Our great nation may not date back to the Roman empire or be flooded with Renaissance art by the likes of Michelangelo, Bellini and Da Vinci that appear on almost every Florentine street, but despite our relatively short European settlement history, Australia has more than its fair share of cultural activities.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies originate from the oldest surviving human culture in the world and the famous Uluru and Kakadu are both teaming with tens of thousands of years of history, carved into the living rock. With such an amazing Indigenous history for the World to stand in ore of, It seems a shame not to point out some of the more modern culture that we have on offer as well.
In the remote outback of Australia lies one of the country’s most culturally significant locations and iconic natural landmarks. The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park covers more than 1,300sq km of desert and, of course, the two monoliths that the park is named after.
The Indigenous people of the region the Anangu tribe have lived in the shadows of Uluru for centuries, and many locals will conduct guided walks of some of the sites particular importance to their wonderful culture. Fluent in the local Pitjantjatjara language you’ll find an interpreter close at hand.
The guides tell local stories, which refer to formations and areas along the base of Uluru, as well as an ancient race of people known as the Mala who inhabited the area at the ‘beginning of time’. Although you can climb Uluru, we discourage you from doing so as the Anangu people really don’t like it. If you’d like to avoid upset stares from the tribe, hike the nearby Valley of the Winds walk at K ata Tjuta instead that offers the opportunity to walk 7km of red desert floor.
MUK MUK FINE ART
One of Aussies quirkiest towns Alice Springs seems to overflow with unique Australian art. The first thing to do is learn a bit about it, and there’s no better place than at Muk Muk Fine Art.
Many us of don’t have the cash or bag space for big artwork, so take the opportunity to learn as much about the origins and hallmarks of Aboriginal and contemporary Australian art as your mind can consume. Artists work in the studio space, so grab a spot and watch the art come to life before your very eyes.
Traditionally, all aboriginal storytelling was done in the sand and on the body for ceremony, but the iconography that was painted on the body is now painted onto canvas. An art teacher in the 1960s was invited to Papunya, a community outside Alice. He watched men drawing in the sand but became upset that it was blowing away, so he invited them to paint a mural at his school and they enjoyed it so much they started painting on anything. It migrated to canvases and the world stage where Aboriginal artwork now commands big bucks – up to $2 million!
If you’re after a cultural experience that is unique then look no further than Alice Springs.
One of our favourite times to visit is when the community holds a bizarre boat race in a dry creek (Henley-on Todd Regatta). Later camels with bad temperaments race across the red desert sands of Blatherskite Park in Lasseters Camel Cup. Larrikin culture at its best.
Australia’s second oldest city and an example of colonial architecture that seems to mix effectively with a modern city.
Hobart is one of Australia’s smallest cities and manageable on foot. A walk around the old town will take in the best cultural experiences including Battery Point, Salamanca and its famous markets where you’ll be able to find a souvenir or two.
A relative newcomer on the scene, Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art, or MONA, only opened in 2011 but has made an impression quickly. The biggest privately funded museum in Oz, MONA has rapidly become one of the country’s most exciting cultural destinations.
Indeed, as the man with the cash, David Walsh, famously said, it’s like a “subversive adult Disneyland”. The museum houses hundreds of top-notch works from Walsh’s own eclectic, unusual collection, while also hosting festivals and giving a home to regular, often fairly out here, visiting exhibitions. If you’re not from Tassie, entry is $20.
ADELAIDE FRINGE FESTIVAL
South Australia is the Festival State and nowhere is that more obvious than in the picturesque city of Adelaide. With its wide, tree-lined boulevards and abundance of beautiful parks, Adelaide is one of the more laid-back and easy-going cities in Australia with bags of room to relax in the sun and enjoy the outdoor lifestyle.
Adelaide is home to the much anticipated Fringe Festival every February and March. It’s biggest yearly event atrracts more than 4,000 local and international artists, singers, actors and comedians, and has become the largest festival of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
Home to the didgeridoo, the beautiful Arnhem Land is one of the Top End’s biggest draws; an area of more than 94,000 sq km that is Aboriginal-owned and clan groups. It’s without doubt a cultural stronghold.
Its rugged ranges are fringed with idyllic billabongs, flood plains, paper bark swamps and monsoonal rainforests; an amazingly beautiful wilderness.
It is widely believed that the first Aborigines, making their way across the Indonesian archipelago some 40- 50,000 years ago, arrived in this very place.
We have just the thing if it’s something contemporary that you’re after, Melbourne’s colourful and lively laneways.
Be sure to grab a map of the laneways if you don’t want to miss out on some of its hidden treasures and wander the graffiti trail. There are numerous cafés for when you need a good hit of coffee or a beer.
The nation’s capital is one of the most beautiful cities in Australia. It’s also home to the National Art Gallery, War Memorial and Australian Government offices.
Australia’s military history is a source of great pride for veterans and their families and the War Memorial is a poignant tribute well worth visiting.
Famous around the globe for holiday resorts, Darwin has another side that is rich in culture.
Explore the city’s Aboriginal heritage and relive the 1974 cyclone that locals still talk about, in the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.
The almost round the clock tropical climate means most of the cultural action happens outdoors, including the Deckchair Cinema and the Darwin Photos: getty, thinkstock, supplied and Facebook Festival.