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Australia’s red centre

Encompassing the World Heritage-listed red rock monolith of Uluru and the mysterious shapes of Kata Tjuta and Uluru, the traditional custodians of this land, the Anangu, believe this Central Australian landscape was created at the beginning of time by their ancestors. The Anangu have been protecting these sacred lands for thousands of generations since.

Not only is the Red Centre steeped in human history; it contains distinctive desert fauna and many rare species of mammals, birds, and reptiles – a distinction that has earned it a place on Australia’s list of National Landscapes.

The pioneering town of Alice Springs is a great base from which to explore the Red Centre.  The town was originally called Stuart, however, the locals called it Alice Springs in honour of the wife of Charles Todd who supervised the building of Australia’s first overland telegraph line from Adelaide to Darwin.

The history of ‘The Alice’, as it is affectionately known, is populated by a colourful cast of characters that include gold-diggers, outback pioneers and Afghan cameleers.

Wander through Alice Springs and visit the numerous Indigenous art galleries – excellent places to pick up an authentic piece of unique Aboriginal art. Alice Springs is a good base from which to take to the skies on a sunrise hot-air balloon ride or scenic flight. For a taste of a romantic bygone era, join the 1500 kilometre train journey from Alice Springs to Darwin aboard The Ghan.

To the east and west of Alice Springs are the MacDonnell Ranges. This jagged and rocky spine stretches for hundreds of kilometres, harbouring gorges and permanent rock pools carved by prehistoric rivers. The traditional owners of this area, the Arrernte people, believe giant caterpillars called the Yeperenye became the MacDonnell Ranges – entering this world through one of the dramatic gaps in the escarpment.

The Larapinta Trail walking track extends more than 220 kilometres along the West MacDonnell Ranges, crossing steep ranges and deep chasms. Its changing perspectives are a humbling reminder of being a mere dot in space and time.

A 445km drive ‘down the track’ from Alice Springs on the Stuart Highway brings visitors to  Uluru – the largest monolith in the world. Almost 10km around and 600 million years old, this sandstone wonder is truly a magnificent sight.

The Anangu do not climb Uluru because of its great spiritual significance and they ask that others respect their law and culture by not climbing it.

A better way to experience Uluru is to see it at sunrise or sunset. The colours shift constantly, from pink to blood red to mauve. Each time you turn around there’s a different hue.

Other activities at Uluru include star-gazing and Harley-Davidson motorcycle tours. You can learn about Tjukurpa, the traditional law guiding the Anangu people, at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre or you can follow in the footsteps of the ancestral beings and learn about sacred sites and bush tucker from an Aboriginal guide.

A nearby rock formation, Kata Tjuta (‘many heads’) offers an equally magic experience. This maze of 500 million year-old massive sandstone domes makes a very special early morning or late afternoon excursion.

Park rangers offer guided walks through the Valley of the Winds and Olga Gorge. Like Uluru, the towering sentinels of Kata Tjuta move through their own spectacular colour spectrum and show a different aspect from every angle.

At the Ayers Rock Resort, visitors can enjoy the Sounds of Silence experience. This unique outdoor dining experience takes place under a canopy of stars, with your very own storyteller who shares the tales from the night sky above.

A few hundred kilometres north-east of Uluru is the Watarrka National Park, best known as the home of Kings Canyon. The pale orange walls of the sandstone canyon were shaped thousands of years ago.

You can do the one-hour Creek Walk or the four-hour Canyon Walk at Kings Canyon. Waterholes such as the lush Garden of Eden, deep in the gorge, are perfect for a swim to escape the heat of the day. If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at becoming a jackaroo or jillaroo at Kings Creek Station, a 1,800 square kilometre cattle station near the park.

Both the World Heritage-listed Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Watarrka National Parks have a remarkable geological history. Five hundred million years ago, the entire area was covered by an inland sea. Over many centuries, a spectacular environment of inland lakes and tropical woodlands evolved. Cycad ferns dating back to the time of the dinosaurs thrive here, and its rock holes and gorges provide refuge for more than 600 species of plants and native animals. The Red Centre Way is a magnificent outback drive that links the national parks and many of the heartlands natural wonders.

To the east and west of Alice Springs are the MacDonnell Ranges. This jagged and rocky spine stretches for hundreds of kilometres, harbouring gorges and permanent rock pools carved by prehistoric rivers. The traditional owners of this area, the Arrernte people, believe giant caterpillars called the Yeperenye became the MacDonnell Ranges – entering this world through one of the dramatic gaps in the escarpment.

The Larapinta Trail walking track extends more than 220 kilometres along the West MacDonnell Ranges, crossing steep ranges and deep chasms. Its changing perspectives are a humbling reminder of being a mere dot in space and time.

From the early 1900s, fortune-seekers searched the Central Australia desert for rubies and gold, but treasures of a different kind exist in this ancient natural landscape: you just have to know where to look.

Alice Spring Accommodation

Booderee National Park – Jervis Bay

Booderee National Park has been named one of the nation’s 10 most outstanding protected areas with The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) -Australia Top 10 awards.

Booderee National Park lies 170 kilometres south of Sydney in Jervis Bay. Booderee is an Aboriginal word from the Dhurga language meaning ‘bay of plenty’ or ‘plenty of fish.’ The Park covers more than 6000 hectares on land and sea and is leased by the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council to the Director of National Parks.

