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Five ways to connect to country in Canberra

Updated 26 Mar 2024

To experience Canberra is to know its natural beauty. The nation's capital has long been known for its stunning natural surrounds, opportunities on your doorstep for enjoying the outdoors, and heritage surrounds.

To truly appreciate and enjoy it here, you can’t experience Canberra without properly acknowledging and revering the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, and any other people or families with connection to the lands of the ACT and region, who have cared for this land as their home for thousands of years. Ahead of Reconciliation Day, we’ve gathered some of the ways to connect to Ngunnawal country in Canberra during your next visit to this wide brown land.

Two men in a nature reserve

1. Take a tour

To embark on a solo walk is a beautiful thing, but you won't likely get the most out of an experience with country until you leave it to the experts and elders to teach you the lay of the land. The Ngunnawal people have been taking care of the land in and around Canberra for more than 20,000 years, so needless to say the elders of the community know their way around. 

Canberra is fortunate to have a diverse range of interesting tours that range from 45-minute discussions to full walk-and-talks. We've gathered up details on a few you will want to check out.

Dhawura Tours with Tyronne Bell

To learn about local Ngunnawal culture join Dhawura Tours and travel back in time to 'The Dreaming'. An experienced guide and Traditional Custodian will interpret various sites of significance and explore a variety of landscapes, wildlife and natural bush around Canberra.

Man and two women walking through nature reserve

Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation tours

With a rich history, the capital region is steeped in culture. Join one of the cultural tours by Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation to see and learn about the land from the eyes of the Ngunnawal people. Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation tours are tailored to suit each groups' interests. Book and co-create your tour today.

Ngala Tours at the National Arboretum Canberra

Ngala Tours are a new way to explore the National Arboretum Canberra. Discover the Arboretum in a whole new way, as you take a forty-minute guided bus 'Discovery Tour' around the Arboretum or join their Indigenous Visitor Services Officer for one of their immersive cultural tours. Ngala means ‘Any tree’ in the local Ngunnawal language.

Large, contemporary Aboriginal art paintings and artworks in the Aboriginal Dreamings Gallery.

2. See First Nations artworks in Canberra

Comprising over 7500 works, the National Gallery of Australia is privileged to house the world’s largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. From ancient traditions to contemporary practices, each masterpiece connects audiences with the unique perspectives of First Nations artists, their experiences, cultures and deep and enduring connections to Country.

For original, handcrafted arts and crafts by local Aboriginal artists, head to Burrunju Art Gallery and Aboriginal Dreamings Gallery.

For a hands-on experience join artist Gail Neuss, from Ngarigu Country, at the National Arboretum Canberra for an interactive workshop to explore storytelling and symbols.

Artwork displayed in the National Museum of Australia.

3. Learn about Indigenous history at national attractions 

Explore the shared stories and experiences of First Nations peoples in the First Australians Gallery and Talking Blak to History exhibition at the National Museum of Australia, before heading outside to enjoy the forecourt garden and sculptural Uluru Line. Daily talks and tours available.

At Australian Parliament House, the daily ‘Yeribee’: Indigenous experiences tour offers a unique insight into how First Nations peoples have brought about change through their roles in the nation’s democratic processes. The tour is free but must be booked in advance. Another historically significant site is the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, located opposite the Museum of Australian Democracy. First established in 1972 to protest the government’s approach to Indigenous Australian land rights, it remains as a permanent protest occupation site representing the political rights of First Nations peoples.

Image: Reconciliation Day 2021, Ben Appleton, Photox
29 May 2023

4. Observe Reconciliation Day

Reconciliation Day in Canberra will be held at the National Arboretum Canberra, with a family-friendly program designed to promote conversations and foster a deeper understanding of our national story and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. Reconciliation Day is part of National Reconciliation Week and is a time for all Canberrans to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievement, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

From panel discussions to art and crafts and storytelling, to live entertainment, stalls and exhibitions, the event will offer a family friendly and engaging program that creates a welcoming environment, encouraging all members of the community to attend and participate.

Image: Reconciliation Place, Ben Appleton, Photox

5. Explore for yourself

To explore Ngunnawal Country at your own pace complete the self-drive Aboriginal heritage track. Taking in cultural sites including the Murrumbidgee River and Namadgi National Park and other traditional meeting places where the Ngunnawal people welcomed and hosted mobs from the surrounding region to discuss land, lore and culture. See the mountains that were used for ceremonial purposes such as initiation, marriage and trading resources.

Take a walk through Reconciliation Place. Reconciliation Place is a walkway of sculptures which begins opposite the National Library of Australia. It was created in 2001 as a monument to the reconciliation between Australia's indigenous people and the settler population. Each sculpture represents a story about indigenous culture which draws attention to issues such as the reconciliation process, indigenous people during wartime, the stolen generation and the referendum for indigenous people to vote.

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