Exploring Shoalhaven aboriginal cultural tours and businesses

Matt Simms smoking ceremony
Matt Simms of Djiriba Waagura – smoking ceremony and welcome to country

Hi Wendy here from the Haven at Berry I had an extraordinary day out this week, as we were invited as a local tourism business to participate in the Shoalhaven Indigenous Connections Family hosted by the South Coast Centre of Excellence, to experience what was on offer from local aboriginal businesses.
The day began at 8am with a smoking ceremony at Nowra hanging Rock lookout, the day blessed already by the presence of a magnificent Sea Eagle riding the thermals overhead and the words of one of the local elders welcoming us to country.
Through the day we gained a better perspective of what “country” means to aboriginal people and how they care for it and continue to share it’s lore through their culture. 

Bungalin walk
Felix Salmon of Bungalin walking on Country

We were divided into two groups to go on cultural guided walks following different but similar paths with different companies.  Since I had already met with the excellent Felix Salmon of Bungalin, and done one of his walks, I joined the other group and we were taken by bus down to Murrays Beach at Jervis Bay.
Here we met with Matt Simms of Djiriba Waagura.
He gave us another smoking for good measure and explained some of the lore behind that, and the plants used. Matt’s easy manner and clear love for his country and the sharing of lore made this a very special experience.

Matt Simms Djiriba Waagura
Matt showing us how to make ‘bush soap”

We learned about local bush tucker along the way, and how to harvest it with respect so that the plants would not be damaged for the future, because thinking about that sustainability for the future is part of care for country.

Whale walk
Headland , Jervis bay




We walked through the bush and out onto the headland, which gives amazing views over the turquoise water of the bay and turning West, of the ridge behind. This is Matt’s Burri Burri  ( Whale) walk, as at the right time you get a great view of the migrating whales, whose lore is very important to his people. Matt explained that this track was part of a songline, as was the ridge of mountains behind the coast, and he told us the dreaming story of the Black Cockatoo which gives it’s name to Nowra.

Murrays Beach
Murray’s Beach, Jervis Bay

With 360 degree views from the highest point you get a real sense of the sacred places he spoke of and the connections between them – as Matt explained, relationships, and respect are of core importance to indigenous people and these principles are at the heart many of the dreaming stories, of which we heard more on the return loop of the walk.

I can highly recommend Matt Simms of Djiriba Waagura, and Kym and I will be booking ourselves in for some of his other walks, at Yalwah and Mundamia soon.
If you’d like to book a walk while staying with us, please follow the link below to get in touch with Matt and see what he’s doing. He goes out most weekends, and he may have some scheduled walks on or you can book for small groups.

We were taken from there to the Naval Museum at Huskisson where we were treated to a great lunch menu with indigenous flavours by Mirritya Mundya Indigenous Twist  complemented by some delicious non alcoholic craft beers by Sobah Brewing .

Our next adventure was at the Booderee Botanical Gardens guided by Bernie McLeod, of Djungga Kultural Tours

Bernie McLeod
Bernie McLeod talking about bush foods

who is part of the staff there and he explained to us the history of the park which is now indigenous owned and run and just leased to the National Parks. Bernie shared with us some Lemon scented tea tree tea and walked us through some of the native gardens and facilities there.  They offer tours and teaching events or you can just wander at your own pace. It is a beautiful place and we’ll definitely be returning to explore and see more.

From the Botanic Gardens we were bussed to Bundanon – Artist Arthur Boyd’s old homestead and now home to the amazing new gallery and cultural facility where there is currently an exhibition of indigenous art from Arnhem Land –  Miwatj Yolnu – Sunrise People.

Aboriginal art Bundanon exhibition
Yolnu art from Arnhem Land
Aboriginal cutural dance
Gadhungal Marring Dancers

After some refreshments from the cafe, we heard from various speakers including Uncle Sonny Simms who knew Arthur Boyd and had some great anecdotes to tell. At dusk we made our way down towards the Shoalhaven river bank to watch dancers from Gadhungal Marring to close the day. Their lively commentary helped to understand how the dances share lore and practical knowledge and it was wonderful to see so many young people take part with great pride and expressive movements .
A great end to an amazing day.
Many thanks to Shoalhaven Centre of Excellence for inviting us and fro Scott and Robyn for answering our questions along the way. A great initiative and we hope you will be inspired to try some of these tours and experiences when you stay with us. 

Walking, cultural and bush food tours based at Narrawallee near Mollymook.
Contact – Felix Salmon –  email – [email protected]

Djiriba Waagura – local cultural walking tours and visitor experiences
Contact – Matt Simms – 0401 623 566
Email – [email protected]

Djungga Kultural Tours
Based at Booderee National Park and the Booderee Botanic Gardens
Contact – Bernie McLeod – 0421 381 517 or email [email protected]

 For the Botanic Gardens contact the Visitor Centre Staff via 1800 357823 between 9am and 4am or email [email protected]
There is an entry cost of $13 per car if you do not have a Booderee parks pass.

Gadhungal Marring

Tours · Cultural · Workshops · Dance · Immersion

Phone  0402 547 660

Mirritya Mundya
Indigenous twist catering for consultancy, events and pop up dinners.
0408 272 121
email – [email protected]

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