Local rangers and traditional owners work together in protecting and opening up Jervis Bay to visitors from throughout Australia with outstanding achievements in biodiversity heritage and environment conservation.

The reserves are selected for their exceptional contributions to Australia’s National Reserve System and their national significance in protecting key components of biodiversity, including rare or threatened species and ecosystems, and places of outstanding species richness.

Booderee makes an outstanding contribution to Australia’s National Reserve System, a continent–wide network of protected areas, protecting Australia’s unique landscapes, plants and animals for future generations.

Booderee National Park, was handed back to the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community in 1995. It is one of only three National Parks in Australia owned by Aboriginal people – the others are Uluru and Kakadu in the Northern Territory. The 6,000-hectare park offers walking trails to several beaches, a well-established botanic garden of native plants and ferns and abundant bird life and fauna.

 Booderee Walking Trails

Alice Springs

The local Aboriginal tribe is the Arrente and they have lived in the area for over 20,000 years, there is much to discover learn from the Aboriginal culture. Many of Alice Springs heritage attractions are within walking distance, these include the Aboriginal Arts & Culture Centre, the Reptile Centre, three art galleries featuring works of local aboriginal artists, the Museum of Central Australia and the Royal Flying Doctor Service base.

The predominant colour of this part of Australia is red, from the sand and dust. There is much to see of natural beauty including the MacDonnell and James Ranges, Standley Chasm, Kings Canyon and mysterious meteorite craters. The Alice Springs Desert Park has displays of desert animals, plants and aboriginal culture.

Red Centre Way tourism drive
Beginning in Alice Springs, the Red Centre Way links the Northern Territory’s world-renowned landmarks of Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon). The drive stretches alongside the West MacDonnell Ranges and will have travellers immersed in this area’s cultural and natural history.

East and West MacDonnell Ranges
Surrounding Alice Springs is an ancient mountain range that glows red in the evening light – a picturesque backdrop to the town. The MacDonnell Ranges are divided into East and West and feature gorges, chasms, walking trails and swimming holes. While the West Macs are more popular and accessible, the appeal of the East MacDonnell Range is its remoteness and cultural significance.

Camel trek
The early pioneers used camels to travel through the Northern Territory’s harsh terrain. You can ride a camel to dinner in Alice Springs. For the more intrepid travellers, treks on these ancient ‘ships of the desert’ across the Simpson Desert, or into the surrounding outback of Alice Springs can be booked with local tour companies.

Alice Springs Desert Park
A great introduction to Central Australia, the Desert Park showcases the natural and cultural environment of the Red Centre in three desert habitats. Professional guides, including local Aboriginal people, share stories of the region. There are displays of free-flying birds of prey, close viewing of unique and rare animals in the nocturnal house and interpretation of the plants, animals and people of the Australian deserts.

Historic tour
Alice Springs owes its existence to a cross-section of plucky pioneers and today, travellers can ponder various historic milestones at a number of key heritage sites in and around the town. Visit the Overland Telegraph Station, the National Road Transport Hall of Fame, the original base of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the School of the Air.


Photos courtesy of Tourism NT

Goulburn’s Indigenous Heritage

In Goulburn NSW, the plains and Wollondilly River provided native game and fish for a number of the traditional aboriginal peoples including: Mulwaree, Tarlo, Burra Burra, Wollondilly, Wiradjuri, Gundungurra, Dharrook, Tharawal, Lachlan, Pajong, Parramarragoo, Cookmal and Gnunawal. The Goulburn region was known as a meeting place for all these groups, it wasn’t inhabited by just one group of people.

Great epidemics of disease largely wiped out the indigenous population in the 19th century and sadly, few of the original inhabitants remained by the turn of the 20th.

Records dating back to the 1830s indicate the river flats at Bungonia Road, on the outskirts of Goulburn city, was once the corroboree site of the Gandangara, who were virtually wiped out by an influenza epidemic in 1846/7.

Evidence remains of sites where stone tools were made and great corroborees were held – the last being late in the 19th century. Some known significant sites locally include:
· Goulburn Railway Station (a meeting place, corroboree site)
· Kenmore Hospital (ceremonial area)
· Rocky Hill (a bora site where initiations were held, a “man’s place”)
· Corroboree Hill near Taralga
· All Saints Church (corroboree site)
· Lansdowne Park Estate (burial site)
· Wollondilly River & Mulwaree Flats

Aboriginal meanings for some local place names include:
Wollondilly – water trickling over rocks
Mulwaree – long water
Pejar – large area of water
Wombeyan – big kangaroo
Canberra – meeting place
Bungendore – palace of gum blossoms
Wingecarribee – flight of birds
 
For more information contact the Pejar Local Aboriginal Land Council on (02) 4822 3552 from Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4.30pm. Fax: (02) 4822 3551. Address: PO Box 289, Goulburn 2580.

Additional resource: Aborigines of the Goulburn District (1992) by Jim Smith available for loan from the Southern Tablelands Regional Library.

To explore much more of Goulburn & Surrounds’ rich heritage, be sure to contact the Goulburn Visitor Information Centre by phone on free call 1800 353 646 or visit: http://www.igoulburn.com/