11 Mar 2024

10 First Nations Business Event Experiences in Sydney and Surrounds

Group of dancers performing at the Bangarra Dance Theatre

From engaging a First Nations keynote speaker to tasting native bushfoods in the heart of Sydney, here are 10 distinct ways to incorporate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures into a business event.

1. Arrange a dance or vocal performance

Organising a dance or vocal performance is a powerful way to include First Nations cultures in a business event. Bangarra Dance Theatre is a company of professional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performers and storytellers who can offer private performances for corporate groups of up to 200 guests in their light-filled spaces in the Walsh Bay arts precinct overlooking Sydney Harbour.

KARI Indigenous Performers At ICC Sydney

Also Sydney-based, Jannawi Dance Clan - Jannawi meaning ‘with me, with you’ in the Darug language of New South Wales - shines a light on the strength, resilience and artistry of First Australians dance culture, and can provide traditional ceremonies and dance, Welcome to Country ceremonies, and contemporary dance performance for corporate groups.

For a vocal-led experience, the KARI Singers are a talented group of First Nations vocalists who share their cultural heritage through song. Performances can be tailored to the audience and blend traditional songs with modern pieces delivered in a high-energy style, creating a unique and evocative experience for guests.

Indigenous artwork displayed at The Art Gallery Of New South Wales Destination NSW

2. Discover First Nations artworks

Sydney and regional New South Wales have a thriving First Nations arts scene, which corporate groups can discover through a guided gallery experience or workshop. Based in Sydney’s inner west, Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative is the longest running First Nations owned and operated arts organisation dedicated to supporting and promoting New South Wales language group artists.

Experiences for corporate groups range from hands-on workshops and artist talks, to live sessions where guests can watch an artist at work. At the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Yiribana Gallery displays diverse works from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection which has a rich legacy of highlighting the depth and dynamism of First Nations art.

Groups can take a guided tour of the gallery hosted by a First Nations Australian staff member who’ll explain the diversity of practice across the country, and across time, media and art styles. For an interactive experience, Hidden Door Experiences offers an Aboriginal Art Workshop which can be held indoors or outdoors at a location of choice, for groups of up to 1,000 guests. Participants will learn the role art plays in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, before expressing themselves on canvas under the guidance of a First Nations Australian artist.

3. Taste native bush foods

Groups can get an authentic taste of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures by incorporating a culinary experience into a business event. Hailing from the Bundgalung nation of the New South Wales north coast, celebrated chef Mark Olive’s new restaurant Midden by Mark Olive is located at the Sydney Opera House and offers a produce-driven menu showcasing native Australian ingredients, from wattleseed and bush honey to saltbush and succulents. Operated by Doltone Hospitality Group, the restaurant can be booked for seated private events of up to 100 guests.

Mark Olive also works closely with Sydney-based team building cooking company Cheeky Food Events to deliver a First Nations cooking experience known as The Cheeky Olive. Available for groups of minimum 10 guests to large-scale events, this mobile experience teaches guests how to cook using native herbs and spices whilst deepening their appreciation for the culinary traditions of First Nations Australians.

Alternatively, groups can take a stroll through the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney with a First Nations guide and learn about how bush foods were used traditionally and have been adapted to the modern plate and palate.

Sand Dune Adventures In Port Stephens Destination NSW

4. Get adventurous

Adventurous groups can experience First Nations cultures whilst exploring the great outdoors. Just over two hours north of Sydney in the Port Stephens region, Sand Dune Adventures is owned and operated by the Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council and shares local Worimi culture and stories via an exhilarating guided quad bike adventure through the Worimi Conservation Lands which are home to the largest moving coastal sand dune system in the Southern Hemisphere.

Or, groups can head to the Blue Mountains where they can join Gundungurra Custodian David King for a private cultural experience at Scenic World in Katoomba, which can incorporate the Scenic Railway, Cableway and Skyway and allows guests to view the natural wonders of this part of New South Wales through the eyes of the oldest living culture on earth.

For a Sydney-based experience, Bridgeclimb’s Burrawa Climb invites groups of up to 14 guests to scale the 1,332 steps to the summit of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, accompanied by a First Nations Storyteller who’ll point out important landmarks for the area’s Traditional Owners and explain the origins of the familiar place names around Sydney’s famous harbour. At nearby Taronga Zoo, new native wildlife experience Nura Diya allows guests to connect to Country by strolling among kangaroos, koalas, dingoes and nocturnal species on a 400-metre-long walk trail featuring powerful storytelling from First Nations artists.

Artwork And gifts at Blak Market Destination NSW

5. Give a gift made by First Nations Australians

Whether it be stationery, skincare, or bush foods, a gift lovingly made by First Nations Australians is a creative way to incorporate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures into an event. New South Wales is home to an array of innovative First Nations retailers.

