Bush tucker and beyond: Perth's Aboriginal tourism options expand

A Swan River cruise, walking tours and lessons in bush food are among new Noongar excursions to entertain and ignite interest in visitors to Perth.

Travellers to Australia have long been able to view and learn about Aboriginal culture, art and practices. But Perth has not been a big hub for indigenous travel experiences. A push to expand the number of excursions has seen four operators open their doors or make a shift to cater for visitors keen to learn about Aboriginal history and culture, past and present.

At Elizabeth Quay, two tours cover different aspects of Whadjuk land and people (Whadjuk being the dialectal group from Perth and surrounds).

The Derbal Yerrigan Cruise is a collaboration between Indigenous Experiences Australia and the Little Ferry Company. On an introductory tour, guide Tim Kelly told Dreamtime stories and explained the significance of Derbal Yerrigan (the Swan River) and the Wagyl (Noongar rainbow serpent), protector of the river. An accomplished didgeridoo player, Kelly demonstrated animal and bird motifs as captain Kevyn Townley guided the solar electric ferry around the river.

Complementing the cruise was a walking tour around Elizabeth Quay by Go Cultural Aboriginal Tours and Experiences. Walter McGuire (pictured at top) explained the six seasons and further expanded on spiritual connections between the Whadjuk custodians and the land. McGuire was a genial and knowledgeable guide, answering questions and expounding on connections between past and present.

The ongoing presence of Noongar communities is marked in the quay by artwork as well as signs detailing events and laws significant to Aboriginal people. These stories and personal experiences give up fascinating insight into familiar landmarks — the river, the causeway, Mt Eliza — as well as context to aspects of modern Aboriginal issues.

Maalinup Aboriginal Gallery has operated in the Swan Valley for decades. It has added experiences and bush food for visitors, alongside selling art and artefacts.

Owners Dale Tilbrook and her brother Lyall are descendants of the Wardandi Bibbulmun people from the Busselton, Margaret River and Augusta area. 

While presenting chutneys and dukkha made from Australian flora such as finger lime, lemon myrtle, bush tomato, salt bush and pepperberry, Dale showed locavore home cooks how to make better use of native local plants.

On the other side of Perth, Justin Martin of Djurandi Dreaming led a walking tour at Point Peron. It was an instructive accompaniment to the bush tucker tasting at Maalinup. Martin’s expedition included pointing out plants along the way to the beach, their significance to his culture and how to use them. Djurandi Dreaming also leads tours out of Elizabeth Quay as well as walks in the Rockingham area.

All four of the tours and experiences offer perspectives on the historic past and the not-so-distant past after the arrival of Europeans to Perth, adding layers to the visitors’ understanding of the present.

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