Discover one of the oldest surviving cultures on Earth
Australian Aboriginal culture is one of the oldest surviving cultures on Earth, and exploring Aboriginal Australia in the outback offers some of the most fascinating experiences and insights. Join WA’s authentic Indigenous tourism operators and let the traditional land owners show you the wonders of their landscapes and heritage, including some of the oldest rock art in the world.
Ancient rock art and legends
Western Australia’s prolific collection of rock art provides an awe-inspiring glimpse into the spiritual beliefs and cultural heritage of Aboriginal Australia. It’s home to one of the richest prehistoric art galleries on Earth – the Burrup Peninsula, near Dampier – where more than 10,000 rock engravings are showcased, some of which are believed to be 40,000 years old.
Predating the Burrup Peninsula are the world-famous Gyorn Gyorn (or Bradshaw) paintings in the Kimberley. It’s been estimated the paintings date back some 60,000 years – that’s five times older than the Egyptian pyramids, and the oldest Aboriginal rock art in Australia.
Aboriginal art galleries
Whether traditional or contemporary, paintings or drawings, carvings or sculptures, or even song and dance, Aboriginal art celebrates the spirituality of its people and the natural beauty of the land. Many tell the fascinating stories of the Dreaming, when the ancestral spirits created rivers, plants, people, animals and tribal laws, with methods and sources handed down through the generations for thousands of years.
Beyond the main cultural hubs of Perth and Broome, there are many Aboriginal cultural centres and art galleries in remote towns and aboriginal communities supporting, showcasing and selling the work of local, national and internationally-renowned artists. Some will also give you the opportunity to meet the artists in residence.
Head for Laverton in the Gibson Desert north of Kalgoorlie, Derby in the West Kimberley, or Kununurra in the East Kimberley, to name a few.
Contact the local visitor centres for more information.
Indigenous cultural tours
By far the most memorable and fun way to gain an understanding of Australian Aboriginal culture is to join a tour led by local Indigenous guides. Experiences can be as adventurous as a four wheel drive camping tour or as leisurely as a short bushwalk.
Learn how Aboriginal Australians have survived, thrived and lived in harmony with nature in the outback for thousands of years. Go foraging for bushtucker and natural medicines. Try your hand at spear fishing, mud crabbing and traditional hunting techniques. Discover the meanings of local place names, and listen to stories of the Dreaming around a campfire.
Experiences can be found on the outback coast in Esperance, Shark Bay and the Dampier Peninsula north of Broome, and deep in the Kimberley wilderness, at Fitzroy Crossing and along the legendary Gibb River Road.
Following the Warlu Way
Make the journey part of your spiritual experience – join the Warlu Way interpretive trail and follow the path of the warlu, or Dreamtime sea serpent. Traversing 2,480 kilometres through the ancient landscapes of the Pilbara and Kimberley, the trail leads you from Exmouth, through the red heart of the outback, to Broome.
There are also many Aboriginal heritage trails you can explore on foot in the outback towns and national parks of Western Australia. Contact the local visitor centres for trail maps and information.
Aboriginal cultural festivals
Celebrate Australian Aboriginal culture with the locals by joining one of the many outback festivals that fill WA’s events calendar. Derby and Halls Creek in the Kimberley are widely renowned for their festivals, showcasing some of Australia’s finest Indigenous musicians, dancers and artists.
Want to know more about how to find and book authentic Aboriginal cultural tours? Visit the website of Western Australian Indigenous Tourism Operators Council (WAITOC).