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Our Culture

Come and learn about our Culture. It helps if you look and listen with your heart as well as your head. That way you can experience the way we share our knowledge and better understand who we are and how we connect to Country.

Our Aboriginal culture gives us a sense of belonging to the land, the sea and to each other. It links the past, present and future and is expressed through our stories, art and songs, our dance and ceremony, and the way we understand and respect Country. Much has been handed down from our ancestors over a long time and we work to keep this valuable knowledge and connection to Country alive. Maintaining our cultural traditions and looking after Country is important for our identity and well-being, and shows respect to our ancestors.

Our culture is one of the most beautiful cultures in the world. It feels good to be a part of my culture, it makes me feel connected and have a strong identity and belonging. I think it is very important for all Australians to understand Aboriginal Culture and learn and recognise Aboriginal people as the First Australians and people that have been here for thousands and thousands of years. We need to learn and unite and look after this land we all call home .“ Nigel Stewart, Arakwal family member.

Arakwal Mob

Through these ancestors we are connected to Country in northern New South Wales that extends along the coast from Broken Head in the south to the Brunswick River (Durrumbul) to the north, past Julian Rocks (Nguthungulli) out into the Tasman Sea to the east, and into the Byron Bay hinterland to the west.

We continue to have a strong association with this area which includes the coastal town of Byron Bay, known by the Bunjalung people as Cavanbah, which means ‘meeting place’. Many of us live and work here, or if living elsewhere visit whenever we can. To all of us it is our true home. Click on and watch the video below and learn more from Arakwal family member, Delta Kay, who shares stories and information about Cavanbah.


Our relationship with this Country is more than just a place to live. It’s the living, breathing source of all life, our spiritual home and home of our ancestors’ spirits.

Being in and part of Country keeps us connected to our culture and our ancestors. It’s our duty to look after Country. We look after Country and Country looks after us.

Through family and long term relationships over many generations we are also connected to Country and Aboriginal communities up and down the coast and inland, not just in the Northern Rivers region but much further afield.

Likewise they are connected to us, and Country here, and this is important for maintaining our traditions, knowledge and stories that go back to the Dreaming time.


Stop, Look, Listen

Our People, the Byron Bay Arakwal, have lived around the Byron Bay area for thousands of years. Before the many changes brought by European settlers, we used to live off the land and the water. It provided us with many foods from plants, bushes and trees. We want our children, grand-children and their grandchildren to know how we once lived and to also be able to use the food from these lands.

We want them to know our special places.

(Linda Vidler, Lorna Kelly, Dulcie Nicholls, Byron Bay Arakwal Elders)

Traditionally we learn, teach and do things in ways that connect us with Country and to each other. These include dance and ceremony, story telling and song, crafts and art, and being in Country connecting with nature and doing things like walking and swimming, hunting and gathering. These help us to belong to, and care for Country. To do this properly we need to Stop, Look and Listen (Binungal!) when visiting Country.

Click here to read our Bush Rules.

Impacted by the influx and settling of non-indigenous people in our Country, our traditional knowledge and skills have been fragmented and in some cases lost. We are rebuilding and adapting to strengthen our culture. This includes the shared stories we now hold with the wider community in which we live and work. We have included different ways of learning and caring for Country that come from this experience and new relationships that have formed in recent times supporting our cultural renewal and caring for Country.

The meaning and messages of our culture remain the same, strongly connected to our ancestors and continuous storylines of this Country and our people. This is shared in our Arakwal clan, with the wider Bundjalung nation and Aboriginal peoples, as well as with the general community, to strengthen awareness and respect for Country and Aboriginal culture.


Learning Together

Our workshops, tours and cultural programs are about learning together, supporting Arakwal values of Knowing Country, Respecting Country and Caring for Country. They focus on transfer of knowledge and practical learning for our own people, and for the wider community.

For our people it’s about:

  • Connecting to Country and each other – getting back on and looking after Country, strengthening our relationships with each other and the wider community.
  • Encouraging development of  our Arakwal community members, leaders and elders, including mentors and champions of our cultural values.
  • Providing and supporting education, training and work opportunities linked to our cultural experience, programs, workshops and activities.

For the wider community it’s about:

  • Learning about and respecting Country and our culture – how we do things and applying this when visiting and being on Country.
  • Supporting and contributing to our effort, working together caring for Country, strengthening our culture  and valuing our people.
  • Building trust and encouraging reconciliation, an understanding of our journey as a people, and how we have been challenged and had to adapt to change, particularly in recent times.



