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Connect to Country

Dating back at least 60,000 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are one of the most distinct, unique and diverse aspects of the Australian story.

Just as travel opens doors to new experiences, Indigenous travel experiences can open the door to greater awareness and the opportunity to change perceptions of Australia’s oldest living culture. 

Including the Aboriginal peoples of mainland Australia and Tasmania, and the Torres Strait Islander peoples from the islands north of Queensland’s Cape York, Australia’s Indigenous population is composed of more than 250 nation/language groupings (AIATSIS). While unified by a shared connection to Country (ancestral lands) and community, each group has its own cultural practices, protocols and traditions. This results in an incredibly diverse array of experiences for adventure seekers, cultural enthusiasts, foodies and nature lovers across the country, with no two tourism offerings the same. 

As Indigenous travel continues to develop and include accessibility and inclusiveness in its programs, the good times will roll for the diverse community of disabled people.

New South Wales

Wiradjuri Cultural Tour with a Bush Tucka tasting

Orange is located in the Central Tablelands region of New South Wales, about a 3.5-hour drive west of Sydney. Renowned for its food and cool-climate wine, the town has its fair share of foodie festivals.

Making its mark in the food scene here is Indigenous Cultural Adventures cultural tours which include Bush Tucka tastings and is hosted and guided by local Wiradjuri Elders. 

The Wiradjuri nation has been deeply rooted in the Orange region and its surrounding districts for over 50,000 years. On a tour guests will explore the rich and vibrant culture of the area, while visiting ceremonial sites and other sites of cultural significance in the region.

A visit to the gardens is a sensory exploration – smell, taste and touch native plants and foods. Learn how to use the fragrant herbs and flowers from the knowledgeable guides in the peaceful aromatic ambience as you stroll around the plants. There is wheelchair access to all parts of the garden including garden beds that are wicker beds for easy access for wheelchair users.

A group of people - including people using white canes and guide dogs - gathered around a garden listening to an Indigenous guide
Everyone has the opportunity to sample bush tucker with Indigenous Cultural Adventures in Orange, NSW.

South Australia

Walking on Country with Kool Tours

The Fleurieu Peninsula near Adelaide boasts amazing wineries, pretty towns, historical attractions and a rugged and wild coastline. Kool Tours based here will share with you the life and the history of the local tribes of southern South Australia.

Two tours, the Walking on Country: Yundi Tour and Port Elliot (Ratalang) Tour, will introduce you to native bush food and medicine, dreaming stories, and include smoking ceremonies. 

Walk and talk and have knowledge shared as trees and plants are touched, and learn about how to advocate and practice environmental protection and work towards a sustainable future for everyone. 

A group of people - including people with low vision using aids like white canes and guide dogs - gathered outdoors learning about traditional Indigenous food and medicine
Kool Tours offers everyone the opportunity to learn about bush food and medicine.
Stay at the other-worldly Wilpena Pound (Ikara)

Around 430-kilometres north of Adelaide is Wilpena Pound Resort in the dramatic Flinders Range – the only accommodation within the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park.

The resort, owned and operated by the Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners, offers a range of guided Aboriginal cultural tours that include 4WD tours to visit 550 million-year-old fossil sites and ancient rock engravings, walking tours to Old Wilpena Station and scenic flights over extraordinary Wilpena Pound, an 800 million-year-old natural Amphitheatre.

At the resort there are four accessible bedrooms with ensuite. 4WD tours can accommodate some wheelchair users but need assistance in getting into the cabins.

Victoria

Aboriginal Heritage Walk on Koolin Land

In Melbourne’s oasis that is the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria – said to be one of the world’s leading botanic gardens – visitors can tour the ancestral lands of the Eastern Kulin Nation, led by an Indigenous guide on the Aboriginal Heritage Walk.

Beginning with a traditional smoking ceremony, visitors will deepen their understanding of Aboriginal customs by learning about traditional uses of plants for food, tools and medicine. The tour is guided and fully hosted, and the terrain is wheelchair accessible. And to finish off the tour there’s a fragrant cup of lemon myrtle tea to refresh you.

Two visitors and an Indigenous guide on the Aboriginal Heritage Walk looking up at green tree canopy
Tour the ancestral lands of the Eastern Kulin nation on an Aboriginal Heritage Walk. Credit: Tourism Australia

Queensland

Learn about Country at Cooya Beach

For an unforgettable, traditional experience, just a 15 minutes north of Port Douglas to beautiful Cooya Beach (Kuyu Kuyu), a special place and fishing grounds of the Kuku Yalanji people and home to Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours. This coastal location has three diverse ecosystems – beach, mangroves and coastal reef – that are connected to each other by the ever-changing mudflats and tidal lagoons.

