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Exploring Australia’s Indigenous Culture

The famous didgeridoo invented by Aborigines
An example of the famous didgeridoo, among the many examples of a rich culture, invented by Aborigines.

My boyhood in Melbourne in the 1950s was spent with little thought for the Wurundjeri, the original inhabitants of this region. The official “White Australia Policy” heavily restricted immigration, and the Aborigines, who had roamed the land unhindered for 50,000 years before the arrival of Europeans, were not even included in the national census.

One of the important changes in Australia in recent years has been the increased access to Aboriginal culture in and near the Australian cities. It is no longer necessary to travel thousands of miles into the outback to understand and share the life and culture of Australia’s original inhabitants. Aboriginal artists are flourishing and now have numerous outlets for their work. For example, the Original and Authentic Aboriginal Art Galleries in Melbourne and Sydney specialize in traditional and contemporary paintings by indigenous artists.

The Bangarra Dance Theatre is a highly successful indigenous dance group, performing regularly in the important arts venues in Australia and abroad.

The Melbourne Museum features as one of its major exhibits Bunjilaka, meaning “home of Bunjil, the creator” in Woiwurong, the language of the Wurundjeri.

At the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary, 25 miles from the heart of Melbourne, the description of many of the animals and plants includes the Woiwurong name. The Sanctuary plans to expand into an adjacent parcel of land, Coranderrk, where guided tours will show the importance of the land and its people.

Halls Gap, a small township situated 160 miles northwest of Melbourne, is a place in the middle of the Grampians National Park where Aborigines have lived for at least 5,000 years. The 650 square miles of park is a paradise for bush walkers and a haven for many species of Australian wild life. The park also contains the majority of Aboriginal rock art sites in southeast Australia.

Brambuk the National Park & Cultural Centre has displays of art, clothing, tools, and weapons relating to the history and culture of the Aborigines of the region. It also provides tours of the rock art sites and stages regular performances where indigenous dancers perform their corroborees (or tribal dances) to the pulsating sound of the didgeridoo (a hollow wooden wind instrument now gaining popularity among non-indigenous Australians).

For More Information

Melbourne Area is a website that explores Australian wildlife and bushland with an indigenous flavor.

Sydney Area

Aboriginal Sydney: A Guide to Important Places of the Past and Present by Melinda Hinkson is also an alternative social history told though 50 places of significance to Sydney's Indigenous people. Meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated to describe and evoke Sydney’s ancient past.

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