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Holiday You: The Culture Vulture

Holiday You: The Culture Vulture

You’re well and truly in your element when you’re immersed in a world of arts, history and cultural experiences.


You may not need a passport, but you’re crossing the invisible borders of several countries when you travel WA, homes to the world’s oldest cultures. With hundreds of known language groups, the diversity in Western Australia is intricate and fascinating. From the Noongar people of Western Australia’s southwest, to the Bardi and other groups of the far north, and the Ngaanyatjarra people of the central desert country, the best way to learn how each tribe forged a unique way of life is go and ask them! A lot can be learned on a guided tour of each region’s natural surrounds, and of the huge diversity of rock art pieces – some only accessible by Indigenous guides – that provide insight into the heritage, practices and beliefs of WA’s Aboriginal people. 

If you would like to be aware of Indigenous cultural protocols while travelling, the Welcome to Country app enlightens you on Traditional Land Owners and more than 500 language groups, with videos on the region you’re visiting, all tracked by GPS. Download at

Before you say g’day to an Indigenous person, your initial approach should be to someone of the same gender, as a mark of respect.

Bungoolee Tours (photography WAITOC).


The Northwest

Many Traditional Land Owners of Broome speak Yawuru (pronounced “Ya-roo”), and the language is also taught in schools. Yawuru belongs to the Nyulnyulan family of languages, unique to the Dampier Peninsula. Visit

On Burrup Peninsula, you’ll find the largest concentration of ancient rock art in the world. Up to a million carvings of people, animals, birds and creatures have been etched on the rocks and cave walls.


YawuruNgan-ga is a dictionary of Yawuru words and common phrases, with word games to help you learn and practise on or offline. Download from


The Mitchell Plateau is the home of the GyornGyorn Paintings (also known as the Bradshaws), believed to be the earliest examples of figurative paintings in the world. There are 100,000 art sites in total. Ancient rock art and petroglyphs appear at random on the walls of the Mimbi Caves. You can also book a tour with a local guide to see the most significant fish-fossil site in the southern hemisphere.


One Road: Canning Stock Route Project explores the Aboriginal communities traversed by the 2000km Canning Stock Route, from Halls Creek in the Kimberley region to Wiluna in the Mid West. The app is a great travel guide, with essential tips on the 4WD track, guidance on languages used in the area, stories, and 3D animations of wildlife and ancestral beings. Download at

The Martu (meaning ‘one of us’, or ‘person’) are the Traditional Owners of parts of the Pilbara region, from the Great Sandy Desert in the north, to Wiluna and surrounding areas in the south. The Martu encompass no fewer than six different language groups.

If Karijini National Park were not spectacular enough already, it gets even better with the annual Karijini Experience, celebrating the arts, culture and people of the Pilbara region. Held from April 15 to 22, it includes opera in the gorge, the captivating moonrise lounge, workshops, talks, and culinary events.

The Coral Coast

Yamatji means ‘Aboriginal man’ of the Murchison and Gascoyne area. Wadjarri is one of the Yamatji languages spoken in Geraldton, and is currently being taught in schools. Visit

Wula Guda Nyinda Eco Adventures, Shark Bay offers a selection of tours. For bookings, visit

  • Kayaking and Wildlife Adventure Enjoy a comfortable 4WD ride through Francois Peron National Park to discover local bush foods, medicine plants, and the 230 bird species found in the area. Paddle out across shallow waters and sheltered bays to find turtles, sharks, rays, fish, birds and the elusive dugong, followed by swimming and lunch on the beach, then a relaxing hot tub at Peron Homestead on the way home.
  • Francois Peron 4WD Tour Where the sand of the deserts meets the waters of the Indian Ocean, visit fantastic lookouts like Skipjack Point and Cape Peron for breathtaking views across the bay. Spot turtles, stingrays and manta rays, sharks, dugongs, birds and more.
  • Didgeridoo Dreaming Night Tour An amazing adventure under a night sky of magnificent stars. Learn to play the didgeridoo, and enjoy the taste of seafood or bush tucker cooked on an open campfire, as well as a sandalwood smoking ceremony.

