Australia’s Indigenous community has a history stretching back over 65,000 years, making them the oldest known civilisation on Earth. And Sydney is home to a variety of Indigenous sights and attractions which showcase this incredible culture.
Now known as the site of the Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point was once a small tidal island with a beach on the western side. For Indigenous Australians, the island was a place for ceremony and feasting – they would also fish and harvest food from the area, leaving the island to build up with discarded shells from many years of gathering.
Bennelong point gets its name from Woollarawarre Bennelong – a senior Eora man at the time of the colonists’ arrival. He was captured by early settlers in November 1789 and taken to Sydney Cove under the orders of Governor Arthur Phillip, who wanted to learn more of the natives’ customs and language. Bennelong quickly adapted to life among white men, dressed like them, and learned to speak English.
In the period from 1818 to 1821, the tidal area between Bennelong Island and the mainland was filled with rocks excavated from the peninsula to create a low platform on which Fort Macquarie would be built and in 1790, Governor Phillip built a brick hut for Bennelong at his request, on what then became known as Bennelong Point.
Today, the fine dining restaurant at the Opera House, headed by world-famous Executive Chef Peter Gilmore, is called Bennelong.
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Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park
Around Sydney, there are many thousands of rock engravings, and Ku-Ring-Gai National Park is home to around 1,500 pieces of this Indigenous rock art.
An Indigenous Heritage walk offered at the site takes visitors on a tour of the art and engravings from the traditional owners of this land. In fact, located on Guringai soil, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park is actually the largest concentration of Indigenous sites in Australia, including burial sites, marriage areas, and the popular Red Hands Cave, which displays ochre handprints estimated to be over 2,000 years old.
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Berry Island Reserve: Gadayan Track
Only a short bush walk located near Circular Quay, the Gadayan bush track offers insight into the story of the Cammeraygal people. Artifacts found in the area suggest it was an important campsite for local Indigenous tribes, providing hunting and fishing opportunities. Visitors will notice markings on the rock where tools were sharpened, and rock carvings which reveal First Nations history and dreamtime stories.
Known as Me-Mel by the local Indigenous population, Goat island was once home to the Eora elders Bennelong and Barangaroo. This heritage-listed island, used as a home for convict work gangs and as a gunpowder depot since European settlement, is now an interpretation centre and education facility, with the government working towards restoring it and returning it to its traditional owners.
Tourists can explore the rich history of the island on a guided tour.
To book a tour, click here
Royal Botanic Gardens: Cadi Jam Ora display
An award winning display, this 52-metre sculpture presents the Indigenous history of Sydney, from the Cadigal dreaming to the present day. It includes significant events such as the Mabo case and Sorry Day, gathered from a range of sources including over 40 interviews with local Indigenous people. Surrounded by native vegetation, the walk itself is beautiful, and leaves visitors educated about Indigenous cultural heritage.
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First Australians Galleries
Located in the Australian museum, Bayala Nura: Yarning Country is a permanent exhibition celebrating Australia’s Indigenous cultures. The museum houses over 40,000 Indigenous weapons, tools, paintings and body ornaments, and includes exhibition highlights such as the mahn installation, dedicated to Sydney’s first fisherwoman. Mahn sustained both the people and sea in harmony while fishing the local harbours for thousands of years. The exhibition aims to share the traditional culture and living history of Australia’s First Nations People.
Bangarra Dance Theatre
Only on the theatre landscape for 32 years, but drawing from over 65,000 years of culture, Bangarra Dance Theatre is a company of professional Indigenous performers. Using modern dance, they tell the story of their ancestors, sharing their culture and history with audiences in Australia and internationally.
Muru Mittigar Cultural Centre
Located on Dharug land, the Muru Mittigar Cultural Centre is run by the local Indigenous community. Visiting schools and tourists will be educated on Indigenous culture through engaging programs including culture talks, art lessons and bush tucker walks in the centre’s bush tucker garden.
Dreamtime Southern X tour: Illi Langi
This tour around the Rocks is an introduction to the Indigenous dreamtime cultural heritage of Sydney. Led by an Indigenous guide, it begins with the custom of Ochre on hand, which acknowledges Mother Earth before her landscape is discussed and explored. The walkabout uncovers the Indigenous people’s saltwater heritage within Sydney harbour, and their spiritual connection to the land.
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Of course, this list only scratches the surface of the many amazing Indigenous sights and attractions in Sydney, and across Australia.