led by local Indigenous guides who live, breathe and dream it every day and are waiting to share those stories and a culture that belongs only to them.
“It is something that I encourage Australians to experience for themselves through one of the incredible tourism operators and experiences offered by our Discover Aboriginal Australia collection,” says Phillipa.
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