Settlers from all over the world have come to call Alice Springs home, however long before European settlement in the 1800s, Alice was occupied for tens of thousands of years by the world’s oldest living culture. The Northern Territory is home to over 40 different indigenous language groups, one of which is the Arrernte people, who are the traditional owners of Alice Springs, known as Mparntwe in the Arrernte language. For many years Aboriginal people living in the outback have used Alice Springs as a place of meeting and trade, and still today Aboriginals from a wide area of remote communities will travel to Alice Springs for conveniences. As a result, a large number of different Aboriginal groups are represented here.
Whilst Aboriginal groups are defined by their language, it represents much more than just the way they speak. The Arrernte language reflects a person’s cultural identity and belief systems. Around 25% of the Alice Springs population speak Arrernte as a first language.
Alice Springs is one of the most densely populated areas for Aboriginal sacred sites in the Northern Territory, housing over 100 sacred sites. Many have been lost to development, making those that remain even more special. It is important to respect sacred sites and avoid any damage or disturbance. Visitors to Alice Springs can visit some of these sacred sites, as well as a multitude of insightful galleries and museums, to learn about the history, culture, and stories of the traditional owners.
The Araluen Cultural Precinct is one of Alice Springs’ top attractions and an excellent place to immerse yourself in local Aboriginal culture. Here you will find seven registered Aboriginal sites and trees of significance, including the 300-year old Corkwood Tree which the Araluen Arts Centre is built around. Museums and galleries within the precinct showcase Aboriginal art and artefacts that tell the story of Alice Springs Aboriginal culture, as well as other exhibitions.
Outside of the cultural precinct, Alice Springs is home to a number of galleries where visitors can learn about Aboriginal artwork, including the Yubu Napa Art Gallery, where visitors can meet indigenous artists and watch them work. A visit to Alice Springs Desert Park allows guests to gain a deeper understanding of the connection that local Aboriginals have to the wildlife and landscape. Learn about the language, art, traditions, and Dreamtime stories of the area’s traditional owners.
35KM south of Alice Springs is the Ewaninga Rock Carving Conservation reserve, which has one of the largest collections of Aboriginal rock carvings in the Northern Territory. Travel further afield to the East MacDonnell Ranges to discover plenty of indigenous rock art in the stunning nature parks.
Annual festivals celebrate the local Aboriginal culture of Alice Springs. Desert Mob is a vibrant exhibition of Aboriginal Art, attracting artists, artwork, and visitors from desert regions around the Northern Territory, South Australia, and Western Australia. Meanwhile, Parrtjima is a 10-day festival of lights, celebrating Aboriginal culture, arts, and storytelling through installations, exhibitions, workshops, music, dance, films, and more.