Wula Guda Nyinda’s Didgeridoo Dreaming Night Tour.


The Golden Outback

Ngadju land encompasses parts of the Goldfields, and a small section of South Australia. 102,000sqkm surrounding Norseman was officially declared Ngadju native title in 2014.

Not far from Wave Rock, Mulka’s Cave can be found in The Humps Nature Reserve near Hyden, and offers a notable collection of Aboriginal paintings.

Njaki Njaki Tours (Merredin) 0407 984 470, 

Visit the WA Indigenous Tourism Operation Council at,
or for more tours.


Noongar means ‘a person of the south-west of Western Australia’, and there are fourteen dialects in the region.

Walyunga National Park, one of the largest campsites in the area, has great cultural significance. Approach via the Aboriginal Heritage Trail, a 1.2km trek.


A Kimberley artist at work (photography WAITOC).

The Southwest



  • Sharing The Dreaming teaches about Noongar culture. Listen to Dreamtime stories with local paintings as backdrops, search translations, and learn traditional Noongar seasons and symbols. Download from
  • Mamang is the story of a young man travelling through the seas of the south coast inside the abdomen of a whale, ‘mamang’. It celebrates the Wirlomin Noongar people’s connection to the sea. Download from



Music is at the heart of popular culture in WA. The state’s most famous music exports include the likes of David Helfgott, Tim Minchin and The Triffids. The local music scene has also produced bands like Tame Impala, Eskimo Joe, John Butler
Trio, Jebediah, Gyroscope, Little Birdy, Birds of Tokyo, The Sleepy Jackson and The Waifs.

Summer sees a music festival practically every weekend in Perth and around the state, offering the opportunity to take in fabulous weather and locations, as well as acts from around the world. Check out Stereosonic, Southbound, and the West Coast Blues ‘n’ Roots Festival. Check for event details, and to book.

Harvey Dickson Country Music Centre, Boyup Brook.

Music Events

Musos, get your diaries out: these gigs can’t be missed!  


  •  Oz Rock Busselton Jan.
  • Southbound, Busselton Jan.
  • Wignalls Vintage Music Festival Jan.
  • Boyup Brook Country
  • Music Festival Feb.
  • Leeuwin Estate Concert,
  • Margaret River Feb/Mar.
  • Emergence Creative Mar.
  • Nannup Music Festival Mar.
  • Fairbridge Festival Apr.
  • Jazz by the Bay, Dunsborough May.
  • Denmark Festival of Voice Jun.
  • Nanga Music Festival Oct.
  • Blues at Bridgetown Nov.


  • Fringe World Jan/Feb.
  • St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival, Fremantle Feb.
  • City of Perth Opera in
  • the Park Feb.
  • Perth International Arts Festival Mar.
  • West Coast Blues ‘n’ Roots Mar.
  • Perth International Jazz Festival May.
  • Perth International Burlesque Festival Jun/Jul.
  • Western Australian Music
  • Festival Nov.
  • Breakfest Dec.
  • City of Perth Symphony
  • in the City Dec.


  • Broome Arts & Music Festival Mar.
  • Kimberley Ord Valley Muster, Kununurra and Wyndham May.
  • Opera Under the Stars,
  • Broome Aug.
  • Northwest Festival, Port
  • Hedland Aug.
  • Wave Rock Weekender, Hyden Sep.
  • Pilbara Music Festival Sep.

Perth Concert Hall

The West Australian Symphony Orchestra calls Perth Concert Hall home. It is believed to have some of the greatest acoustics in the southern hemisphere, and hosts world-renowned contemporary artists and classical ensembles.

Red Earth Arts Fesitval

This ten-day event in September attracts around 10,000 guests each year – and it’s easy to see why. The entire City of Karratha in the Kimberley comes to life with standout music acts, local performers, great food, family events and more. Visit


Rooftop Movies (photography Jarrad Seng).


