Australia is home to to world’s oldest continuously living civilisation, the indigenous Australian Aboriginals. There are lots of experiences, attractions and destinations that can help you to learn a little about their culture. These are the best Aboriginal Cultural Attractions in South Australia
In Australia we acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land we are on. We pay tribute to their leaders, past, present and emerging. In Adelaide that is the Kaurna (pronounced “Garna”) people. Across the state there are more than 30 distinct groups, all with different beliefs, dreaming stories and traditions. So even if you take part in a cultural experience in one part of the state, you will find a different experience in another part.
I would also like to acknowledge that while I am referring to the Aboriginal people, I also am including the Torres Straight Islanders too. While they are not native to South Australia, they are a distinctly different group of people and will often be including in displays and cultural festivals too.
Photo credit for featured image: Tourism Australia, Flinders Ranges & Outback
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- 1 Aboriginal Cultural Attractions in South Australia
- 1.1 South Australian Museum
- 1.2 Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute
- 1.3 APY Gallery Adelaide
- 1.4 Aboriginal Cultural Tours in Adelaide
- 1.5 Living Kaurna Cultural Centre
- 1.6 Cruise the Coorong Cultural Tour
- 1.7 See Aboriginal Rock Art in the Flinders Ranges
- 1.8 Indigenous Tours from Wilpena Pound Resort
- 1.9 Stay and Learn at Iga Warta
- 1.10 Learn the Creation Story at Wadlata
- 1.11 Visit Wadna
- 1.12 Josephine’s Gallery & Kangaroo Orphanage
- 1.13 Take a Longer Tour
Aboriginal Cultural Attractions in South Australia
South Australian Museum
Located right on North Terrace in the city centre, the South Australian Museum is home to the largest collection of Australian Aboriginal cultural material in the world. While not all of it is on display, there is a great selection of artifacts and information to get you started on learning about the life and traditions of the Aboriginal people. See the tools and artworks and read traditional dreaming stories and stories of the interactions with Europeans.
Entry to the South Australian Museum is free. From time to time they might also have a paid exhibition that highlights Aboriginal Culture.
Note: There’s a new Aboriginal Arts & Cultural Centre currently under construction in Adelaide. Tarrkarri (meaning “the future” in the Kaurna language) is set to open in 2025.
Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute
Tandanya is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the arts and culture of the Indigenous people of Australia. They put on all sorts of events during the year, and often have artists in residence who you can watch working. Call in to pick up a souvenir from their shop that supports local Aboriginal artists or have a break in their cafe.
Tandanya is open Mon – Sat 10am to 5pm and entry is free.
APY Gallery Adelaide
If you are interested in purchasing some Aboriginal art, particularly one of those amazing paintings, a great place to go and have a look is the APY Gallery. They work mainly with artists from the APY lands in the north of South Australia, but also support artists from other regions too. Aboriginal art is evolving, and some of the contemporary works are fabulous. You don’t have to be buying to stop in here either, just browsing is okay too.
APY Gallery is located on Light Square in the city. They are open Tues-Fri 10 am to 5pm, Sat 10am to 4pm.
Aboriginal Cultural Tours in Adelaide
If you would like to take a short tour run by a local Aboriginal person, take a look at the tours run by Bookabee Australia. They run from a few hours up to a full day, and will give you an insider’s look at areas in the city such as the Aboriginal Gallery at the South Australian Museum and the Botanic Gardens, all the while teaching you about the culture, the food and the traditions of the local people.
The tours are run by Haydyn Bromley, who was recognised as the City of Adelaide 2021 Australian Citizen of the Year due to his work in this area.
Living Kaurna Cultural Centre
Run by Southern Cultural Immersion, the Living Kaurna Cultural Centre at Warriparinga offers a range of cultural events and exhibitions. Visit their shop and gallery to find local indigenous products. They offer a range of tours and classes, but mostly they are for groups. Occasionally throughout the year they offer them for individuals to book too. Take a look at their events page to see if anything is on during your visit.
Cruise the Coorong Cultural Tour
Learn about the culture of the Ngarrindjeri people and the Coorong area in the Ngarrindjeri Kurangk Cultural Tour. This tour includes a smoking ceremony, digging for local Goolwa cockles and then lunch including some of the bush foods in the area.
