Experience Aboriginal Culture in Western Australia
Published Wednesday, June 27, 2018 in Talking Local
Do you know what the world’s oldest living culture is? It’s the Aboriginals of Australia, and their origins are thought to date back more than 50,000 years.
There are still plenty of people throughout the country practicing the old ways of their ancestors, and you can experience it first-hand with a tour. Visitors to the South-West and Great Southern regions are welcomed with open arms to learn about the food, medicine, language, art and stories that have kept the culture alive for many millennia.
Aboriginal history in the region
The South-West of Western Australia has been home to the Noongar people for an extraordinary amount of time. The territory stretches out in a large triangle from Geraldton, 400km north of Perth, to Cape Leeuwin in the south-west and then over to Esperance in the south-east, a 700km drive from Perth.
The Noongar are made up of many different groups, including the Wadandi, Goreng, Bibbulmun (you might recognise this name from the world-famous Bibbulmun Track, named after the local people) and Mineng.
Joey Williams, Aboriginal Elder and the operator of Poornarti Aboriginal Tours, leads tours around significant locations in the Great Southern Region. Joey’s father, Jack Williams Poornarti, was crucial in the reconciliation process and was awarded the position of a State Living Treasure for his efforts. Poornarti means ‘magic fire stick’ and his kin were Kaarl Poorlanger or ‘the masters of fire ceremony’.
Joey is continuing his father’s legacy of reconciliation and education. Having been a cultural adviser for many years, he decided to broaden his scope to tourists in 2015. With his partner, Catherine Mercer, they offer day tours to the Stirling Ranges (originally named Koikeneruff), Albany (Kinjarling) and Kwoorabup (Denmark). They also lead Soulcamps at Mount Trio and vibrational healing and water nurture tours.
On tour you’ll learn about the ancient culture that endures to this day: stories of the Dreamtime, dance and song, food and medicine, the importance of ceremony and spirit, and the traditional ways of life. With the opportunity for off-the-beaten-track exploration, guests are taken to culturally important sites that are normally inaccessible, including caves, waterholes, campsites, ochre pits, and areas with ancient art.
It’s fully immersive experience, Catherine said. “They get to try real bush tucker: pick it, taste it, feel it. They get to take their shoes off, to dance and sing. They also get to sit in the caves, and be part of smudging and reconnection ceremonies.”
It’s a wonderful experience to open people’s eyes up to something they didn’t “see” before, she said. While a rocky, barren landscape may look, well, rocky and barren, it’s actually littered with a huge collection of cultural remnants, and different signs and landmarks that are still used by Aboriginals today. “The culture is all around. Until that’s shown to them, they don’t know it’s there.”
Discovering this hidden landscape and culture is like travelling to another country for most visitors, Joey said. “It’s all a learning journey – I love to open people up to it,” he says. “Why not teach people and show them the oldest culture in the world?”
Tour: Poornarti Aboriginal Tours
Tours with Joey Williams, Aboriginal Elder of the Goreng and Law Man
The Great Southern Region, including the Stirling Ranges, Albany and Denmark
Tour: Koomal Dreaming Cultural Experiences
Tours with Josh “Koomal” Whiteland, Wadandi custodian
The South-West, including the Cape to Cape and Warren Blackwood area
NAIDOC Week: July celebrations
Every July, celebrations are held to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders; their culture, history, achievements and future. It is an occasion for all Australians to join in, and in 2018 it will be held from 8 to 15 July. There are flag raising ceremonies, art exhibitions, film showings, storytelling sessions, and more. Learn about the week’s festivities, along with other year-round NAIDOC events held throughout WA here.
Western Australia isn’t just a beautiful corner of the world with sublime food, great surf and lush scenery. It’s also home to an incredible cultural legacy. Learn more about the Aboriginals of the South-West region. Browse our list to book your dream holiday home in the region today.