"The dreamings are our ancestors, no matter if they are fish, birds, men, women, animals, wind or rain. It was these dreamings that made our law. All things in our country have law, they have ceremony and song, and they have people who are related to them. "
Yanyuwa elder from Borroloola
Along the Track
The Stuart Highway between Alice Springs and Katherine travels through several different Aboriginal language groups, each with their own culture and history.
The small town of Barrow Creek is little changed since it was established as part of the Overland Telegraph Line over 100 years ago, an event which prompted cultural conflicts, with tragic results.
The eye catching granite formations of the Devils Marbles, span the highway 104 km south of Tennant Creek. In local creation stories, these rounded stones are regarded as the eggs of the powerful Rainbow Serpent. At Tennant Creek the Warumungu people welcome visitors to their country. As well as opportunities to share the traditional stories and bush foods, there is local art for sale.
This fast growing Outback centre is best known for the wonders of nearby Katherine Gorge. The town is also the gateway to some of the Territory's most remarkable and least travelled, Outback regions. To the east the vastness of Arnhem Land and the Gulf country beckons. Meanwhile, the track west leads to the Victoria River region.
It is not just points of the compass that are important here. Katherine is the crossroads for more than 36 different Aboriginal cultural groups, and nearby are the heartlands of the Jawoyn, Dagoman and Wardaman people.
To the west at Ingelari Waterhole, in Wardaman country, is one of Australia's greatest art and creation sites. The stunning rock paintings and engravings here are dominated by the evocative Lightning Brothers, creators of the violent storms that bring summer rains and new life to the land.
As the sun sets across Kakadu, the land comes alive. Around billabongs
mobs of waterbirds feed among the paperbarks. Shadows stretch across
the woodlands. Among the outcrops of the escarpment the fiery afternoon
light reveals a remarkable legacy.
In the rock shelters you find ochre paintings of animals, birds and fish and also human figures and haunting spirit images that stir the imagination.
To spend time in Kakadu is to be granted a vision of another world. The scale and diversity of the place can seem daunting. So too its 60 000 year relationship with the Aboriginal people.
Yet the possibilities to travel the land, to reflect on the songs and creation stories gives access to the spirit of place. Nowhere is this more conspicuous than in the art of the stone country. Here the bonds between the people, the land, the seasons and all living things are plain to see.
Kakadu National Park is jointly managed by Traditional Owners (Bininj) and Environment Australia. It is World Heritage listed for both its natural and cultural values.
Aboriginal people are a vital presence in the life of Australia's Northern capital. As well as being the traditional home of the Larrakia people, darwin is an important gathering place for visitors from outlying areas. Aboriginal endeavour is visible in the arts, local businesses, government agencies and sport.
Darwin boasts a range of commercial galleries showcasing Aboriginal creativity. Here you can choose from representations of regional art, including major bark paintings, works on paper, woven baskets, wood carvings and fine examples of traditional tools and weapons.
A vibrant city noted for its diversity of cultures, Darwin reveals many different aspects of Aboriginal life, from customs and artistic expression evolved over countless generations, to new initiatives such as performances by leading edge Aboriginal musicians among the world-renowned Yothu Yindi.
The people of Tiwi Islands are like no other in the Territory. Their history has seen the emergence of distinctive customs, beliefs and artistic styles.
A visit to these islands is a cultural interaction on many levels. You will observe traditions that have withstood the impact of the outside world for centuries. Nevertheless, the community is proud of their response to the opportunities of modern life. At Nguiu you can see evidence of this and the early mission precinct.
At home in the bush and by the sea, The Tiwi people have a pride and an indomitable charm all of their own.
A variety of Aboriginal communities operate Art & Craft Centres on Elcho Island, Maningrida, Ramingining, Gunbalannya (Oenpelli) which are the home of many famous artists and craftmen and provide a window on the lives and cultures of local Aboriginal groups who have lived on their traditional lands for over 60 000 years but also reveal the dynamic and changing nature of those cultures (Permits are required).