Culture and heritage

Ways to be an ally in Aboriginal Melbourne

31 October 2022

Get to know the oldest continuing culture on Earth and attend events that promote truth-telling, healing and change.

Here are some ways to deepen your understanding.

Show up in times of celebration and reflection

Pause to reflect on 26 May, Sorry Day, to acknowledge the strength of the Stolen Generations and reflect how we can all share the healing process.

The following day is the start of National Reconciliation Week – a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to reconciliation.

The dates, 27 May to 3 June, are the same each year, commemorating two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey: the successful 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision.

Later in the year, NAIDOC Week encourages people to celebrate Indigenous cultures and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

This year’s theme is ‘For Our Elders’, celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders as cultural knowledge holders, trailblazers, nurturers, advocates, teachers, survivors, leaders, hard workers and loved ones.

Mark your diary for 2 to 9 July and head to the city for a vibrant program of music, art and discussions.

A child participates in an Aboriginal smoking ceremony
A smoking ceremony near the water’s edge

Join the movement to change the date

As a council, we are advocating to the Federal Government to change the date of Australia Day, following an independent survey that showed majority support for the move among residents and business owners.

We support the Share the Spirit Festival that happens on 26 January at the Treasury Gardens and encourage you to
deepen your understanding of Aboriginal sentiments about this date.

Resources like and SBS documentary The Australian Wars are great places to start.

See the landscape with fresh eyes

Did you know that a blue saltwater lagoon once stretched out across what would later become West Melbourne and Docklands?

Or that the high ground now known as Parliament Hill has been a site of law and lore-making for millennia?

Learn about places of Aboriginal cultural significance through our Mapping Aboriginal Melbourne project.

It’s a powerful truth-telling tool that reveals Aboriginal peoples’ deep connection to this country.

A green space at Birrarung Marr with the city skyline beyond
A quiet spot at Birrarung Marr

Experience YIRRAMBOI

YIRRAMBOI Festival has appointed two new creative leads, heralding the arrival of a fresh and invigorating era for Australia’s
premier First Nations festival, which will run from 4 to 14 May 2023.

Creative Lead Sherene Stewart (Taungurung / Filipino) and Lead Creative Producer J-Maine Beezley (Wakka Wakka) are collaborating with a panel of expert artists, activists and academics on a program that’s set to stun.

YIRRAMBOI has also joined forces with Tasmania’s Dark Mofo to support First Nations artists to develop four new works
in a ‘kin’ partnership that highlights crosscultural connections between Koorie and Palawa peoples.

Learn more at

A breathtaking performance at YIRRAMBOI

Read books by Aboriginal authors

Dive into this reading list of books by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and allies. It features page-turners, high drama, memoir and thought-provoking topics. You can borrow all the books from our libraries.

Get to know the local languages

When we travel overseas, we pick up how to say ‘hello’ and gather a few simple phrases that can help us understand and move through the place we’re there to explore.

So why not get to know some of the local languages right here on our doorstep?

Start by learning the traditional name of the place where you live.

And learn a single greeting in the languages of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung and Bunrong Boon Wurrung Peoples of the Eastern Kulin.

  • Narrm is the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung word for the Melbourne region.
  • Wominjeka / Womindjeka means ‘welcome’ in Woi Wurrung and Boon Wurrung.
  • Birrarung is the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung word for the Yarra River.

Want to delve deeper? Victorian Aboriginal Languages Corporation is devoted to preserving and reviving local languages, including Woi Wurrung and Boon Wurrung language restoration projects.

Support Aboriginal businesses

Fall in love with one-of-a-kind art, dine out on native ingredients and turn your home into a jungle of plants thanks to deadly businesses led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Here are seven ways to support Aboriginal businesses.

Transport yourself to a beach bar in the Torres Strait at Mabu Mabu – Big Esso, an all-day bar and kitchen at Fed Square. Chef Nornie Beru brings the heat with flavours from her home island of Mer in the Torres Strait.

Wear your values on your sleeve. Buy an ally-friendly t-shirt or hoodie for yourself and your favourite munchkins from Clothing the Gaps, an online shop stocked with merch with meaning.

People dining under a neon sign reading 'Big Esso'
The Big Esso

Take a tour of the city

Wander from Fitzroy Gardens to the Docklands to learn about Melbourne’s Aboriginal heritage and culture, including scarred trees, historical meeting places and monuments. Take your time on a self-guided Aboriginal Melbourne walking tour.

Drop in at the Koorie Heritage Trust to explore the public collection before you go on a Birrarung Wilam (River Camp) Walk with an experienced guide. And drop into the gift shop to pick up artworks, jewellery or books designed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

Rug up and head for the Royal Botanic Gardens to learn about significant native plants, plant uses, customs and ongoing connection to Country. Book an illuminating Aboriginal Heritage Walk through the gardens.

Hear stories of survival against the odds and celebrate our vibrant cultures through performances, storytelling, artwork and more at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum. And kids will love the Milarri Garden trail.

Three people gaze up into the boughs of a tree
People on the Aboriginal Heritage Walk at Royal Botanic Gardens

Go deeper

We are committed to showing how genuine reconciliation can happen between Aboriginal people and the broader community in the City of Melbourne.

We acknowledge and honour the unbroken spiritual, cultural and political connection the Wurundjeri, Bunurong, Dja Dja Wurrung, Taungurung and Wadawurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin have to this unique place for more than 2000 generations.

Aboriginal culture, knowledge and heritage enrich the city’s growth and development.

For more information, including educational videos, audio recordings and other resources, visit Aboriginal Melbourne.

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