Dreamtime Southern X is just one of a growing number of Aboriginal operators in NSW endeavouring to teach visitors about indigenous culture. More than 332,000 international travellers to NSW took part in an Aboriginal cultural experience in the year to March.
It’s an opportunity for the many tribal groups in the state, which is home to Australia’s largest Aboriginal population, to share their culture. Peter Cooley, chief executive of Sydney’s First Hand Solutions Aboriginal Corp, says such enterprises play an important role in encouraging visitors and locals to learn about indigenous traditions.
The corporation’s Blak Markets, held quarterly at Barangaroo on Sydney Harbour, and at La Perouse’s Bare Island on Botany Bay in the city’s south, showcase the work of up to 45 Aboriginalowned small businesses based in NSW and up to 15 remote art centres across Australia.
“The Blak Markets show Aboriginal people there is a future in culture through arts and craft,” Cooley says. “They inspire and motivate our people to learn culture, skills and stories from elders, which are showcased through artefact making, painting, design and cultural performances.” The markets have so far attracted more than 60,000 visitors and generated up to $700,000 for Aboriginal small businesses.
Aboriginal enterprises are also taking off elsewhere in the state. Wagga Wagga’s rich Aboriginal heritage is explained through language, artefacts, bush tucker and stories by Wiradjuri man Mark Saddler during half, full-day and overnight tours with his company, Bundyi Cultural Tours.
Guides at Wajaana Yaam Adventure Tours on the NSW mid-north coast are direct descendants of the world’s first paddle boarders — the Gumbaynggirr saltwater people who lived by the sea. This connection to the ocean is celebrated with an adventure paddle in Coffs Harbour’s Solitary Islands Marine Park.
Further south, at Scotts Head and Gaagal Wanggaan National Park, Unkya Cultural Eco Tours takes guests on a journey through the ocean’s creation story, exploring how the first wave was made and learning about the Gumbaynggirr people’s traditional fish traps and hunting practices on the Gurruuja Juun (Whale Tail) Tour.