Over the past few years, Ayers Rock Resort, 20km from Uluru, has introduced a raft of Aboriginal-themed guest activities. One of the most compelling is the dot-painting workshop held at the Town Square Lawn Area. Take a seat to watch an Aboriginal artist re-create some of their favoured symbols in the red dirt. Then, with a small canvas, brushes and pots of brightly coloured paint, you can create your own take-home dot painting. There’s also bush yarning at the Circle of Sand four times a day. Sit with an Aboriginal storyteller and listen to tales of men’s hunting weapons, women’s gathering tools or how to find bush tucker.
Take the kids on a cultural cruise through Nitmiluk Gorge near Katherine, 320km south-east of Darwin, with Nitmiluk Tours. On the two-hour Nit Nit Dream 2 Gorge Cultural Cruise, learn about the significance of the first two gorges to the traditional landowners, the Jawoyn people. During the four-hour Timeless Land 3 Gorge Cruise, there’s time for a swim in the refreshing waters. Or, if you’re feeling more energetic, hire a double canoe and explore the second and third gorges at your own pace.
What about an excursion to the fascinating Tiwi Islands (the collective name for Bathurst and Melville islands, 80km north of Darwin) on a 21/2-hour ferry ride that will take you straight into traditional Tiwi culture. SeaLink offers a range of tours out of Darwin: the Tiwi Day Tour to Wurrumiyanga on Bathurst Island includes a morning tea and smoking ceremony with Tiwi women, a visit to arts and crafts centres, and insight into the complex rituals surrounding the islanders’ burial ceremonies.
One of the best Aboriginal immersion experiences in the NT is the annual four-day Garma festival, a celebration of the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land. While it’s incredibly educational (Yolngu Matha language workshops, astronomy tours, a youth forum), it’s also full of life and colour, with a fabulous program of art and crafts, dance, cinema and music. The bunggul – a traditional ceremonial dance – is performed every day from 4pm to sunset, and brings all the threads of the festival together.
Ayers Rock Resort runs two Outback Sky Journey astronomy sessions nightly, with the Family Astro Tour starting 30 minutes after sunset. The one-hour tour covers three areas – past, present and future – with discussion of the past focusing on how Aboriginal people used the night sky for orientation, to predict upcoming seasons and as inspiration for mythological stories. The best part for parents is that kids aged 15 and under can join the sessions for free.
The kids will be fascinated by the one-hour KarrkeAboriginal Cultural Tour, hosted by an Aboriginal couple keen to keep their heritage alive by passing their knowledge on the next generations. Located near Kings Creek Station on the Luritja Road, at Karrke (it means western bowerbird in the Arrente language) the kids will learn about bush tucker, traditional bush medicine, throwing a boomerang, dot painting and jewellery making, including pretty hand-painted seed necklaces.