  • Click play below to view the Dubay Dancers story which shows us learning together (Video 123MB)


Our Approach to Cultural Learning

Through our program activities, and any workshops and tours, we aim to encourage and achieve real cultural learning for our people and for the wider community. They are varied to suit:

  • the age group, or awareness level
  • any difference in men’s and women’s business, and
  • whether its for our Mob, or for the wider community.

They promote building of relationships, knowing and caring for Country, communicating our cultural values, and working together to improve understanding and our quality of life.

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Our Totems and Messengers

A totem is an animal, plant, another natural object like rock, river or tree that is connected to a person ancestrally. It can have an emblem such a wooden pole or decorated object to represent it. Much of our art is connected to and reflects the power of  totems and how they are connected together in the story of life.

A totem connects us to Country, to each other and the Dreaming. In nature all creatures and objects have their place and importance, and so do we in our community and in our relationship to Country. By being connected to totems and what they represent we individually and collectively share responsibility for each other and Country. In this way we each make sure that we don’t do wrong by Country, that we look after Country, and it will look after us.

There are totems that link us together as women and as men, as a clan or land-connected unit, and as a bigger tribe of people living in Country. Wajung, the dolphin, is the  totem of the Arakwal women, and Miwing, the sea-eagle is the men’s totem, and our clan totem is Kabul, the carpet snake. We are the carpet snake people.

Each of us is given an individual totem that we need to learn about and understand, and help protect and maintain for the future.In this way we all play our part in respecting and caring for Country.

We have used some of our key totems as messengers on the website to introduce our culture and explore Country. Below is some information about them. An abridged version of this information is used for scroll-overs linked to main page headings of this website.

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Programs and Activities

The programs, tours and learning activities here are for our people and the wider community. They are about experiencing our culture, strengthening awareness and understanding, as well as respecting and looking after Country.  They help develop our knowledge-holders and custodians through ancestral stories and sharing of responsibilities to maintain our culture and look after Country.

Dolphin Dreaming

Through story, dance and creative expression, this program provides participants with the opportunity to learn about the life and culture of our Arakwal people. Presented by Arakwal Aboriginal guides, participants join traditional owners in art, dance and ceremonies, learning about the significance of the land and sea and importantly dolphins to the our people.

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Bigal Nali Jagun

Our Men’s dance group here is called Bigal Nali Jagun which means ‘Men coming together representing country’.

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Walk With Me: Aboriginal Walk and Talk

Walk-with-MeJoin an Arakwal Aboriginal Discovery Ranger to learn more about Arakwal Bundjalung people and their ongoing connection to culture in their local area. Explore the special connection to the Cape Byron State Conservation Area, known as Walgun, and other sites of significance. Rangers discuss traditional and contemporary culture, using Aboriginal tools, weapons and artefacts. Find about joint management between Arakwal (Bundjalung) people and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). The activity is conducted along the iconic Cape Byron Walking Track, hearing traditional stories and local history along the way. This activity is undertaken at the Cape Byron State Conservation Area, starting at Wategos Beach and finishing at the Cape Byron Lighthouse.


Yarning About The Pass Midden

YarningUncover the past and yarn about the present by joining traditional custodians, Arakwal Aboriginal guides in an investigation of The Pass midden, a 1000 year old significant Aboriginal site. Get involved in a walking storybook within the Cape Byron State Conservation Area and learn about the archaeological study, cultural traditions, bush tucker, the kinds, of weapons and tools used and the size of local communities and their use of the midden over time. The Pass midden is the only known large, substantially undisturbed foredune pipi midden remaining out of 82 middens recorded along the 75km coastline between Ballina and NSW-QLD border.


Walgun Walk and Talk

Walgun-Walk-and-TalkJoin an Arakwal Aboriginal Discovery Guide to learn more about Arakwal Bundjalung people and their ongoing connection to culture in their local area. Explore the special connection to the Cape Byron State Conservation Area known as Walgun and other sites of significance. Rangers discuss traditional and contemporary culture, using Aboriginal tools, weapons and artefacts. Find about joint management between Arakwal (Bundjalung) people and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). The activity concludes by walking the iconic Cape Byron Walking Track, hearing traditional stories and local history along the way.

Welcome to Country

Bundjalung of Byron Bay Arakwal people are committed to working in genuine partnership within our Byron Shire area with schools, businesses and local council. Ceremonies and protocols are a vital part of Aboriginal culture. As part of this commitment we present to you protocols to be used in promotion of greater understanding of Arakwal Bundjalung people’s obligation to country and culture.

Arranging a “Welcome to Country” of the land shows respect for Arakwal Bundjalung people as the First Peoples. Welcome to Country promotes an awareness, understanding and mutual respect for cultural practices by both Arakwal Bundjalung and the wider community through observation of protocols and sharing in cultural practice. Improving relationships between the local Aboriginal community and the wider community through ceremony, protocols and the process of collaborative negotiation is vital.

