Darling River Indigenous Culture


We dont have boundaries like fences
We have spiritual connections



A Brief overview of indigenous history

Provided as a general information only

Early European naivety, which also permeates through to modern perceptions, viewed Indigenous Australians as one people. Aboriginal culture in Australia is no more  homogenous than European Australia, but is a diverse and interlaced association of many different cultures that, along with Torres Strait Islander peoples, make up the fabric that we refer to today as Indigenous Australia.

Aboriginal Culture can be traced back at least 45,000 years and within the Outback NSW many Aboriginal  ‘groups’ can be identified. Within this region, most of these groups lived along the many water courses that make up the Darling Basin and today they live in the towns of the area; no less connected to the area and its geological features as their forbears.

The Warrego, Lachlan, Paroo, Barwon, Murray and Darling Rivers provided not only a cultural basis for the people but also sustained life by affording food supply from the waterways and surrounding areas. The largest of these groups is the Barkindji, whose region stretches from Wentworth all the way along the Darling and up to Wilcannia and Tilpa, although their concentration was traditionally greater in the southern regions of the river. The indigenous name for the river which we now know as the Darling is ‘Barka’ and the Barkindji literally means the people of the Barka (the river).

To the uninitiated, the NSW outback may appear to be on homogenous land but when one experiences the outback one soon appreciates the diversity of the land in this region and this multiplicity is reflected in the different indigenous groups that were and are custodians of these lands. The major groups (as identified by DECC) are as follows and are provided here as a general overview only:

Group General Region
Gamilaraay Walgett/Lightning Ridge area
Yuwaalaraay Walgett/Lightning Ridge area
Ngiyambaa Walgett/Lightning Ridge area
Wiradjuri South of Cobar on the Lachlan River
Jitajita Murray Darling Depression (NW of Cobar)
Kureinui Northern, Murray and West to the Darling River
Maraura. (AKA Wiimbaio) West of the lower reaches of the Darling
Barkindji Along the Darling – Wentworth to Walgett
Parundji Paroo River
Naualko West of the Darling (Bourke / Brewarrina)
Ngemba East bank of the Darling – (Wilcannia area)
Baranbinja and Ualarai Wanaaring – White Cliffs area
Ualarai Wanaaring – White Cliffs area
Barindji Lachlan to the east bank of the Darling River
Karenggapa Far North West corner of NSW (Channel Country)
Maliangapa Around the seasonal lakes south of Tibooburra
Wiljakali Broken Hill region
Wongaibon Lachlan to the east bank of the Darling River

Pre-European population levels have been estimated to have been as high as 750,000. With the arrival of Europeans (mainly English, Irish and Scottish) came not only dispossession, death and disease, but massive detrimental cultural impacts as well. Strong edifying beliefs and a determination have (all but slowly) made some progress in the last few decades (the right to vote, land rights, native title, identification of culturally significant lands and the recent ‘Sorry’ from the Federal Government have gone some way to reinvigorating cultural pride. These events have also helped many non-Indigenous Australians understand the importance and cultural contribution of the first inhabitants.

More and more places across Australia are integral in this process of acceptance and understanding and Outback NSW has some wonderful areas that provide an opportunity for people to experience Aboriginal culture and heritage and to learn about its significance.

Some wonderful National Parks have been established in Outback NSW to experience:

Please refer to our National Parks section for more information on these wonderful parks.

Spiritual Culture

People of the outback – indigenous

A Brief overview of Indigenous Spirituality

(Provided as a general introduction only – should you wish to find out more, please refer to our links section).

We, all people of the world, live in a world of the physical, spiritual, and human, but these paradigms are far more steeped and recognized in Aboriginal culture then they are for many non-indigenous Australians.

An element of this can be seen in how land is viewed in these cultures – land is not something that can be owned, traded, or exploited for profit. Land has a spiritual definition. “We don’t have boundaries like fences, as farmers do. We have spiritual connections” (anon)

To indigenous Australians, all living creatures are dynamically and intricately linked and have all arisen from great ancestral spirits. Dreamtime can be viewed as the Creation and the perpetuation of the significance of these events, adherence to spirituality, forming of customs and the lineage of cultural beliefs down through the generations is The Dreaming; much of which is done through dance, song, mime and art.

As with most religions in the world whereby different ‘accents’ are placed on core beliefs, the Dreaming of Indigenous Australia also varies from group to group and region to region as it pertains to the ‘country’ of the respective people. While the continuum of the various Dreaming maybe different, they all derive from an analogous and interpretive Dreamtime; in a similar way that many non-indigenous religions vary but can be linked back to some core analogous and interpretive form of Creation.

While forming the relationships within the living world, the Ancestral Sprits travelled across the land and through certain events formed the physical land; mountains, hills, rivers, streams, trees etc. When the land was created, the Ancestral Beings formed into elements they had created. The hills, the animals, the flora, the stars etc, and they remain within those elements of the world thus creating the spiritual connection to the world.

How these Spiritual Beings formed the world after Dreamtime is the basis of the many sacred stories which get passed down through the ages and it is this that forms the Dreaming.

These stories are not just passed down by anyone within a nation, but by special custodians appointed by elders, who are responsible for maintaining the cultural continuum for future generations. The reference to custodians is pertinent as the stories of Dreaming belong to the nation, not the person, and it is the responsibility of the custodian to pass the stories on thereby maintaining perpetuating The Dreaming with strict cultural adherence.

As much of this is an oral story, and the detrimental cultural influences of Europeans (i.e.; Disease, massacres, westernising, and the banning of language and storytelling), a lot of the Dreaming has been lost – especially in many parts of South Eastern Australia; potentially resulting in the irreversible death of rich and diverse cultures.

Fortunately through cultural pride and strength, enough has been retained and there are efforts to perpetuate these irreplaceable traditions via today’s custodians. This maintains the links with the past, placing them in context for today. Dreaming and instilling cultural pride in communities, especially the young; for they are tomorrow’s custodians of these very precious and unique ancient cultures.

This sanctity of custodianship in addition to sacred and secret stories may seem to non-indigenous people as curious, but it is because of this that it is passed through time in the correct way and with its original and intended context and while non-indigenous people may not comprehend the secrecy of men’s business or women’s business, it must be accepted and respected as in the same way as any cultural or religious diversity and not dismissed because of ignorance.

To hear some story telling, from a custodian, please refer to: Dreamtime