Perth’s stage and screen culture is extraordinary, with artists cultivated at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, one of Australia’s top three schools for film, theatre and musical arts. WAAPA churns out actors like Lisa McCune, Frances O’Connor and Anna Bamford, musicians like soprano Emma Matthews and singer/songwriter Meg Mac, and all-rounders like the multi-talented Hugh Jackman.

Popular Perth Theatres

Two stages present high-quality, locally produced work from the state’s best companies. The underground theatre is named after the late actor Heath Ledger, who grew up in Perth.

Chances are you’ll be served a drink by the star of the next production at this intimate, arty, in-the-know performance space and bar, with a year-round program by local independent producers.

You’ll be surprised how much those puppets can tug on your heartstrings. Bring tissues, or at least a gaggle of kids to distract you.

The gorgeous art deco building puts on family favourites and revamps familiar shows from musical theatre to comedy.

Say you saw them before they were famous. This WAAPA venue is one of the first stages our next crop of stars will tread. Student performances are open to the public.

Quality, locally produced drama and comedy shines in the Old Mill’s unassuming, historic building.

The art centre at PICA showcases challenging, innovative contemporary performances.

Home to the West Australia Opera, this stunning Edwardian theatre (the only one in Australia) is worth a visit just to do a recce round the foyer, but its program of dance and cabaret is a must-see, too.

A suburban building for local theatre through Perth Theatre Trust.

State Theatre Centre of WA (photography City of Perth).

Fun Fact

The Bijou Theatre in Esperance is Australia’s oldest surviving wood-and-iron theatre. It opened in 1896 and today hosts an array of community acts and events. Take a tour throughout this historical gem for just $5 per person.

Cinefest Oz

Take your love of film to a whole new level with Cinefest Oz. The five-day annual festival in the Margaret River wine region premieres Australian and international feature films, documentaries and short films, filmmaking workshops, a gala night and free community screenings. Held in August.

Outdoor Cinemas and Drive-ins

Movie buffs, it’s time to put down the remote and step outdoors to enjoy a film under the stars.

Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival.



With three major universities in the city (UWA, ECU and Curtin), Perth is home to a healthy literary and academic community, and a host of award-winning authors and poets. Outside the city, authors from the country and outback capture and reflect the unique landscape.

The Perth literary scene includes writers’ clubs and several centres that offer writing classes, as well as book clubs, author talks and writers festivals. The State Library of WA at Perth Cultural Centre in the CBD, as well as the university libraries are open to the public, and are lovely places to rest and read. Mt Lawley is something of an artsy community, and a great place to explore bookstores – don’t miss Beaufort Street Books, it’s an institution. The Lane Bookshop in Claremont is another well-loved store. Fremantle has a swathe of second-hand bookshops to explore, and is home to the famous Tim Winton. Visit for more.

Writers festivals

  • Perth Writers Festival Feb.
  • Swancon, Perth Mar.
  • Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival May.
  • Kimberley Writers Festival, Wyndham Jul.
  • Broome Writers Festival – Corrugated Lines Aug.
  • Avon Valley Writers Festival Sep.
  • Big Sky Readers and Writers Festival, Geraldton Sep.
  • CrimeScene, Perth Oct.
  • Poetry d’Amour, Perth Nov.

Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival

Scheduled for early winter (the ideal time to read a good book with
a glass of red) this festival has word-loving intellectuals congregating to hear short stories, poems, comedy acts, authors in conversation, excerpts from novels, and the inspiring stories of non-fiction. For the spiritually inclined, you’ll find books on healing and holistic subjects as well.

Australian Poetry Slam

From June to October, the Rosemount Hotel hosts the Perth heats of the Poetry Slam, in which poets speak, scream, howl, whisper and even sing their poems, stories, lyrics and monologues to be judged by the audience Visit for more poetry events.

The Cheynes IV whaling vessel can be toured in Albany (photography Tourism WA). 



