If we’re going to continue wandering out yonder to the far reaches of this beautiful State, it’s pretty essential we start engaging with, and understanding, the first nations peoples who owned them first. Aboriginal tours and experiences offer a unique insight into the oldest living culture in the world and when you explore these experiences, you’ll get a deeper connection with the land and the people who know them best.
One such place to do all of this and more is the beautiful Gwoonwardu Mia Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre in Carnarvon, celebrating the country and culture of the five Aboriginal language groups found in the Gascoyne region. You can look around the interpretive centre and even take a tour with one of the friendly team members, leaving with a deeper understanding of the Gascoyne region and the people who call this land home.
As the northwest region begins to head into peak season we imagine plenty of you will be headed Carnarvon-way, and here’s five reasons why Gwoonwardu Mia should be right at the top of your Coral Coast to-do list.
It has an award-winning interpretive exhibition and Sky Dome
Gwoonwardu Mia’s biggest drawcard is the award winning exhibition, Burlganyja Wanggaya: Old People Talking – Listen, Learn & Respect, uniting the Gascoyne region’s five Aboriginal language groups: Yinggarda, Bayungu, Malgana, Thadgari and Thalanyji. Throughout the centre you’ll be exploring themes relating to stories of the land and the continued culture of the region and the history of the Carnarvon townships.
One of the exhibitions most stunning areas will have you looking upwards to learn about the earliest astronomers in the spectacular Sky Dome – a timelapse video of a starry sky featuring an oral history of the ancient art of stargazing for the Aboriginal community.
Personalised tours and ethnobotanical gardens
The centre is run by a host of passionate locals who can take you on personalised tours (book HERE), walking you through exhibits and offering a deeply personal insight into their own experience in the region. They’ll also take you outside into the stunning ethnobotanical gardens, filled with flora and fauna like the honey tree and bird flower, along with Jilinbirri (mudlark), finches and more darting around the native shrubbery and trees.
Discover the centre’s breathtaking Mungurrgurra (Burrowing) Bees
Native to the Gascoyne region, Burrowing Bees are a fascinating insect species that have their own documentary you can watch in the centre. Operations Manager Antoinette Roe is an accredited expert in the field of Burrowing Bees, so much so she even contributed to a book called Animals Make Us Human that features a section on them.
So unique are the Burrowing Bees that even Sir David Attenborough himself in the past sent a documentary crew from the BBC down to Australia to document their intense mating habits. One that involves the female emerging from her egg-filled burrow only to find upwards of 20 males waiting to mate with her again, brawling with – and often killing – each other in the process!
There are plenty of excellent events going on
Aside from the educational guided tours on offer at the centre, there’s always something going on at Gwoonwardu Mia. There’s a café at the centre offering delicious treats for morning tea and lunch, and of course, barista coffee! On the last Friday of every month the Twilight Markets are filled with locally-sourced handmade crafts, jewellery and art, along with great food and live music. On Saturday mornings local yoga group Eutopea offers classes outside the centre, and on Monday 7 June the centre will host an incredible day of celebrations to mark the WA Day festival – more info HERE.
Pick up a stunning souvenir to take a home
No great museum or cultural centre is complete without a great gift shop, and Gwoonwardu Mia’s gallery and gift shop showcases beautiful weavings, paintings, silk scarves, homewares, cards and other gifts from artists local to the Gascoyne Region. Local Aboriginal artists are encouraged to contact the centre for opportunities to sell their works, and as such it’s filled with some incredibly rare, one-of-a-kind from WA’s heartland.
If you want to know more about the centre, visit the website, follow them on Instagram and Facebook or check out this recent podcast featuring an interview with Norma Lee from Gwoonwardu Mia as she takes you on a journey through the interpretative centre.
Gwoonwardu Mia Cultural Centre is open 9am-3pm, Monday-Friday and 9am-1pm Saturday and Sunday until September, when it drops back to Monday-Friday. Head to their WEBSITE for more info.