Join one of the Kubirri Warra guides on their beach, mudflat and mangrove walk. Learn how to throw a spear (if your abilities and needs allow) and take spiritual walks along the coastal mangroves with brothers, Linc and Brandon Walker. They the traditions of their ancestors by educating visitors about their traditional Country.

For people with limited mobility or low vision, there are gentle adaptive activities, including the art of beach sitting – and if you’re lucky, touching turtles. The ground at present is rough and there are many tree roots and snags, so this experience is not suitable for wheelchair users.

A woman having face paint applied by an Indigenous guide at Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours
Participate in an unforgettable traditional experience with Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat tours.

Northern Territory

Bush tucker with a modern twist

What would a holiday be without a shopping excursion? Aboriginal Bush Traders Café and Gallery is where the action is.

There’s plenty of room to move through the shop where the 100% not-for-profit company offers up splendid quality goods such as: art works, bush foods, beauty products, homewares and fashion.

After splashing the cash, enjoy the café and dishes that have a unique, bush tucker twist including kangaroo burgers, chicken and lemon myrtle mayo toasties. Bush foods are the showcase of the menu.

A table set with Australian fauna decorations and a plate of damper and bush tomatoes
Enjoy a meal with a bush tucker twist at Aboriginal Bush Traders Cafe & Gallery.

Australian Capital Territory

Canberra

Totally accessible and inclusive is the superb National Gallery of Australia (NGA). There, you can enjoy National Indigenous Art Triennial: Ceremony, which will see more than 35 artists from around Australia showcase the centrality of ceremony in their work. This extraordinary exhibition is a vital and exciting show of Indigenous art. The National Indigenous Art Triennial is the National Gallery of Australia’s flagship exhibition series.

Led by a First Nations curator, the exhibition brings together commissioned work by established and emerging First Nations artists from across Australia, creating an important platform for art and ideas.

Choose your own adventure and go at your own pace with a self-drive tour through Ngunnawal Country with Canberra Tracks. Journey through this scenic area which served as a meeting place for the Ngunnawal people. Stop off at significant sites and points of interest along the way to learn the Aboriginal story of the nation’s capital and feel a sense of connection to its past, present and future. One of the highlights includes Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, where you’ll find the oldest known inhabited rock shelter, dating back to the end of the last ice age more than 25,000 years ago.

A woman standing in front of an exhibit of Aboriginal art at the National Gallery of Australia
Immerse yourself in Indigenous art and history at the National Gallery of Australia. Credit: Tourism Australia

Western Australia

Explore Dreaming with Wula Gura Nyinda

Real adventure begins amid turquoise waters and bright red sand in Western Australia’s Shark Bay. The land and the sea here is home to an array of wildlife and ancient geology, and Wula Gura Nyinda offers a range of non-strenuous ‘on country’ activities for visitors. 

You can explore the ancient cultural sites of the region’s first people, Nhanda and Malgana Aboriginal People, with several tours for the ‘well-balanced’, including a double kayak which is stable and easy to paddle (this is a few hours on the water).

The Didgeridoo Dreaming Tour would suit most capabilities and includes a welcome to Country with a smoking ceremony, sitting around the beach campfire under the night sky, learning about the deep spiritual connection between local Aboriginal people and enjoying the taste of local seafood or bush tucker cooked on the campfire. You can even learn to play the didgeridoo (for men only) and conch shell (for women).

There is a short walk involved but the staff have worked visitors who are blind or who have low vision to attend this tour.

Close up of hands preparing food by an outdoor campfire on a beach
Wula Gura Nyinda offers a range of non-strenuous activities for visitors to connect with Country. Credit: Elements Margaret River

Tasmania

Hobart

Visit the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery and learn the history of past and present members of this Aboriginal community. The ningina tunapri gallery, plays home to a permanent exhibition which explores and celebrates all Tasmanian Aboriginal generations. Be sure to make time for the permanent exhibition Our land: parrawa, parrawa! Go away!, an immersive experience that recounts the story of the invasion of lutruwita (Tasmania) focusing on the Black War.

The gallery welcomes people with specific access needs.

Two people looking at exhibits at the Tasmanian Art Gallery with lowered signage and circulation space
Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery welcomes visitors with access needs. Credit: Tourism Australia

This feature was published in partnership with Tourism Australia. It appeared first in Travel Without Limits – you can subscribe to the magazine here.

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