Aboriginal Heritage: Honouring Melbourne’s First Nations

Long before the city of Melbourne emerged, the land upon which it stands was home to the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. These indigenous people who lived here for over thousands of years. Today, as a vibrant and multicultural metropolis, Melbourne continues to respect and appreciate its Aboriginal heritage, recognising the contributions of the First Nations people to the city's identity and culture. From ongoing reconciliation efforts to the celebration of Indigenous art, music, and storytelling, Melbourne is determined to create a city that embraces and respects its Aboriginal roots while forging a path towards a more inclusive and united future.

The Wurundjeri People: The Traditional Custodians

The Wurundjeri people have been the traditional custodians of the land on which Melbourne stands for countless generations. They have created a deep connection to the land, its flora, fauna, and waterways, and have a rich cultural heritage that includes art, language, ceremonies, and storytelling.

Melbourne's commitment to honouring its Aboriginal heritage starts with acknowledging the Wurundjeri people as the traditional custodians of the land. Various ceremonies and events, such as Welcome to Country and smoking ceremonies, are conducted at public gatherings and events to pay respect to the traditional custodians and to seek their blessing for the occasion.

Indigenous Art and Cultural Spaces

Melbourne is home to several cultural spaces and galleries that celebrate Indigenous art, providing a platform for Aboriginal artists to showcase their talents and share their stories. The Koorie Heritage Trust, located at Federation Square, is a significant institution that promotes and preserves Aboriginal culture and heritage. The trust runs exhibitions, workshops, and cultural events that provide insight into the richness and diversity of Indigenous art and culture.

The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) also dedicates space to Aboriginal art, showcasing contemporary works by Indigenous artists. These exhibitions highlight the ongoing vitality and creativity of Indigenous art forms, challenging stereotypes and broadening understanding.

Public Art Installations and Murals

Throughout the city, public art installations and murals often pay tribute to Melbourne's Aboriginal heritage. These artworks serve as a reminder of the city's ancestral roots and contribute to the visual landscape, creating a sense of connection and belonging for both the residents and visitors.

While exploring everything about Melbourne, you must view the Birrarung Wilam (Common Ground) installation on the Yarra River that has been designed by the Wurundjeri Elders and artist Vicki Couzens. The sculptures represent the ancestral eel traps of the Wurundjeri people and serve as a symbol of reconciliation and understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

Promoting Indigenous Languages

Language is an essential aspect of cultural identity, and Melbourne acknowledges the importance of Indigenous languages by incorporating them into public spaces and events. Bilingual street signs, with place names in both English and the local Indigenous language, are a common sight in many parts of Melbourne. This practice not only preserves the language but also educates the broader community about the traditional names and meanings of the land.

Festivals and Celebrations

You can also witness several indigenous cultural festivals in Melbourne that celebrate this rich heritage. Among these, The Yaluk-ut Weelam Ngargee Festival, held on St Kilda's foreshore, is a must watch as it has a diverse range of Aboriginal music, dance, art, and storytelling. This event provides an opportunity for both Aboriginal and non-Indigenous people to come together and experience the richness of Indigenous culture.

NAIDOC Week, held annually in July, is a significant celebration across Australia, including Melbourne. The week-long event honours the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, with various activities, performances, and community gatherings held throughout the city.

Reconciliation and Acknowledgment

Melbourne's commitment to honouring its Aboriginal heritage goes hand in hand with the ongoing process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Melbourne has a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) that outlines its commitment to creating an inclusive city that acknowledges the unique place of Aboriginal culture. In addition to the RAP, there are ongoing efforts to incorporate Aboriginal perspectives and histories into school curricula and public discussions, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of Indigenous culture and history.


There are also many abandoned heritage buildings that are being revived as part of this reconciliation efforts. You can read about it in this article, Abandoned Heritage: Forgotten Buildings and Their Stories in Melbourne.

Indigenous Tourism and Cultural Experiences

Indigenous tourism experiences are becoming more prevalent in Melbourne, offering visitors an opportunity to engage with Aboriginal culture and learn about the land's deep history. Guided tours, cultural walks, and bush tucker experiences provide a chance to hear stories from Aboriginal guides, learn about traditional practices, and gain insight into the connection between Indigenous peoples and the land.


To learn more about these heritage trails, you can read the article, Guided Tours to Experience Melbourne's Rich Legacy.


Honouring Melbourne's Aboriginal heritage is an essential and ongoing process that involves acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land, celebrating Indigenous art, promoting reconciliation, and creating inclusive spaces for both Aboriginal and non-Indigenous communities. The city's commitment to respecting its Indigenous roots ensures that Melbourne remains a vibrant rich metropolis that continues to thrive on the contributions of its First Nations peoples. As the city evolves, so will its dedication to embracing the diverse legacy of its Aboriginal heritage.