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Bush Rules

Binungal! (Stop! Look! Listen!)

By being on Country watching, listening and learning – we can get to know this Country, respect and use it wisely, and understand how to look after Country.

When we are in Country we follow some basic bush rules and we invite you to follow them too, especially if you are visiting our cultural sites.

  • Absorb what is around you and keep voices to a minimum
  • Keep to tracks and leave plants and animals where they are
  • Where fishing is allowed only catch what you need
  • If you find one of our middens please don’t touch them
  • Please respect our sacred sites if you know them or where they are
  • Remember to look after country so that it can look after us

Yoway! Thank you!

Cape Byron Marine Park Sea Country

This module of the NSW Marine Parks Education Kit explores Aboriginal peoples’ connection to and use of the sea (sea country) in the Cape Byron area, including their traditional practices, and how this connection is expressed through art, dance and music.

The importance of various habitats within the near-shore marine environment of cape Byron is taught through 4 modules, which includes the sustainable use of these habitats and marine resources by the traditional Aboriginal custodians.

The modules cover marine parks and conservation, estuaries, rocky shores, and Aboriginal cultural heritage, offering a comprehensive interactive learning experience for primary school students and other interested people.

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Dubay Dancers

The Arakwal Dubay (meaning women) Dancers are a dance troupe that practice and perform traditional dance. We have performed at local gatherings and key regional events including NAIDOC week, The Blues Festival and Splendor In The Grass. We perform a twenty-minute set and each dance has significance and meaning. For example, our welcome dance is about sweeping out the bad spirits and bringing in the good.

Our troupe is made up of local Indigenous women. 

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Burra jurra Surfing Program

Burra jurraAre you a young Aboriginal person looking to have fun, stay active and learn to surf? Come along to the Burra jurra Surfing Program and get together with other young Aboriginal people learning to surf or improve your technique with one of the best surfing coaches in NSW. The program includes learning about our cultural stories, places and plants. We get into surf safety, healthy eating,positive life style choices, bush tucker, dance and music.

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Back to Country

Hey, this is for all our families and friends. Get back on Country with our mob for a picnic or barbeque and a walk and talk. Enjoy being at home and yarning with other Bundjalung of Byron Bay Arakwal people.

Back to Country Day usually happens before we have a meeting or other official Arakwal cooperation business to attend to. They are part of our Arakwal Community programs. We will let you know when they are on – check out our Events Calendar.

Place of Plenty

Led by our guides from the Arakwal Aboriginal Cooperation, participants engage in a tour and activities relating to bush food. Traditional and contemporary indigenous food technology, preparation and nutrition are examined and discussed.

Participants have the opportunity to taste bush tucker and campfire food, learn about traditional bush medicine and listen to stories from the Arakwal tradition.
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Dolphin (Wajung)
Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) is an important totem for our people. Wajoong gives us messages about relationships between our clan members, to our ancestors and the past, and also to particular places and sites in our Country. We have stories of our people and dolphins communicating and connecting with each other, including co-operative fishing, sharing resources from the ocean, and playing in the shallows.
Sea Eagle (Miwing)
White Breasted Sea Eagle (Haliaetus leucogaster) is an important totem for us. Miwing gives us messages about clan and family groups, provides knowledge on hunting practices and environmental events on Country. The second largest raptor (bird of prey), you can see the majestic Miwing soaring above you as you walk along Tallow Beach or around the Cape.
Carpet Snake (Kabul)
Carpet Snake (Morelia spilota) as one of our key totems symbolises the relationship of clan members to each other, to our ancestors and the past, and to particular places or sites. Kabul are important to us for their conservation, wild resource and other cultural values.
Brush Turkey (Wollum)
Brush Turkey (Alectura lathami) is a messenger providing clues about and demonstrating knowledge and adaptability in knowing and using Country. Wollum lives and moves freely in the coastal bush, foraging through leaf litter for food to eat. The male builds large mounds out of vegetative material and uses it to incubate their eggs.
Pied Oystercatcher (language name?)
Pied Oystercatcher (Haematopus longirostris) is an important bird to us because they provide messages about food sources and environmental events in Country. The Pied forages on the beaches and rocky shores, in mudflats of inlets, bays, ocean beaches, and on offshore islets.
Green Turtle (Bijahlin)
Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) is an important messenger that provides knowledge of the sea Country. Biwing nests on north coast beaches including Tallow Beach and Lennox Heads to the south. Julian Rocks (Nguthungulli) supports significant populations of the Biwing and if you go snorkeling or diving there, you can have a close encounter with these graceful creatures.