A visitor’s guide to Aboriginal Melbourne

Womenjika! That’s welcome in the Boonwurrung and Woiwurrung language groups of the Kulin Nation. The Boonwurrung and Woiwurrung are the traditional owner groups of the area we now call Melbourne. Find out more about the Kulin Nation’s rich, living culture through these places and events.

Tanderrum

Each year the first words of the Melbourne International Arts Festival come from those who have carried this land’s stories the longest – the First Peoples of Melbourne. Head down to Federation Square at 6pm on Wednesday 2 October for Tanderrum, a ceremony that brings together the Wurundjeri/Woiwurrung, Boon Wurrung, Taungurung, Wadawurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung language groups of the Eastern Kulin Nation.

Art and history

A great place to get a better understanding of Melbourne’s Aboriginal heritage and culture is at the Koorie Heritage Trust. Based at Federation Square, it’s home to an ever-expanding collection of art, cultural artefacts and oral histories, revealed in regular exhibitions. Ask about their workshops and educational walks, and check out the shop. There are books, clothing, jewellery and even traditional handmade possum-skin marngrooks, which inspired today’s Aussie Rules footy.

A woman holding a wooden piece of art

Koorie Heritage Trust

A few steps away is the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. It showcases the National Gallery of Victoria’s homegrown art, including an impressive collection of works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. See visions of the past, such as 19th century drawings by William Barak and 20th century paintings by Albert Namatjira. Contemplate the present through contemporary artists such as Reko Rennie and Brook Andrew.

Just around the corner is Birrarung Marr, meaning ‘river of mist’ in the Boonwurrung and Woiwurrung language. This pleasant park by the Yarra includes the Birrarung Wilam (‘Birrarung camp’) installation, which celebrates Victoria’s Aboriginal culture. A major feature is a ring of five metal shields, representing the five language groups of the Kulin Nation.

Melbourne Museum’s Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre is named after Bunjil, the eagle creator deity of the Kulin Nation. Under his metaphorical wing, the centre presents permanent and temporary exhibitions, as well as events and activities.

Bunjil’s story is revealed in the centre’s First Peoples exhibition. From the story of creation stretching back many thousands of years, to the stories of today, this permanent exhibition celebrates Victoria’s Aboriginal people.

A family looking at display wall and exhibits in a museum

Bunjilaka at Melbourne Museum

Walking tours

The Koorie Heritage Trust also run Aboriginal Walking Tours offering insight into the history of Birrarung Marr and the Kulin nation. Join one of their afternoon Birrarung Wilam River Walks, led by local Aboriginal guides, to discover more about Melbourne’s importance as a meeting place and location for social, educational and cultural events and activities.

A tour guide leads two people on a walking tour

Aboriginal Walking Tours

Find out about the indigenous flora that once thrived along the Yarra on a Royal Botanic Gardens Aboriginal Heritage Walk. Led by an Aboriginal guide, this tour reveals plants used for food, tools and medicine by people of the Kulin Nation. Explore their ancestral lands, and experience a traditional smoking ceremony.