As far as settler history is concerned, WA was skirted by the Dutch in the 16th century, but not settled until the British set up camp in the 19th. What followed was a fascinating jumble of pirates, fortune hunters and passersby chasing wild west booms in wide brown lands.

Shark Bay

In 2016, historic Shark Bay will mark the 400-year anniversary since Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog made landfall on an island off the coast of Western Australia. The Dutch sea captain inscribed his name and the date of his arrival on a pewter plate and nailed it to a post there, a mark of discovery that is the earliest known evidence of European contact in Australia. Known today as Dirk Hartog Island, the location is part of the Shark Bay World Heritage Precinct.

In October 2016, to commemorate and promote the diverse offerings of the region, Shark Bay will play host to a week of unique cultural events including arts, food and historical events.

If you can’t be there for the anniversary itself, the Shark Bay World Heritage and Discover Centre offers daily guided tours, covering natural wonders and local history spanning thousands of years. Fun, educational, interactive activities for the children run daily through school holidays.

Visit for event info and bookings.

Dirk Hartog Island, Shark Bay.


On Christmas Day, 1826, the British ship Amity arrived from Sydney to set up a port in Albany, three years before Perth. This juicy piece of history is not forgotten in Albany – check out the replica of the brig Amity, and take a guided walk along the Amity Trail, and you’ll see for yourself.

The town has more than 50 colonial buildings, National Trust residences, and quaint cottages still in evidence: be sure to visit the Western Australian Museum – Albany, The Old Gaol and Museum, the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial, and Historic Whaling Station at Discovery Bay.

King George Sound in Albany was also the place where the first convoy of ANZACs departed for WWI. You can find out more at the National ANZAC Centre. Visit


The Dutch first breezed past in 1696, but Perth was only settled in 1829, as recommended by Captain Stirling, a man in awe of the beauty and the economic potential of the region.

Free guided city tours follow the Convicts and Colonials Trail, the Boom or Bust Trail, the Icons of Influence Trail, and the Art City Trail. Tours depart from the City of Perth Information Kiosk, Murray Street Mall, or you can pick up a map and follow the trails yourself.

Perth has an abundance of museums. Here are some of the best.


Fremantle’s rich history as the oceanic gateway to Western Australia has left its
mark in the form of wind-battered relics, replica ships, maritime museums and shipwreck exhibits. Start at Fremantle Prison: the heritage-listed convict jail was constructed between 1851 and 1859 using convict labour, and housed local inmates until 1991. Book a day tour with the kids or, if you’re feeling adventurous, take a spooky torchlight tour or tunnels tour (but be warned, we hear the place is haunted!). At the Fishing Boat Harbour, you’ll come across the bronze statues of two bygone local fisherman, their hands full of crates and fish. You can also view The Duyfken 1606 Replica (bound for Shark Bay in October 2016). The aptly named Roundhouse, the oldest public building in WA, was built in 1831 – also a jail. Ease yourself into the wooden stocks for the full felon experience, and stick around till 1pm and witness the dropping of the ‘time ball’ and sound signal. There’s a whalers’ tunnel running underneath the Roundhouse to Bathers Beach, through which you can escape.


As big as a hand, the shimmering Pinctada maximus pearl shell was treasured by the native Yaruwu tribes of the Kimberley – carved with designs, worn during dances, and used for trading. In the 1860s, the beautiful shell lured fortune seekers and pirates from China, Japan, Europe, Malaysia and the Philippines to Broome, where they mixed with the local people to form a close-knit multicultural society that thrives today.

The Broome Museum tells the intriguing history of the British pearl masters, and enslaved Aboriginal skin divers submerged for hours each day. Take the Pearl Luggers Tour on Dampier Terrace to learn about the skilful Japanese divers (many of whom are now buried in Broome’s Japanese cemetery) and see the huge suits and lead boots they wore to dive, as well as a beautifully restored lugger. Don’t miss the Willie Creek Pearl Farm tour to see how the cultured pearling industry has come of age.

