Top 10 Australian Indigenous travel experiences for families

The year is 2010 and we're in the Kimberley, a region where the Indigenous history is as rich as the red soil.

Its rock art is arguably some of the world's oldest, dating back more than 40,000 years, within a vast wilderness twice the size of Victoria.

Finally, the federal government is supporting cultural tourism in the region through its National Landscapes Program.

But despite all this, we're told an Indigenous component to our two-week stay is "out of the question".

The reason we're here is to educate our children about Australia's first people, but the tourism authority says relations between the communities and local business operators is at an all-time low.

"We want to bring them together," she says, "but the offerings are so unreliable I couldn't recommend them to anybody."

Fast-forward seven years and about a million tourists have taken part in some form of Indigenous activity during their holiday in Australia.

Here are some of the must-sees for families:

1 Follow an Indigenous guide around Uluru, join in a dot-painting workshop on the Town Square Lawn, or listen to bush yarns at the Circle of Sand. The Family Astro Tour teaches kids how Indigenous people used the sky as their compass.


2 Take a cultural cruise through Nitmiluk Gorge near Katherine, to learn about the significance of the two gorges to the Jawoyn people. Nitmiluk Tours is a wholly owned Indigenous tourism operation.

3 A two-and-a-half-hour ferry ride from Darwin brings you into the heart of Tiwi culture, to Wurrumiyanga on Bathurst Island, with a morning tea and smoking ceremony, followed by an insight into the complex rituals surrounding burial rites.

4 Close to the Fitzroy River, the Kimberley Dreamtime Adventure Tours – owned by the Jarlmadangah Burru Aboriginal Community – includes camel treks and bush tucker classes, run by a local guide.

5 Both Blue and Brown lakes on North Stradbroke Island have special significance to the Quandamooka people. They own and operate Straddie Adventures, with kayaking, sand boarding and hand-spearing experiences for families.

6 Tjapukai, outside Cairns, was founded by a group of international theatre artists in conjunction with six Djabugay men, creating an interactive historical display, didgeridoo demonstration, plus weaving and jewellery-making.

7 Walkabout Adventures take you through the Daintree, down to Rocky Point Beach and Mossman Gorge, incorporating lessons on traditional medicine, digging for pipis and catching crabs.

8 On Blue Mountains Walkabout, small groups are led through secluded rainforest following ancient song lines. Earth Mother and Sky Father request guests to "tread softly, touch gently and let the spiritual energy flow through your body".

9 The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne offers an Aboriginal Heritage Walk into the ancestral lands of the Kulin nation. It's an important reminder to children that our cities were not always gleaming paeans to capitalism.

Adelaide's Botanic Gardens runs a similar tour, teaching kids how boomerangs are made, where to find bush medicines, and duck-hunting techniques. The tour ends with a taste of native bush food.

10 One of the best Indigenous immersion experiences is the annual four-day Garma festival, a celebration of the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land. Language workshops, astronomy tours and art and craft workshops culminate in the bunggul – a traditional ceremonial dance performed every day from 4pm to sunset.

It's heartening to finally be able to show our children their country's rich Indigenous culture.