Discover Indigenous Australia in the heart of Melbourne

by Stephanie 24/09/2010 14:59:00

Discover Indigenous culture - right
in the heart of Melbourne!

One of the great things about taking a gap year in Australia is discovering a new culture and a different way of looking at things. To get a real look at the culture, history and ties to the land try going walkabout with an Indigenous guide.

The Melbourne central business district around the Yarra River was once a vibrant wetland; its skyscrapers were large river gums, tenanted by sugar gliders.

In fact, near what is now Southbank, where modern Melburnians feast on their sushi and burgers and sip their cappuccinos, the original Australians gathered for trade and fellowship in a wetland f bulrushes, swamp wallabies and rainbow lorikeets.

With a little imagination and an Indigenous guide, you can take a walkabout back into time and see Melbourne through the eyes of an original Australian!

Walkin’ Birrarung (meaning 'river of mists') is a two-hour tour back to the ancestral lands of the five tribes of the Kulin, the collective name for the south-eastern Aboriginal People.

Tour guide Dean Stewart greets walkers with a warm "womin jeka", or “welcome to my beautiful country” and leads the group in a brief moment of recognition of the traditional owners before setting off. To get your imagination started, Dean uses a series of paintings and sketches by early settlers depicting the area to show the contrast between then and now.

The two-hour tour begins at Enterprize Park where you will follow the river upstream, stopping at significant sites and landmarks to the Kulin people and the colonial settlement of Melbourne. The tour ends at Princes Bridge and Federation Square but a short walk further on into Birrarung Marr and the new ‘Common Ground’ Aboriginal public art space is an optional but very worthwhile addition.

As well as the Walkin’ Birrarung tour there is also an introduction to Koorie Culture tour, to give you an insight into south-eastern Indigenous culture.

These tours are projects of the Koorie Heritage Trust, a mid-city cultural centre in Melbourne where you can learn more about Indigenous life, beliefs and history. There are more than 4000 artefacts, photos and artworks on display, as well as a gift shop (perhaps a postcard for mum? Hay, I’m just saying!), and a modern gallery showcasing Koorie artists.

You can find out more information about Koorie culture and where to join the tour at

- See the real Australia with an Australian Working Holiday.

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