Australian Aboriginal Culture

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The rich traditions and culture of Indigenous Australians are often overlooked by visitors to Queensland. Experiencing Australian Aboriginal culture is a portal into Queensland’s soul. There was a time when over 100 languages were spoken in Queensland.

As Queensland is the only state that is home to two indigenous cultures, the oldest continual surviving culture on earth, the Australian Aboriginal, and Torres Straits Islanders, taking an aboriginal cultural tour is one of the insightful things to do in Queensland.

From amazing art to bush tucker, ancient landscapes and traditional activities, a journey from the south to the north of the state offers plenty of authentic Australian Aboriginal culture experiences.

Australian Aboriginal Culture Experiences – Queensland

Here are 7 ways of experiencing Queensland’s indigenous culture.

1- GOMA, Brisbane

Begin your journey into Queensland’s indigenous culture at Brisbane’s Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA).

Visiting GOMA is one of the top things to do in Brisbane anyway and in the aboriginal culture gallery, Works in this collection come from all over Australia with Queensland being a key focus.

The Queensland collection has rainforest shields and swords, sculptures from Aurukun, ceramics by Thanakupi, paintings by the Lockhart River Art Gang, fibre works from Yarrabah, Lockhart River, Girringun and Mossman.

The gallery also has a collection of dance sculptures by Torres Strait Island artist Ken Thaiday.

Admission to the gallery is free, except for special exhibitions. 

2- Riverlife Mirrabooka, Brisbane

Award-winning Riverlife Mirrabooka is an aboriginal cultural experience right in the heart of Brisbane.

At Riverlife Mirrabooka descendants of the Nunukul Yuggera Yugimbir and Nugi tribes perform indigenous stories and dances passed on by their forefathers.

They demonstrate traditional fire starting techniques, boomerang throwing, spear throwing, didgeridoo playing and educational talks offering insights into Aboriginal life and history.

Other traditional activities are message stick painting, face painting, clapstick painting and traditional food tasting.

Learn to throw a boomerang or join a traditional dance workshop.

The Yuggera Aboriginal Dancers have performed to audiences around the world, from Queen Elizabeth II to street children in Asia.

3- The Bama Way Journeys, Tropical North Queensland

australian aboriginal culture
Experience Australian Aboriginal culture along the Bama Way. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland & James Fisher/Tourism Australia
australian aboriginal culture
Australian Aboriginal culture comes alive in Queensland’s Bama Way. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland & James Fisher/Tourism Australia

A self-drive journey along the Bama Way from Cairns to the north of Cooktown takes you on a voyage that follows story-lines of the Kuku Yalanji and Guugu Yimithirr peoples.

The Bama Way links three Aboriginal-owned tours operated by the traditional custodians of the local area.

Throw a spear and hunt with the Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours at Cooya Beach, a traditional fishing ground of the Kuku Yalanji Bama.

Or take a guided bush walk in a World Heritage rainforest with the Walker Family from Bloomfield Falls Tour at Wujal Wujal.

4- Rainbow Serpent Tour, Guurrbi Tours, Cooktown

Australian Aboriginal culture
The Rainbow Serpent Tours is a fascinating way to learn about Australian Aboriginal culture. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland & James Fisher/Tourism Australia
australian aboriginal culture
Willie Gordon is a great teacher of Australian Aboriginal culture. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland & Darren Jew

At the northern part of the Bama Way, a date with aboriginal Elder Wilfred (Willie) Gordon, the appointed story-keeper of the Nugal-warra people, will transport you into a world of myths and legends.

In the hills outside Cooktown, Willie’s Rainbow Serpent Tour is a journey through a dramatic landscape.

The tour visits six rock art sites, including the Rainbow Serpent Cave and ancestral Birth Site where Willie’s grandfather was born.

Willie has vast knowledge of the land and shares information about its bush tucker and medicines.

You’ll learn fascinating things about creatures that forecast the weather, leaves that are used as soap and how to interpret snake tracks.

5- Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, Cairns

Australian Aboriginal culture
Learn about Australian Aboriginal culture in Cairns. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland & James Fisher/Tourism Australia

Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) transforms the city into a celebration of art, music and dance.

It’s a showcase of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and indigenous art, where art galleries and Indigenous art centres display art for sale.

There are art exhibitions, talks, demonstrations and theatre shows.

Here are more things to do in Cairns

6- Spirit of Rainforest Tour, Tropical North Queensland

The Spirit of the Rainforest four-hour walk with Ingan Tours is a lesson in nature’s classroom.

You walk in the footsteps of the Aboriginal ancestors and learn on how they used the area’s flora and fauna for food and medicine.

There are visits to sacred places and Dreamtime stories of the Janbanbarra Jirrbal Rainforest people from the Davidson Valley region, which is between Cairns and Townsville.

It’s an opportunity to learn about the beliefs, culture and language.

7- Torres Strait Heritage, Horn Island and Thursday Island

These two Queensland Islands are intriguing to visit.

Walk in the steps of World War II veterans and the traditional people of Torres Strait.

The award-winning Torres Strait Heritage is run by a fifth generation Torres Strait family.

Tours are informative and creative, such as the ‘Garrison Town’ tour of Thursday Island.

The Torres Strait Heritage Museum offers pearling displays and a peek into Torres Strait culture, myths and legends.

australian aboriginal culture
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland & James Fisher/Tourism Australia
australian aboriginal culture
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland & James Fisher/Tourism Australia
Australian Aboriginal Culture

Australian Aboriginal Culture