Across the road, Sun Pictures is the world’s oldest outdoor cinema, and you can still see the door Aboriginals were made to go through on the right-hand side. All the different races were segregated in the cinema, but would watch Westerns together even as the planes flew over and water lapped beneath the chairs at high tide.

New Norcia.

New Norcia

A living slice of history, located 132km north of Perth, New Norcia is the only monastic town in Australia, still in full swing. Visit the old Flour Mill, dating back to 1879, St Ildephonsus’ and St Gertrude’s Colleges, and the town monastery and museum. In Abbey Church, you’ll find sgraffito (Italian scratched art), and one of only two large Moser organs crafted in Germany and imported to Australia in the 1920s. Take a guided town tour to explore the gothic revival, Byzantine, Italian, Renaissance and Latin-style architecture set against a backdrop of eucalyptus trees. 


It’s an eight-hour drive to Kalgoorlie, but the centre of the late 19th century
gold rush and former wealthy boomtown is worth it. Guided tours take you to the highlights: Hannans North Tourist Mine, where you can climb on a dump truck and watch blast footage; Loopline Railway Museum; Western Australian Museum – Kalgoorlie-Boulder; and the Kalgoorlie Super Pit, one of Australia’s largest and highest-producing gold mines, turning out 900,000oz of gold a year. Don’t miss ghost towns like Gwalia, that speak of hard mining days. A meal in an historic Kalgoorlie-Boulder pub is a must.


Western Australia’s diverse beauty and vibrancy inspires countless painters, sculptors and craftsfolk. You’ll be able to admire and collect works, visiting new and established artists’ studios, market stalls, galleries and shows wherever you travel in WA.

Margaret River region

A must for art enthusiasts, with what seems like an endless array of galleries showcasing a large selection of prints, contemporary paintings, sculptures, photography, textiles, crafted jewellery, pottery and more. The region’s hot-spots include Yallingup, Busselton, and Margaret River.


Down every second street in Fremantle you’re bound to find a quaint gallery or artisan store to explore. Stop by the Fremantle Arts Centre – it contains
the largest municipal collection in the state, with more than 1200 pieces of contemporary and traditional works.

Swan Valley

Art, wine and food – what could make for a better combo? The galleries and artisans of the Valley’s thriving art scene are peppered along the Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail.


On the eastern side of the Kimberley, the small town of Kununurra is home to
a wealth of talented artists who capture the dramatic Kimberley region. Artlandish is one of the world’s largest Aboriginal art galleries, and worth popping into. Artlandish Aboriginal Art Gallery, 10 Papuana Street, Kununurra, 1300 362 551.


If traditional Aboriginal art interests you, this is the best place to see it. Tie your
trip in with the annual Cossack Art Awards. The heritage-listed ghost town – 1600km north of Perth or an hour’s drive from Karratha – attracts thousands of visitors, and comes alive again over three weeks in July. Expect artist-in-residence workshops, artist talks, family days and movie nights under the stars. Visit in November for Roebourne’s annual Ngurra Nyingu Art Exhibition, displaying the works of Aboriginal artists from the West Pilbara.


Perth’s art and cultural scene will have you occupied for days. First head to the Art Gallery of Western Australia, and Perth Cultural Centre, then peruse the many galleries dotted about the city, Northbridge, and the suburbs of Perth. You can also take a stroll to the city’s public art, in open spaces such as Forrest Place. Venture out to the villages of Perth Hills to see more artist studios and artisan stores.

Don't Miss: Perth International Arts Festival

Founded in 1953, the Perth International Arts Festival (PIAF) is the largest and longest-running multi-arts festival in Australia. It has welcomed some of the world’s greatest living artists, and now connects with more than 500,000 people each year. Exclusive events include the popular Chevron Festival Gardens concert series, Lotterywest Festival Films, Perth Writers Festival, and a whole program of local and international acts, bringing the best of arts and culture to WA. PIAF runs from Feb 12-Mar 6, 2016. Go to for more details.


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