While showcasing the planet's oldest surviving culture is not yet as central to Australia's tourism industry as it should be, there is plenty to take pride in and a generation of young Indigenous guides is now emerging, providing hope for a rosy future.
Among the young guides who are particularly good at cultural sharing are 22-year-old Dominic Matsutoto, son of Broome-based head lawman Neil McKenzie, , of the Yawuru people, who runs tours along the coast at ecobeach.com.au, and 27-year-old Larrakia man, Shannon Lee, who operates firestonetours.com out of Darwin and accompanies saildarwin.com.au tours to the Tiwi Islands.
But it's not just these young guns that make cultural sharing look effortless. Also in the Top End, Manuel Pamkal of topdidj.com in Katherine , opens his two-hour cultural experience with a touching account of his life, before gently guiding guests to paint in the traditional rark, or cross-hatch, style.
Other honourable mentions go to Aboriginal chef Bob Taylor of rttoursaustralia.com.au and his Mbantua dinner tours, under the stars, near Alice Springs, and Darren Capewell, who brings Shark Bay to life with his half-day "kayak and snorkel" tours (wulaguda.com.au).
On a larger scale, Voyages Indigenous Tourism is now building a world-class Aboriginal cultural experience at Uluru, and doing excellent work at Mossman Gorge (mossmangorge.com.au) where "Dreamtime Walks", led by local guides, provide insights into the spiritual connection between the Kuku Yalanji people and the World-Heritage rainforest.
In Victoria and potentially as significant as Uluru is Lake Condah, where, beginning at least 6700 years ago, the Gunditjmara people developed one of the most sophisticated aquaculture systems in the world at the time, farming eels and living alongside the channels and weirs in stone huts.
That makes Lake Condah Australia's oldest settlement, more ancient than Stonehenge or the pyramids. You can visit this little-heralded national treasure with guides descended from the eel-farmers. See budjbimtours.com.
TABLE 131, ULURU, NT
The desert at night is a remarkable place, and nowhere more so than at Table 131, the desert dining experience offered at Longitude 131, the luxury tented camp at Uluru. On a sand dune draped with a blanket of blazing stars, guests enjoy a four-course meal, followed by an Indigenous dance performance. Finish this remarkable night with insights into the cosmic kaleidoscope above your head, courtesy of the resort's resident astronomer. See longitude131.com.au.
WULA GUDA NYINDA ECO ADVENTURES, WA
There are few tour guides more passionate or knowledgeable than Darren Capewell, a local Nhanda man who runs eco-tours through his people's traditional home near Shark Bay in Western Australia. "Capes" epitomises all that is good about Aboriginal tourism: he's a charismatic guide who shares traditional stories and bushcraft as he shows guests around his stunning homeland, either by four-wheel-drive, kayak, or on foot. This is a side of Australian culture that's often forgotten. See wulaguda.com.au.
ULURU DESERT AWAKENINGS TOUR, NT
Standing on a sand dune at dawn with an egg and bacon damper roll in one hand and a mug of billy tea, it doesn't matter if you don't have the hands to fumble for a camera or smart phone. Photography just won't do, you have to be there to see the light rapidly change over Uluru as day breaks. Indigenous guides on the Desert Awakenings Tour share dreamtime stories from the oldest surviving culture in the world, as you circle the 348-metre high monolith, a trip that includes a visit to the beautiful Mutitjulu waterhole. It's an unforgettable experience. See ayersrockresort.com.au.
LIRRWI TOURISM, NT
It is the home of the world's oldest living culture and the birthplace of indigenous land rights, yet Arnhem Land has largely gone unexplored by white Australia.
But the Yolngu people of northeast Arnhem Land are changing that with their own tourism initiative, Lirrwi Tourism.
The company's objective is simple: A closer understanding between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal people and economic independence for the Yolngu people. The method is equally straightforward: Tours that take us newcomers onto their homelands to talk. See lirrwitourism.com.au.