You Can’t Eat Your Family: 100 Free Indigenous Tours Of Sydney

Jackie McMillan
26th Sep 2023

Aunty Margret Campbell, a 74-year-old former English teacher, became a Dreamtime Southern X tour guide to “break the biggest stereotype of all: you have to go to Uluru to meet a real Aboriginal.” In the lead-up to Australia’s referendum on The Voice I recently joined her on a tour around the area we know as The Rocks, but she calls Warrane, to understand what underlies voting yes to continue the conversation with Indigenous peoples. 

A lot of the tour centres around the way that Indigenous peoples are related and connected umbilically to their homeland. Rather than large amorphous concepts we have rebranded as caring about ‘the environment’ and ‘climate change’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have plants and animals as kin. The particular set of animals and plants for each Indigenous person is decided at their birth, by what is flowering and visiting, and the child’s relationship to them is like family: they are culturally responsible for their survival. For almost all Sydneysiders, who are saltwater people, Aunty Margret explains, whales for part of their kinship group. Her own kin includes a big rustic fig, a jewfish, a carpet snake, and a periwinkle.

“You can’t eat your family,” Aunty Margret tells us, explaining the enmeshed ecosystem, though she adds that Indigenous people sometimes destress by joking with each other that they’re “going to pig out on your mob.” As we sit down at lunch at Midden by Mark Olive, a Bundjalung man, I wonder how many times I might have sat down with an Indigenous person to dine and not known about their particular kinship food prohibitions and asked them to eat their family. That’s the crux of it for me, we need The Voice because we need these ongoing conversations that may bring solutions to wicked problems from across more than 65,000 years of continuous culture. “That’s what you’re disrespecting when you stereotype us,” Aunty Margret said. 

As part of Indigenous Business Month Intrepid Travel and Welcome to Country are offering 100 free tours in Warrane (Sydney). Make a day of it by eating dishes like quandong-glazed chicken stuffed with warrigal greens at Midden By Mark Olive. Gazing at Sydney Harbour from Bennelong Point, an area where Indigenous people formerly congregated to meet and eat, will give you time to reflect on what you didn’t know about Aboriginal culture. Did you know, for example, that Aboriginal people have 72 primary colours, three of which are depicted upon the Aboriginal flag?

The tour, The Rocks Aboriginal Dreaming Tour - Illi Langi, will run at 10am on 7, 14, 21 and 28 October and goes for 90 minutes. Hurry: the first 100 bookings will be free.