Sep 16 2013

Aboriginal Tourism in Sydney

Sydney Harbour & The RocksThere were fewer visitors to Sydney in 2013 than there were in 2012, and far fewer than there were in 2001. And I think I’ve discovered one reason why.

It’s too hard to find out what to do – apart from see the Harbour Bridge & the Opera House that is.

On my latest foray into the sightseeing business in Sydney I woke up and it was not a very nice day – overcast, windy and cool. I had planned on getting the on-off bus around Sydney & Bondi, but the day just wasn’t good enough, so I decided to change plans.

I passed over looking on-line for a more personal approach, and caught the bus into the city with the intention of asking at a Tourist Information Kiosk.

Ferry across Sydney HarbourI caught the bus into Circular Quay, a logical place to start looking. And there is a tourism kiosk at the Quay, but it’s tucked away at the end of the Quay with very few people, across the road and behind the railway line from where people actually walk, and poorly signposted. Very easy to overlook if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

But that’s better than nothing, at least it’s there, and perhaps they’re looking for a more prominent place to put it.

I walked up and started picking up brochures. The man in the kiosk looked up “Can I help you?”

“I’m looking for something to do today” I said. He asked about where I’ve been (the Rocks and Harbour Bridge), and then said “Have you been to the Botanic Gardens?”

“I have,” I said “but not for a while”

“Oh, you’ve been there.” And that was it, no other suggestions. So I prompted him

“Are there any Aboriginal tours?” I asked “An Aboriginal walking tour or something?”

DSC_0241 (1024x680)“This is Sydney” he responded “If you want that you’ll have to go to Central Australia”

WtF????

Is this really the best we can do?

They did have a booklet setting out places of significance that you can walk to yourself, with some information about them. And some of it is very good, but mostly it’s post 1788 Aboriginal history. While the history of Aboriginal activism in Australia is important it really needs the background of culture, heritage – and stories – from pre-1788 and early contact to put it into a context.

A very quick look on line reveals a number of Aboriginal cultural and heritage tours including four in the city – a harbour cruise, Rocks walking tour, an Aboriginal heritage harbour walk, and even an Aboriginal guided tour in the Botanic Gardens.

They don’t all operate every day, and some require advance booking. I hope none are relying on referrals from Sydney Tourist Information!

And of course there’s the Art Gallery of NSW which has probably the best Aboriginal Art collection in Australia.

Information is available on the Destination NSW website, though their link to the Rocks Dreaming Tour doesn’t work, ring 9240 8788 if you want to know more about it, or just go in to the Rocks Visitors Centre. Apart from that, it’s not a bad site if you’re looking for things to do in Sydney.

People don’t come here just to see the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, and not everybody has the time or money to venture to Central Australia. I’ve said before that we’re getting better at recognising the entirety of our history and culture, but it seems there’s still a way to go. The buskers at Circular Quay are doing a better job of educating the public about Aboriginal culture than the Tourist Information kiosk.

I’m booking the Tribal Warrior Tour, so I’ll let you know later how it goes.

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Permanent link to this article: http://kathswinbourne.com.au/aboriginal-tourism-in-sydney/