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Nine First Nations-Led Cultural Experiences to Have in NSW If You're Seeking a Deeper Connection to Country

Traverse modern and ancient landmarks with Indigenous guides to understand a culture that spans millennia.
By Olivia Gee
May 27, 2022
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By Olivia Gee
May 27, 2022
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NINE FIRST NATIONS-LED CULTURAL EXPERIENCES TO HAVE IN NSW IF YOU'RE SEEKING A DEEPER CONNECTION TO COUNTRY

in partnership with

Traverse modern and ancient landmarks with Indigenous guides to understand a culture that spans millennia.

First Nations cultural currents run deep across Australia, marking the landscape with diverse history and meaning from its glistening coastlines, across the mountains and out to the expansive desert plains. With more than 60,000 years of human experience to contemplate, the best way to learn about this living history is by seeking guidance from the Traditional Custodians of the lands.

Join First Nations tour operators and guides on these nine experiences that will take you across New South Wales on knowledge-seeking journeys.

  • 9
    Burrawa Bridge Climb

    Scaling the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a breathtaking experience — both because of the stunning views and the 1332 steps it takes to reach the summit. But to fully appreciate this icon and the surrounding region, you need to understand the Indigenous culture and history it stands within. Burrawa, meaning ‘upwards’ or ‘above’ in local language, is a bridge climb led by Indigenous tour guides.

    As you ascend the Coathanger, your guide will explain the significance of Indigenous landmarks around the harbour, share local Dreamtime stories and detail the history of prominent First Nations figures, like Bennelong, Barangaroo and Patyegarang, who interacted with early European colonists, sharing knowledge, language and resistance.

    Image: Destination NSW

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  • 8
    Tribal Warriors Cultural Cruises

    For more than 20 years, Redfern-based social enterprise Tribal Warriors has been hosting programs focused on health and wellbeing, family dynamics and employment opportunities to improve the lives of First Nations people. To help support these efforts, Tribal Warriors run tours and provide cultural performances for events.

    Its vessel, Mari Nawi or ‘Big Canoe’, regularly tours the harbour for one-off events, but you can enquire any time to join the Cultural Cruise. This informative journey provides insight into pre-colonial Indigenous coastal lifestyles as you pass harbour landmarks and learn their significance to the Gadigal, Guringai, Wangal, Gammeraigal and Wallumedegal people. It includes a stop at Be-lang-le-wool (Clark Island) and could feature surprise cultural performances.

    Image: Destination NSW 

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  • 7
    Coomee Nulunga Cultural Trail

    This 3.1-kilometre walking loop in Ulladulla winds through windswept bushlands that give way to sweeping coastal vistas as you stride towards the lookout at Warden Head. A windblown sculpture of Corroboree man, Bulan Yuin, greets amblers at the start of the track which follows the path of Dreamtime story creator, the Rainbow Serpent.

    As you move along the trail you’ll encounter Garawanda Daran or ‘dreaming poles’ which depict native flora and fauna and their Aboriginal names. You can organise an Indigenous tour guide through the Ulladulla Local Aboriginal Land Council to join you along the route, so you can learn more about Dhurga language, edible plants in the area and the rich Indigenous history of the site.

    Image: Warden Head Lighthouse, darlingtrk via Flickr

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  • 6
    Yuin Retreat

    Head to Yuin Country, heartland of the Djiringanj people, for two nights and days of traditional ceremonies, journeys to significant sites and First Nations dining experiences. Run by Aboriginal owned and operated group, Ngaran Ngaran Culture Awareness, this enlightening south coast retreat offers flexible experiences, led by First Nations guides, through Narooma, Mystery Bay, Tilba and Bermagui.

    The order of events will depend on the weather and group preference, but you can expect to take part in cooking workshops, walks on Country, traditional wellness sessions and sound healing workshops, as well as fireside yarning circles to reflect on the knowledge gained during these activities. Depending on availability and tour group numbers (from two to eight people), your nights will be spent in private bell tents, cabins or beach house accommodation.

    Image: Destination NSW 

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  • 5
    Firescreek Aboriginal Storytelling and Wine Tasting Experience

    Small scale organic winery Firescreek pairs an exploration of Indigenous tradition with a tasting of its native botanical-influenced wines for this unique cellar door experience. As you get comfortable among the manicured rainforest gardens, a local Aboriginal Elder will lead a discussion about Indigenous traditions and heritage before performing on the didgeridoo and showcasing edible plants local to the Central Coast.

    Following this, a Firescreek winemaker will walk you through the biodynamic practices at the vineyard, which incorporates fruit growing and native permaculture. You’ll get to taste a run of Firecreek’s current vintages and test your palate detecting native flavours.

    Image: Destination NSW

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  • 4
    Bundyi Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge Motorcycle Tour

    Join experienced guide and Wiradjuri man Mark Saddler on a ride-along motorcycle excursion around the diverse landscape of Wagga Wagga. Along the open road, you’ll learn about the culturally significant sites and heritage of Wiradjuri Country while seeking out bush tucker and the local native wildlife.

    You can dedicate a full day to the experience, including lunch and a drink at a local winery for $285 per person. Or, opt for the highlights on the half-day tour for $145 per-person. Remember: this is a BYO motorbike tour and riders will need to be fully licensed and insured to tag along.

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  • 3
    Ngumpie Weaving Workshop

    Barkindtji, Yorta Yorta and Dhudaroah artist Tegan Murdock was taught to weave by her mother. Now she is sharing this special craft in workshops that create conversations about culture and Indigenous experience while providing a meditative space to work with your hands.

    At a Ngumpie Weaving workshop you’ll start with the basics to create an intricately woven basket. Murdock’s visits workplaces, schools and homes to set up her sessions but she also runs them remotely so you can organise a class via Zoom with all the materials provided beforehand. And if you want more Indigenous weaving in your life, check out Murdock’s beautiful woven jewellery, wall hangings and starter kits available online at Ngumpie Weaving.

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  • 2

    Formerly used as grazing land, the regenerated leafy spot along Byron Creek in Bangalow Parklands is home to a forest of native plants important to the Bundjalung people. On this bush tucker tour, local First Nations guide Delta Kay will take you through the uses of each plant you encounter, whether edible, medicinal or used for making jewellery, tools and weapons. Over a bush tea, biscuits and some of the local bounty, she’ll share local Indigenous history and traditions passed down from her ancestors.

    You can join a tour each Thursday from 4pm, including pick-ups and drop-offs within six kilometres of Byron Bay CBD. The tour costs $65 per person.

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  • 1
    Aboriginal Cultural Centre & Keeping Place

    Stop in at the Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place on your next northern NSW adventure. You’ll be met with two galleries featuring art and crafts from local and regional Indigenous creators, as well as a cosy cafe and gift shop. The centre is also home to a permanent collection of donated artworks, a history section detailing the work of the centre and an archaeological room displaying a significant collection of wooden and stone artefacts.

    Tours through each collection can be organised for greater insight into the minds and meanings behind the items on display. If you get in touch ahead of time, the centre can also organise workshops in Indigeous painting and cooking plus bush tucker walks.

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If you are looking for more places to feel a sense of connection in New South Wales, head to visitnsw.com.

Top image: Bangalow Bush Tucker Tour

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