Experience Australia’s Aboriginal culture around Melbourne

February 9, 2012

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne

Lake Condah, the Grampian Mountains, Melbourne. Few people known that some of the most significant aboriginal sites in Australia can be found in Victoria. This week in The Telegraph journalist Daniel Scott set out to discover another Australia across Victoria and the Northern Territories. Following in his footsteps, we round up the top sites to visit.

Melbourne

An aboriginal site in Melbourne

An aboriginal site in Melbourne

With hip hotels, a convivial cafe culture and heaps of funky shops and eclectic museums, you might not have thought that Melbourne was home to some of the best aboriginal experiences in Australia. But wander over to Melbourne Museum’s Bunjilaka Aboriginal Centre and the Koorie Heritage Trust in the city centre and you’ll soon be surprised by the excellent collections of artefacts, paintings, photographs and oral history recordings. For a more hands on experience, join a local aboriginal guide at Budj Bim tours and take part in a traditional smoking ceremony (which wards off bad spirits) and learn the uses of native plants for food and medicine on an indigenous heritage walk in the magnificent Botanical Gardens.

Grampian Mountains 

Aboriginal cave paintings in the Grampians

Aboriginal cave paintings in the Grampians

It’s only a three-hour drive west from Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road to discover the ancient cave paintings in the Grampians National Park. As you drive, it’s worth a quick stop at Narana Creations, an Aboriginal craft and cultural centre close to Geelong, where you can see displays of boomerang throwing (once used for hunting ducks) and didgeridoo playing. Gariwerd, as this mountain range is also known, is full of dramatic rock formations, sheer valleys and waterfalls which have long been spiritually important to Aboriginals.

Head over to the Brambuk Cultural Centre in Halls Gap to learn how life for the Jardwadjali and Djab wurrung people was organised around six seasons, each defined by changes to the natural environment.

View from the Grampians

View from the Grampians

Then explore some of the rock art sites, which include depictions of emus, dingoes and human stick-figures. Soak up the dramtatic scenery in the Grampians with a walk to the Balconies rock formations. The perfectr way to end the day is to stand at sunset on an overhanging rock jutting out above the expansive plain below to leave with a deep sense of this powerful landscape and its first inhabitants’ connection to it.

Lake Condah

Aboriginal culture at Lake Condah

Aboriginal buildings at Lake Condah

It is one of the most significant indigenous sites in Australia, but few have heard of Lake Condah. Deep in West Victoria amidst the wetlands, stand the remains of Aboriginal stone houses that are older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids (the permanent settlement was established here more than 6,500 years ago). Here the Gunditjmara people developed one of ancient history’s most sophisticated aquaculture systems, modifying 38 square miles of swampland with channels, ponds and traps in order to farm eels. Welcome to the world’s oldest fish farm. Sacred to the Gunditjmara, the landscape around Lake Condah is currently under consideration for Unesco World Heritage listing.

How to get there:

Singapore Airlines operates three daily flights from London Heathrow to Melbourne via Singapore, with return fares starting from £799, and also flies from Manchester to Singapore.

Take advantage of exclusive holiday offers from Trailfinders, the UK’s No 1 tour operator to Australia: trailfinders.com

For more information on indigenous activities in Melbourne, Victoria: visitmelbourne.com/uk

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