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Traditional Aboriginal Healing: The Ancient Art of Wellness

November 13, 2020 Visit Oceania No Comments

Think wellness is protein shakes, superfoods, day spas and mindfulness? Aboriginal cultures put another spin on what we perceive as a modern trend. Practised for tens of thousands of years, Indigenous healers have nurtured the physical, emotional and social well being of their people through food, massage, bush medicines and ceremony. Dhangal Gurruwiwi, Director of Lirrwi Tourism(more on that in a moment) puts it nicely: “If spirit is healed, the body will heal,” he says.

Aboriginal people regard food as medicine, and a closer look at the produce they pluck from the bush reveals astonishing health qualities. The popular Kakadu plum, which grows in northern Australia, has the highest vitamin C content of any fruit in the world, offering up to 100 times the level of vitamin C found in oranges.

Meanwhile, native Australian herb lemon myrtle is rich in calcium, and endemic wattleseed is exceptionally high in protein, iron and zinc.

You can taste this wondrous bush tucker with Dale Tilbrook Experiences at a gallery or a winery outside Western Australia’s capital city, Perth. Tilbrook will also proffer emu and goanna oils, which have long been rubbed on arthritic and sore joints. A one-hour tour with Karrke Aboriginal Cultural Experience & Tours, near Kings Canyon in the central Northern Territory, also exposes you to such things, as well as witchetty grub (an insect that produces a nutty, popcorn flavour when cooked).

On the south coast of New South Wales, Dwayne Bannon-Harrison is proud to continue the oldest food culture in the world. As well as managing an Indigenous foods catering company where healthful eucalypt, tea tree and paperbark leaf are used, he runs Ngaran Ngaran Culture Awareness. Along with introducing people to medicinal plants, he shares Aboriginal healing methods. In line with his ancestors, he uses meditative vibration and song as a form of sound therapy, while smoking ceremonies act to cleanse those who move through the scented wafting air. His traditional Djirringanj sunrise ceremony recognises that each day is unique and must be lived well – a ritual that speaks to the mindfulness so many of us now practice.

Ceremony and bush healing are also key to the Yolŋu, a language group found in the Northern Territory’s remote Arnhem Land. There, traditions are still a part of everyday life. Lirrwi Tourism’s Dilly Bag Tour for Women is one way that Yolŋu women are actively teaching and sharing their ‘women’s business’ – practices that are strictly open to that gender, staying true to the ancient culture. The experience includes a crying ceremony, a profoundly moving, communal event that mixes suffering with solace.

It’s vital that traditional remedies survive – something visitors assist in, by engaging in immersive learning.


Tourism Australia’s ‘Discover Aboriginal Experiences’ is a collective of quality and inspiring Aboriginal experiences, guided by Aboriginal people who share personal stories about their own country to bring the landscape and their culture to life. A diverse range of over 170 experiences is offered. The collective is part of the ‘Signature Experiences of Australia’ program and is a flagship suite of extraordinary Aboriginal Australian experiences, showcasing the world’s oldest living culture through the cornerstones of cultural insight, authenticity and meaningful connection.

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