8 family-friendly Indigenous experiences in Canberra

Help your kids gain greater insight and respect for Indigenous culture with one of these fascinating experiences in the Australian Capital Territory

Images: © Visit Canberra, © Shutterstock

1. TIDBINBILLA NATURE RESERVE

Join a Murumbung Aboriginal Ranger as they guide you on a walk through one of Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve’s cultural sites, where they'll share their knowledge of the rich history of the Ngunnawal people's continuous connection to Tidbinbilla, a 45-minute drive South-West of Canberra. Archaeological excavation and carbon dating sites in Tidbinbilla and Namadgi National Park confirm the Aboriginal presence in the Australian Capital Territory region 25,000 years ago. You'll hear about traditional sustainable land management practices, such as cultural burning, and learn about the local native plants used for foods, medicines and toolmaking.

2. NGALA TOURS, NATIONAL ARBORETUM AND BURRUNJU ABORIGINAL ART GALLERY

Combine the cultural and scenic sites within the National Arboretum Canberra with a visit to the only Aboriginal-owned Art Gallery in Canberra on this tour. Led by an Indigenous tourism officer, the experience begins with a guided walk through the forest. Learn about local native plants used for medicinal, culinary, and cultural uses and how Aboriginal people relied on bush plants for food, trade, shelter, ceremony, and warmth and used landmarks and landscapes for survival. Hear why caring for country is vital and plays a significant role in culture today. Then board the Ngala bus and visit the nearby Burrunju Aboriginal Art Gallery, which was established to provide local Aboriginal people with an opportunity to realise their dream of self-determination by providing an avenue to sell artworks, artefacts and jewellery.

3. DHAWURA TOURS

If you’re keen to see Aboriginal rock art, the Canberra region has some easily accessible options. Dhawura Tours takes you to sites of cultural significance, including places where you can see grinding grooves, a canoe tree and a shield tree. Experiences range from two-hour to full-day tours, including a swim at Flea Creek in Namadgi National Park. They also offer the chance to learn how to speak the Ngunawal language, participate in a traditional weaving workshop or join a bush tucker cooking class. Some tours are only suitable for children 12 and older.

4. ABORIGINAL TENT EMBASSY & PROTEST SITE

See the longest continuous protest for Indigenous land rights in the world on the lawn outside The Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy was set up by Aboriginal activists in 1972 to protest the Government’s refusal to acknowledge Aboriginal land rights. It was originally a simple beach umbrella and tent that became a hub and meeting place for sovereignty activism. The Embassy has taken many forms over the years and continues to be a powerful symbol for Aboriginal rights.

5. RECONCILIATION PLACE

Take a self-guided walking tour along the pathway that tells the story of progress towards becoming a reconciled nation, with thought-provoking artwork along the way. Originally known as ‘Reconciliation Square’, the project was announced by then-Prime Minister John Howard in 2000 as a symbol of the Government's commitment to the ongoing reconciliation process. It was built in the National Triangle, at the junction of Walter Burley Griffin's Land Axis and the pedestrian cross-axes between the National Library of Australia to the west and the High Court of Australia to the east. The location places the reconciliation process physically and symbolically at the heart of Australian democratic and cultural life. The 1.1-kilometre tour takes around one hour to complete.

6. NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA

This gallery is home to the world’s largest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection, comprising more than 7500 works. A highlight is the Aboriginal Memorial, which consists of 200 dupun (hollow log coffins) from central Arnhem Land. It was created in the lead-up to the Australian Bicentenary in 1988 by 43 artists from Ramingining in the Northern Territory and the surrounding area. Each pole marks one year of occupation, and together they stand as a memorial to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives lost to colonial conflict and trauma in Australia from the time of white settlement in 1788. The path through the installation represents the Glyde River in central Arnhem Land, with the poles located along the river according to their specific homeland.

7. YERIBEE INDIGENOUS EXPERIENCES TOUR, PARLIAMENT HOUSE

Hear the stories of our Indigenous parliamentarians, explore the site history of Parliament House, gain insights into how Australia's First Peoples are participating in the nation's democratic processes, and see significant artworks from the Parliament House Art Collection by celebrated Indigenous artists. The tour includes the Great Hall Tapestry, The Great Hall Embroidery, The Barunga Statement, The Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples, The Yirrkala Bark Petitions, recent portraiture commissions, and significant pieces from Indigenous artists from the Parliament House Art Collection. The free 50-minute tour runs daily at 12.45 pm. Bookings are essential.

8. TRADITIONAL OWNERS ABORIGINAL CORPORATION EXPERIENCES

From cleansing smoking ceremonies to guided walks and fun activities such as digging for bush tucker, including yams and chocolate lilies, Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation offers a range of different experiences on demand. Walks can be held everywhere from the CBD to Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, Tuggeranong and Lake George. Kids will love learning how to throw boomerangs, weave baskets, make rope out of stringybark trees and discover plants used as traditional medicine. Experiences are tailored to suit individual groups and their abilities.

Where to stay in Canberra

Get 10 per cent off the best available rate if you mention Out & About with Kids when booking a room at East Hotel Canberra. Located between Kingston and Manuka's buzzing shopping and restaurant hubs, the family-owned and operated hotel has special family rooms. The two-bedroom apartments have bunk beds, Xbox One consoles, games, bean bags and dress-up clothes. There are also free lollies in the lobby and kids’ minibars. The amazing Italian restaurant, Agostinis, has a kids’ menu including mouth-watering pizza or pasta, yummy gelato and a soft drink for $20. It also offers free bikes to explore the area.

In partnership with East Hotel Canberra

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9 best museums and galleries in Canberra for kids