As the traditional owners of Perth and WA’s southwest, no one knows the land and history of Perth better than Noongar People. The old stories and customs were passed down orally from generation to generation, so much of this history would be lost if it were not for a dedicated group of Aboriginal owned and operated tours and cultural experiences running in Perth.
Each tour is different, giving you the chance to learn about the sacred sites scattered throughout the city, including ceremonial burial and birthing grounds in Kings Park, and knee-deep sections of the Swan River where their ancestors used to cross the river. Experiences also include learning about Aboriginal art, bush tucker, bush medicine and the six seasons, eating damper and Kangaroo and even camping under the stars.
Private, corporate and customisable experiences are also available, noting that COVID 19 has caused some disruption and while many of the tours are back operating, you will need to check for changes to operating days and times.
Yalgorup – one hour south of Perth
Meaning ‘Winds blowing from the Southwest’, Goolamwiin offer hands-on tours focused on taking people out to country introducing them to the land and Noongar culture
Held at Yalgorup National Park over 3hours, their Day Tour will take you through the bushland where you’ll discover bush tucker and bush medicine.
“We tell personal stories, and cook a meal of kangaroo and damper,” owner and operator Kerry Stack said.
If you want an even more immersive experience, you can book in for their overnight camping tour, which features dreamtime stories under the stars, told around a campfire. You’ll wake up to the sound of the wildlife and enjoy a billie tea breakfast before heading back.
They are also planning a signature tour in Mandurah, based around the seascape and Halls Head, which would include a Welcome to Country and stories.
The team intend to start back over the coming weeks, so stay tuned on their website and Facebook for announcements. See more details here: https://www.goolamwiin.com.au/tours/
Launched just before COVID-19 hit, Warrang-Bridil’s signature tour is aptly named the ‘Ancient Gateway to a Modern City’. Based on the banks of the river along the Burswood Peninsula near Optus Stadium, owner Nick Abraham tells the story of the Matagarup Bridge, and how ancient stories are reflected in modern development.
Previous to the bridge’s construction, during ancient times before the British arrived, the Matagarup Bridge used to be the crossing between the East side and the West, which his ancestors waded through, knee-deep in water.
“Even though we have been disconnected from our culture, with how Perth had been divided up with any of our input, we are still looking to maintain the continuity of our stories and our place,” said Nick.
He emphasised that stories need to be told and show how culture has influenced some of the architecture in the area.
Tours run on a minimum of 5, but can cater for groups of up to 30. See more and book here: https://www.warrang-bridil.com.au/
Established in 2018 by Whadjuk Yorga Kerry-Ann Winmar, Nyungar Tours leads people on a journey of cultural discovery through gardens at South Perth and Kings Park.
Leaving at 1pm on Mondays and Saturdays, on the Kings Park Yorga’s Walk, you’ll walk alongside owner Kerry-Ann Winmar as she tells the stories of her family, sharing their ancient knowledge. The walk takes you over the treetop walkway, where you’ll enjoy unbeatable views over Kings Park. You’ll also visit Pioneer Women’s Memorial, where you’ll learn the special significance it had for Yorgas (women) in the area.
Across the river, their South Perth Walking Cultural Tour takes you through the Scented Gardens, where you’ll learn about bush remedies, see Aboriginal artefacts and share traditional stories of Whadjuk Country. Leaving at 10am on Fridays, the tour runs for 45minutes.
Tours operate with a maximum of 10 – 20 people. See more and book here: http://www.nyungartours.com.au/
Kaarak Dreaming Maitland’s Cultural Tours
Dwellingup – one hour south of Perth
If you are willing to travel a little way out of the city, Kaarak Dreaming operates out of the picturesque town of Dwellingup, and invites you to step back into the dreamtime.
Owner Maitland Hill, a Nyoongar Balardong marman (man), is a self-taught artist and qualified therapist, who is also on a local Shaman Board. His tours are about spiritual connection, and along with his regular group tours, he encourages and welcomes one on one experiences. His grandfather was a spiritual healer and today, on his Bush Medicine and Forest Discovery Tour, Maitland shares his knowledge of how bush medicine from grasstrees and paperbark trees can be used to treat a range of ailments, including arthritis.
On Maitland’s Dwaarlindjirraap Art on Country tour, which runs over 3 hours, you’ll receive an art class, where you’ll learn how to paint in the traditional Noongar style. All materials including paints and canvas are provided, and you’ll be able to enjoy a bush tucker meal of billie tea and wattleseed muffins with quandong jam.
Tour options range from 2 hours to half day and full day experiences. Enquire and book here: https://www.kaarakdreaming.com.au/contact/
Go Cultural Aboriginal Tours
Run by multiple generations of the McGuire family, who have traditional ties to the land as Noongar Whadjuk people, Go Cultural have been telling stories of Perth’s most significant cultural landmarks for the past four years. Tours are run by Walter, Meg or one of their two daughters.
Their tours are usually based at four locations; Elizabeth Quay, Kings Park, Yagan Square and Rottnest Island. Told partially in Noongar language, the tour hosted at Elizabeth Quay reveals the ancestral connection between the modern development and the site’s original use as a fishing site. Focused on telling the first story of the land, they explore the six Noongar seasons, postcolonial history and stories from the Dreamtime.
“It’s about peeling back the layers a little bit, to reveal the traditional stories behind the sites,” Meg said.
The tour of Elizabeth Quay runs for 90minutes, although Meg said that it can be difficult to fit much cultural history in such a short time!
Another of their popular tours through Yagan Square explores the representation of Noongar people and their connection to nature. A highlight from this tour is artist Paul Carter’s 7-piece, text-based art installation commemorating Fanny Balbuk, titled ‘Passenger’. In the mid-19th Century, Fanny attracted a reputation for her defiance of colonial obstacles, often walking over or through paths built by settlers.
Set to re-open in the first week of June, check in with the team to book your next tour and gain important perspective on Perth. See more and book here.