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7 Indigenous experiences in The Murray River Region

Mungo National Park

11 May 2023 by Luke Crowley

7 Indigenous experiences in The Murray River Region

It should come as no surprise that The Murry is just as rich in history as it is in natural beauty. In its entirety, the Murray Darling basin is home to over 40 Aboriginal nations, who have over 65,000 years of longstanding culture, history and care for the region.

With each twist and turn of the mighty Murray, there’s a new story, piece of history and cultural experience waiting to be discovered. For history buffs chasing a deeper connection with the lands, it’s easy to add another layer of cultural and historical significance to adventures by visiting some of the incredible Indigenous experiences dotted along the banks of the Murray River.

These galleries, trails and tours let you explore the destination through a Traditional Custodian lens, so add these 7 Indigenous cultural experiences to your itinerary and be transported back through stories and art to many millenniums ago.

1. Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre Aboriginal Corporation, Deniliquin

Located centrally in the Murray River region, you’ll find the Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre Aboriginal Corporation in Deniliquin. As a hub for the exploration and preservation of Indigenous culture, the knowledge centre is peppered with displays of culture born on Wamba Wamba and Perrepa Perrepa country. Stop in to learn Wamba Wamba language on their interactive displays, view original tools, baskets and other cultural artifacts, and discover the important role weaving plays in the mid-Murray region.

The centre itself holds multiple displays of artifacts and galleries stocked with the works of local artists, giving you an insight into the evolution of art and culture over time, seen in the historic crafted pieces to modern-day artwork.

For a trip outdoors, soak up some vitamin D and learn about the land on a Cultural Knowledge Tour, where you’ll be able to walk through the Island Sanctuary and Deniliquin Forest, accompanied by one of the centre’s guides. While you may start your tour as a tourist, you’ll return an expert on indigenous food, medicinal plants and local stories.

2. Barkindji Wiimpatya Murray Centre (BMEET), Dareton

Just a short 20-minute drive from Mildura, you’ll find the Barkindji Wiimpatya Murray Centre (BMEET), home to a variety of artifacts created by local Aboriginal artists.

It’s easy to become immersed in the dreamtime stories painted onto kangaroo skins and emu eggs and feel the weight of intricately decorated boomerangs and tools. Don’t forget to check out the centrepiece of the BMEET collection; ‘Ridgy Didge’ Australia’s largest playable didgeridoo - a whopping four meters in length.

As a centre built to encourage and support local artists, you’ll often find artists practicing their craft in the workshop area who invite visitors in to watch them work.

Don’t forget to take a memento of your experience connecting with culture and community by purchasing an artwork or gift on the way out.

3. Wagirra Trail and Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk, Albury

Combining The Murray’s natural beauty and rich Indigenous culture, fill both your nature and history cup with a walk along the Wagirra Trail and Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk in Albury.

Follow the wide pathway through the riverside banks of South Albury to discover 15 beautiful artworks, each with its own piece of history attached. We recommend setting a leisurely pace, allowing plenty of time to admire the wooden sculptures, metal statues of animals, colourful murals and traditional tools-turned-art, and read the stories behind each of them.

Set aside half a day to complete the full 8.5km trail on foot, or traverse the trails via pedal power and hire an e-bike from Eating Travel, found a 15 minute stroll away in central Albury. Just as the Murray River has many exciting creeks and waterways, these trails branch off into plenty more riverside pathways, ripe for exploring.

4. Aboriginal Exhibitions Gallery at De Bortoli Rutherglen Estate, Rutherglen

For art aficionados and fine wine connoisseurs, blend two of your loves at the Aboriginal Exhibitions Gallery at De Borotoli Rutherglen Estate in Rutherglen.

This vino and viewing opportunity is made possible by a joint venture between the winery and Australian Aboriginal art collector Hans Sip who displays his curated collection of over 700 paintings, prints, artefacts and sculptures on-premises for the vineyard’s visitors to enjoy.

You’ll find the gallery conveniently housed within the Rutherglen cellar door complex, so help yourself to a tasting, before sipping and surveying the works of highly recognised artists (Trevor ‘Turbo’ Brown, Frederick William ‘Billy’ Doolan Jnr, and Djambu ‘Sambo’ Barra Barra) in the free exhibition.

5. Dharnya Centre, Barmah National Park

Nestled in the historic Barmah National Park, you’ll find the Dharnya Centre, a hub for conservation enthusiasts and Yorta Yorta National Aboriginal Corporation representatives whose mission is to preserve the history, culture and beautiful natural environment of Barmah National Park.

Stop in and say hello to the friendly reps, before setting out on the walking tracks beginning at the centre. On your walk, you’ll encounter remnants of oven mounds used by the land’s Traditional Owners for thousands of years.

With this new connection to land in mind, we encourage you to explore and enjoy the park’s natural beauty with a swim, fish or canoe trip along the Murray and surrounding waterways. For those who love a trip that takes you back to basics, pitch the tent in one of the many camping areas, and sink into your camping chair for a night under a canopy of twinkling stars.

6. Mungo Aboriginal Discovery Tours, Mungo National Park

For a guided tour into the sculpted sand dunes and vast lakebeds of Mungo National Park, join an award-winning Mungo Aboriginal Discovery Tour.

Conducted by rangers from three tribal groups in the Willandra Lakes Region, buckle up for their signature ‘Walls of China’ tour, taking you beyond the boardwalk with their special access and into the arid lunar landscape of this national park.

The tour begins at the Discovery Centre, where a dive into the region’s dreamtime stories sets the scene, before you spin your own set of wheels into landscape that’s home to over 50,000 years of Aboriginal cultural history. Learn the tricks of the trade used by Indigenous people to survive The Murray’s unpredictable tides, and plenty more from your Aboriginal Discovery Ranger.

Bookings are essential to join these tours, which promise to deepen your connection with land and culture.

7. Kevin Williams Gallery, Gunbower

For an insight into the inspiration behind Aboriginal art, learn of the story and traditions that inform the works of Kevin Williams in his gallery in Gunbower.

Kevin’s upbringing along the Murrumbidgee River saw him spend time in the largest Bora Ground (traditional meeting place) ever recorded. This Bora Ground consisted of two large meeting circles, 30m and 50m in diameter, joined by a 500-meter pathway flanked by trees featuring ornate carvings of symbols, animals and markings known as the Totems of the Waradjuri.

These tree carvings now form the basis of his striking artworks and are his inspiration to putting paint to canvas. Be sure to visit the Kevin Williams Gallery on your travels to view the Totems of the Waradjuri woven throughout his works and delve more into the story behind them with Kevin.