Indigenous culture in Perth is an important part of everyday life. The Whadjuk Noongar people, the Traditional Owners of south-west Western Australia, have cared for this land for over 60,000 years.
There are many ways to experience ancient Indigenous culture in Perth, and engage with the people who continue to maintain strong connections to land, history and culture.
One of the busiest pedestrian areas in the city is Yagan Square, named after an iconic figure in the fight for Noongar rights and recognition. Yagan was a resistance fighter during the early 1800s, when Perth was still known as the Swan River Colony. In 1833, Yagan was declared an outlaw and was killed at Upper Swan – where the Yagan Memorial Park is now situated.
In Yagan Square, you’ll find a monument to Noongar culture: a nine-metre-tall sculpture of an Aboriginal warrior, titled ‘Wirin,’ which symbolises the cultural longevity of Aboriginal people. ‘Wirin’ is the Noongar word for spirit and represents the eternal sacred force of creative power that connects all life. According to the artist, Tjyllyungoo (the traditional name of Lance Chadd) the sculpture embodies the spirit and cultural values of Yagan.
King’s Park, or Kaarta Gar-up, has been a place of great significance to the Whadjuk Noongar people, serving as an important ceremonial and Dreaming place. On the banks of the Swan River, King’s Park comprises parklands, native bushland and the Botanic Gardens. At 400.6 hectares, it’s one of the largest inner-city parks in the world.
Explore the park with tours such as the Nyungar Tours King Park Yorgas Walk, led by local Noongar woman Kerri-ann Winmar. She will take you through her strong family connection to the country, the use of traditional medicine and women’s stories.
You can also take the self-guided Boodja Gnarning Walk, which highlights trees used for making tools and weapons, or there is also the wheelchair-friendly Yorga Track, which focuses on women’s roles in gathering food and medicines.
Go Cultural Tours
One of Perth’s best and most well-known tour operators is Go Cultural with Walter and Meg McGuire. They offer 90-minute tours of Elizabeth Quay, Kings Park and Mt Eliza, as well as tours on Rottnest Island. The tour begins with a traditional Noongar welcome and ochre ceremony, followed by Dreamtime stories and songs. Walter will introduce you to Indigenous language, the traditional way of life of the Noongar people and their spiritual connection to the country, river and animals that inhabit the area.
Six Seasons Gallery
The Art Gallery of Western Australia has a permanent exhibition space for Aboriginal art which is free to visit. Six Seasons Gallery – named after the Noongar calendar’s six seasons – is dedicated to showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art from the State Collection. Under the eye of Indigenous curator Carly Lane, the nearly 3,000 pieces in the gallery’s collection – including dot paintings of traditional Dreaming stories, or contemporary art from the likes of Vernon Ah Kee, Michael Riley and Fiona Foley – will be sure to surprise, challenge and inspire you.
Bindjareb Park, an hour south of Perth, is a nature sanctuary offering cultural and bush tucker tours of sacred and historic Aboriginal sites. Local Traditional Owner and cultural consultant Karrie-Anne Kearing will take you for a walk through bushlands where you can learn about traditional uses of plants, local Dreaming stories and Aboriginal history. You can even try specialties such as spicy nut kangaroo, native herb-crusted kangaroo with native pepper, or lemon myrtle and Tasmian pepper squid. There’s also a gallery with arts and crafts and a shop to introduce some native herbs and spices to your own kitchen!
Maalinup Aboriginal Gallery
Maalinup Aboriginal Gallery in the Swan Valley, just one hour out of Perth, is an Aboriginal owned and operated enterprise. Meaning “Place of Black Swan,” Maalinup offers cultural activities, talks, performances as well as beautiful artworks and hand painted objects by local Aboriginal artists. They also sell their own range of bush tucker, including native herbs and spices like pepper berry and native basil, as well as sauces and oils infused with Australian flavours.
Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company
Yirra Yaakin means “Stand Tall” in the Noongar language, and is one of Australia’s leading Aboriginal performing arts organisations. It exists to share Aboriginal stories, and promote Aboriginal culture, and since 1993, the team has commissioned and premiered over 50 major presentations. One of their long-running creative and educational projects was the Noongar Shakespeare Project, which in 2012 translated Shakespeare’s sonnets into Noongar language. It went on to translate all of Macbeth to be performed as Hecate in 2018. So, take a front row seat and enjoy some award-winning, world-class theatre with a message.
The Wadumbah Dance Group
James T. Webb, known by his traditional name Gumbiardi, established Wadumbah Dance Group in 1995. The name comes from the Walmatjerri people of the Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley, where he grew up, and means “Big Flood Waters!” Their aim is to help people understand and enjoy Noongar culture through traditional music, dance and storytelling.
Want to experience more in Perth? Check out our list of awesome things to see and do. For more Indigenous history in Australia’s capital cities, check out this list of Indigenous sights and attractions in Sydney.
Rex Airlines flies directly to Perth. Click here if you’re thinking about a trip to this incredible city.