Australia’s Aboriginal History and Heritage

A beautifully lit open-air pavilion amongst the trees at Flames of the Forest.
Enjoy some traditional dances, which all tell stories, while having dinner at Flames of the Forest near Port Douglas. Photo courtesy of Flames of the Forest.

When you’re rushing to see what the country has to offer, looking around The Rocks in Sydney and going through the museums, it is easy to forget that this is only the modern history of Australia. There is another history to explore that reaches far back into the past—the indigenous people of Australia are reportedly one of the oldest cultures in the world. Apart from the beautiful art, many visitors do not get any closer to learning about the Aboriginal peoples and their culture and tradition. Here are a few tips to experience a little more of Australia’s true history.

  • Australian Aboriginal art is the longest continuing art tradition in the world and an economic mainstay of the Aboriginal community. Galleries offer the typical dot paintings and other pieces of art. It is a souvenir that is truly unique to Australia, so go ahead and buy a piece, but try to go to galleries that are owned and run by Aboriginal people to ensure your money heads off into the right direction. Try the Janbal Gallery in Mossman, which is excellent and independently run by Aboriginal people.
  • The knowledge of the flora and fauna of this country is what made the Aboriginal people so successful as a long-standing culture (until the Europeans came along, at any rate), and learning about the plants and animals goes a long way to understanding a little more about the culture. At Cooya Beach just north of Port Douglas, you can go walkabout with two local Kubirri Warra guides with The Bama Way and learn how to spear fish on the mudflats and mangroves; you’ll also learn about the wildlife, their people, and their culture and heritage.
  • If you are going to Kuranda by Skyrail, then make sure you stop off for the Djabugay Aboriginal Guided Tour, on which you go for a brief walk through the dense rainforest while your local guide points out specific plants and roots, telling you about their significance, healing properties, and other uses, all the while entertaining you with local stories and legends.
  • The Dreamtime Legend Walk at Mossman Gorge starts with a traditional smoking ceremony and takes a small group to sacred sites on Kuku Yalanji land, where you see traditional huts and hear dreamtime stories.
  • To enjoy some of the traditional dances, which all tell stories, have dinner at Flames of the Forest near Port Douglas, a thoroughly enchanting experience under the stars in the rainforest, with fire and pretty lights illuminating the tented venue and the forest and river behind it, creating a magical setting, a perfect setting for dances and music.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Sydney & the Great Barrier Reef.