Experience Aboriginal culture in the Northern Territory
Learn the significance of Aboriginal culture
The Aboriginal people have inhabited Australia for over 65,000 years, making them the oldest continuous living culture on Earth. Aboriginal culture is deeply intertwined with the land—and in the Northern Territory, it’s very much alive. Whether you visit the Top End or the Red Centre, experiencing Aboriginal culture is key to an enriching trip.
Aboriginal culture permeates every aspect of life, from food to art and music. For the most meaningful encounters, seek it out intentionally—for example, by buying indigenous art ethically or hopping on tours led by Aboriginal communities. No matter your interest, you can celebrate Aboriginal culture while truly enjoying yourself.
Glimpse into sacred and spiritual sites
In the Red Centre, few sites have inspired more awe than Uluru and Kata Tjuta. These natural wonders were formed some 500 million years ago and they hold spiritual significance to the Anangu people. To them, these landmarks aren’t mere rocks—they are living and breathing landscapes. While Uluru and Kata Tjuta are most well-known to tourists, there are plenty more locations in the Northern Territory that are rich in Aboriginal culture.
Get a permit to enter Arnhem Land where you’ll be greeted with verdant rainforests, savannah woodlands, and breathtaking coastlines. The region’s history is coloured by the traditional owners of the land, the Yolngu people, and spilled into its art centres and galleries. A fan of active holidays? Then tackle the Larapinta Trail on the West MacDonnell Ranges. This 230-kilometre trek passes by attractions like Simpsons Gap and Serpentine Gorge that aren’t just scenic but also steeped in stories told by its custodians.
Savour delicious bush tucker
The Aboriginal people traditionally led a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, passing down knowledge essential for survival over generations. The key to sustenance, bush tucker, comprises native Australian foods from the land, water and sky. Common bush meats include kangaroos, crocodiles, echidnas and emus, and these are supplemented by wild vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts.
There’s no better way to learn about bush tucker than to join a bushwalk led by an Aboriginal guide who can demonstrate how food is sourced. Such walks often provide a peek into bush medicine too, such as the use of eucalyptus to reduce body pains and fever.
The foodie experience isn’t complete without savouring bush tucker, whether it’s in a fine-dining restaurant or around a campfire. Adventurous eaters, challenge yourself to a protein-rich snack of witchetty grubs—which can be eaten live and raw.
Appreciate Aboriginal art
The Territory Art Trails is a testament to the region’s ancient and contemporary art culture. This initiative maps out artistic attractions and experiences throughout the Northern Territory into self-drive itineraries ranging from three days to a week.
Outstanding art galleries and museums include Yulara’s Maruku Arts where you can participate in a dot painting workshop and Tennant Creek’s Nyinkka Nyunyu Art & Culture Centre which showcases the Warumungu culture. While you’re there, pick up an Aboriginal artwork to bring home with you.
Ancient Aboriginal rock art sites, such as Nourlangie Rock and Ubirr in Kakadu National Park, are a must-visit for art history lovers. To elevate the trip further, plan it around the annual Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair which shines a spotlight on the contemporary indigenous art scene.
Enjoy Aboriginal song and dance
Songs and dances form an integral part of Aboriginal culture. They are present in tribal ceremonies from initiations and weddings to the celebration of seasonal changes.
Add rhythm to your itinerary by visiting art centres or embarking on cultural tours that feature such performances. There’s nothing quite like hearing the enchanting drone of the didgeridoo under the starry desert skies. If the timing’s right, immerse yourself in a festival where Aboriginal artists converge—such as the Barunga Festival held near Katherine every June or the Desert Festival that takes place in September at Alice Springs.
How much do you know about Aboriginal culture in the Northern Territory?
Scan the QR code below or click here on your mobile to put your knowledge to the test