Cultural knowledge when leading a tour
The traditional owners and Park staff consider tour guides to be filling a vital role in Park operations – you are the people showing visitors around, informing them about the land and promoting appropriate behaviour. When conducting a tour, you are considered an interpreter of culture by your clients. This means you have a unique responsibility to be aware of the cultural heritage of the traditional owners of the Park.
With their unique knowledge of, and relationships with, this land, Anangu are an integral part of the living cultural landscape. It was for this reason that the Park was listed on the World Heritage register for a second time. It is important to recognise and respect that it is Anangu alone who own the living knowledge to impart the Tjukurpa of this land to visitors.
The following topic will present some basic information about Anangu culture, language and law, as well as familiarising participants with common courtesies for visitors to remote Indigenous communities.
As Tour Guides you have a “Duty of Care” to three groups when operating in the Park.
- Anangu: Ensure you are interpreting Anangu culture correctly and culturally responsibly.
- Clients: Ensure your clients have a full appreciation of Anangu culture, they will look to you as to how to behave and conduct themselves in the Park. Leadership by example.
- Your employers: You are operating under your employer's Tour Operators Permit, the terms and conditions he/she has agreed to for conducting commercial tours in the Park. Note this section of the permit which reads "Tour operators must provide accurate information on Anangu culture and cultural sites".
The following reading will give you a good general understanding of some of the cultural concerns of the Indigenous people of Australia.
Reading: A short guide for visitors to remote Indigenous communities (pdf)
Hopefully you already practice the tips included in the previous reading, and see them as common sense. The following reading introduces some of the subtleties of showing respect towards Indigenous cultures when travelling in Australia.
Reading: Welcome to country: Respecting Indigenous culture for travellers in Australia (pdf)
Tour guides working in Central Australia will already have heard of Tjukurpa, the foundation of Anangu life and society. The word has many complex but complementary meanings. Tjukurpa refers to the creation period when ancestral beings, or Tjukuritja, created the world as Anangu know it. As well as describing the past, Tjukurpa also describes the present and the future. It is the religious, legal and ethical system through which Anangu live, and have lived, in harmony with their harsh and delicate environment for many thousands of years.
Reading: Tjukurpa (pdf)
Language is fundamental to culture and identity for people everywhere. The world and experiences of Anangu culture are expressed through their languages. As language is inseparable from culture, it follows that the maintenance of language is vital to the preservation of culture.
While reading the language note below, practise some of the sounds – it might feel odd at first, but you’ll get there if you want to. Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara are phonetic languages, meaning that each individual sound of speech is represented by a distinct set of letters and each letter or combination of letters in a word is pronounced.
Reading: Anangu language (pdf)
Reading: Aboriginal languages of Central Australia (pdf 982kb | UKTNP Handbook pp.12-20)
When you say the names of creation beings, plants, animals or locations in an Aboriginal language, it’s respectful to make every effort to pronounce the words as accurately as possible.
Pitjantjatjara/ Yankunytjatjara Approximate Pronounciation
Once you have read the list below, try practicing your pronunciation – it’s not as hard as you might think! Then listen to the audio samples at http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/uluru/culture/culture/anangu-languages.html
||Equivalent in English
||Aboriginal people of western desert
||Uluru– formerly known as Ayers Rock
| Kata Tjuta
||Kata Tjuta – formerly known as The Olgas
||Creation ancestors, ancestral beings, the marks left by these beings – physical evidence of Tjukurpa
| Tjukurpa / Wapar
||Choo-kurr-pa / wop-arr
||No direct equivalent but correlates to creation time, law, lore, way of life, stories & codes.
||Non-Aboriginal people – literally white
|| Work all the time, habitually
||All of us
||Rufous-hare wallaby (Lagorchestes hirsutus)
||Koon-man-arr-a (also Koo-man-a)
||Substitute name used instead of the name of a deceased person
||Woma python (Aspitites ramsayii)
||Poisonous snake, Western Brown snake, King Brown snake etc.
|| Devil dog, monster of the Mala story
||Traditional war party
||Ours (many people including the speaker)
||Home, camp, place
||Literally means for black people – ‘Maru’ meaning black, and ‘ku’ meaning for
||Literally means having marks – ‘walka’ meaning marks and ‘tjara’ meaning having
||Red bean of the bean tree (Erythrina verspertilio)
||Name of the waterhole at base of Uluru and the name of local Aboriginal community.
||Fruit and vegetable food
The further readings in the right-hand column are suggested for those who have the time and interest in pursuing added knowledge about this topic.
Uluru has always been a place for teaching and learning about culture. (Photo: Michael Nelson)