While not specifically an Aboriginal cultural tour, I did a full day Kayaking the Coorong where we also learned about and ate some of the Coorong bush tucker and dug for cockles. Our guides was not from the local Ngarrindjeri people, but it was good to see a glimpse included in this tour.
See Aboriginal Rock Art in the Flinders Ranges
Just south of Wilpena Pound in the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park there is a bushwalking’s that will take you so see some of the best examples of rock art of the local Adnyamathanha people. It’s a 3km round trip to Arkaroo Rock on a relatively rocky path, but is worth it to see the artwork. As of early 2022, the path and facilities are being upgraded, but the walking trail should remain open to visitors.
Indigenous Tours from Wilpena Pound Resort
There are a number of tours run by the indigenous owners in the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. Wilpena Pound Resort offers two different cultural walks lead by an experienced Yura guide (Yura is the name for the Adnyamathanha people).
The tours teach about the diversity of the Flinders Ranges including the native animals and plants and how that intertwines with the Aboriginal history and culture. There will also be seasonal bush tucker information too. Some of the walks also show Aboriginal rock paintings that show the dreaming stories of the Flinders Ranges.
Each evening you can also experience a free, thirty minute “Welcome to Country” near the flagpole outside of the reception building at the Wilpena Pound Resort. Here you will see the traditional welcome, as well as some Yura songs, stories and dance.
Stay and Learn at Iga Warta
Another option for Aboriginal cultural experiences is to visit Iga Warta in the Northern Flinders Ranges. Owned and operated by the local Aboriginal people, Iga Warta offers accommodation (including safari tents, cabins and camping grounds) as well as some fantastic experiences. You can do an overnight camping tour, learn about secret women’s business, taste some bush tucker and more. Take a look at the Iga Warta website here for all the different options.
Learn the Creation Story at Wadlata
Wadlata Outback Centre can be found in Port Augusta. It serves as the local visitor information centre, has a great cafe, and features the “Tunnel of Time”, a walk back through the Dreamtime, with the local stories of how Wilpena Pound was created. As you enter, you will walk into the open mouth of a giant Ripper Lizard, which will take you back in time. Not only are there Aboriginal stories here, but you will also learn about the harsh lives of the early explorers and settlers in this area.
Wadlata is open Mon-Fri 9am to 4pm, Sat & Sun 10am to 3pm. Tickets are $20 for adults, and can be purchased in advance here.
Just outside of Blinman in the Flinders Ranges you will see signs to Wadna. In September 2020, Kristian Coulthard built a small shed to display and sell his traditional indigenous artworks. This shed has become a showroom for not only Kristian’s art and carvings, but the art from many other Adnyamathanha people too. There are also lots of non-traditional products made either from local ingredients or by the local people too, like teas, honey, skin care products and souvenirs.
Kristian also offers cultural awareness tours, and can do tours to places the Adnyamathanha people have closed off to the public, such as Sacred Canyon. If you are interested in a tour, contact them through their website or call in and have a chat. If you don’t have time for a tour, calling in to Wadna is just a small way to learn a little about the local people and their artwork. If you are lucky, Kristian will be at work at his craft so you can see him in action.
Josephine’s Gallery & Kangaroo Orphanage
In Coober Pedy you will find a gallery filled with art mostly from Aboriginal people from the north of the state.Here is where you can purchase an authentic didgeridoo, and Terry will explain to you how to tell the good ones from the bad. There are also plenty of fantastic paintings here too. Staff and artists here are very willing to have a chat about the art and the culture, so don’t be afraid to just call in to browse and chat.
Being Coober Pedy, everything has more than one purpose, so you will also find a kangaroo orphanage here, and of course you can pick up some Coober Pedy Opal too.
Take a Longer Tour
If a few hours is not enough, Diverse Travel Australia offer longer tours within South Australia to learn about the culture of some of the other Aboriginal groups. These tours not only look at the traditional Aboriginal culture, but they also discuss a how the Aboriginal people navigated the European settlement. The tours go to Yorke Peninsula, the home of the Adjahdura people, and to Ngadjuri country, which incorporates the Clare Valley, Burra and Southern Flinders Ranges areas. It’s possible to detours as short as half a day, up to a more comprehensive five day tour. For more details, see the website here.
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Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred. She has lived in the state for almost her whole life, just one short stint away as a teenager with her family. Travelling all over the world has shown her exactly how amazing South Australia is to live and travel in and she uses her passion to show it to you the way a local sees it.