IndigiEarth, headquartered in Mudgee on Wiradjuri Country, produces premium authentic native foods, beverages, cooking Ingredients and botanicals, as well as offering corporate catering for events. Fill a gift pack with goodies like native loose-leaf tea or wattle seed infused coffee, or handmade chocolates featuring Australian native ingredients like lemon myrtle and Kakadu plum.

Or, consider a gift-sized hand-blown glass bottle of pure Australian vodka by Axel Vodka, a 100% First Nations, female-owned and operated business based on the New South Wales south coast. The Unexpected Guest produces a range of health bars and mueslis using organic, fair-trade ingredients sourced from Indigenous growers and communities. Or, for an array of gifting options, Blak Markets is an online collective of retailers selling artwork, homewares, jewellery, textiles, woodwork, woven goods and bushfoods.

Group of people at the Dreamtime Southern X Guided Tour Destination NSW

6. Take a guided walking tour

A walking tour with a First Nations guide is not only a fantastic way to see Sydney, but also to understand its cultural heritage. Through The Rocks Aboriginal Dreaming Tour, Aunty Margret Campbell and her team at Dreamtime Southern X offer an introduction to the authentic First Nations history of Sydney’s natural landscapes and seasons, via a leisurely stroll through Sydney’s historic harbourfront precinct known as ‘The Rocks’.

Visitors to Barangaroo Reserve, Sydney’s newest waterfront parkland  - and the only large public park in Sydney exclusively planted with native flora  - can connect with First Nations Australians with a hands-on Aboriginal Cultural Tour led by one of Barangaroo’s Aboriginal Visitor Services Guides. The tour explores the site’s rich history and cultural significance to First Nations Australians, particularly the clans of the Eora Nation. In Sydney’s famous beachside suburb of Bondi, groups can join Aboriginal elder Walangari Karntawarra on a unique Bondi Aboriginal Walking Tour – a gentle, downhill walk that highlights ancient First Nations rock carvings and traditional bush foods and medicines still growing wild in this beautiful coastal locale.

7. Team building and corporate volunteering

Groups looking to strengthen relationships with their colleagues can combine a team building activity with a First Nations cultural experience. Colin Walangari Karntawarra McCormack is a First Nations artist and elder from Alice Springs who now lives and works in Sydney and offers a hands-on sand painting experience for corporate groups. Scaled to suit the venue, the vibrant paintings made from sustainably sourced sand encourage team bonding and audience participation as Colin explains the cultural significance of the painting’s patterns and icons.

Indigigrow At Blak Market Destination NSW

Alternatively, Speaking in Colour offers collaborative weaving sessions designed to inspire creativity and build camaraderie whilst learning the art of traditional weaving. For an activity that gives back, groups can partake in corporate volunteering with IndigiGrow, a social enterprise which specialises in propagation and growing of Australian native edible plants and the critically endangered Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub. Up to 50 volunteers can work alongside the experienced First Nations staff and apprentices at the native plant nursery and bushfood farm in La Perouse, or the wholesale nursery in Matraville – both of which are only a 20-minute drive from Sydney’s city centre.

Supply Nation performers on stage at ICC Sydney Supply Nation

8. Engage a First Nations-owned business (or one that supports First Nations Australians)

Corporate groups can support First Nations Australians by engaging businesses that are either owned and operated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, or actively support training and employment pathways. Part of ICC Sydney’s Legacy Program, Supply Nation is Australia’s leading database of verified First Nations businesses – from retail and giftware suppliers to events and catering, and even bush regeneration and carbon offset services. For experts in the events space, Plate Events is a First Nations owned and run business which offers end-to-end event management services in Sydney and regional New South Wales, including bespoke catering, styling, furniture hire, audiovisual and entertainment.

Another way to support First Nations Australians is for groups to dine at a Sydney restaurant that supports the National Indigenous Culinary Institute, which offers elite training and experience for aspiring First Nations chefs. Sydney restaurants that are part of the program include Rockpool Bar & Grill, Catalina Rose Bay, Aria, and Icebergs Dining Room and Bar.

Smoking Ceremony At ICC Sydney Business Sydney

9. Arrange a Welcome to Country or Smoking Ceremony

A Welcome to Country is an official welcome to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander nation, which can only be performed by the Traditional Custodians of that land. Traditional Welcomes can take many forms including speech, smoking ceremony, song or dance, and acknowledge the Custodians of the land in the spirit of recognition and as demonstration of respect to their traditions, laws and customs. Business Events Sydney can assist with arranging a Welcome to Country ceremony for an event, or for events held onsite at ICC Sydney, the Legacy Program team can assist with arranging a Welcome to Country. Or, for an offsite event, the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council can arrange a Welcome to Country on behalf of its members. In lieu of a formal Welcome to Country, an Acknowledgement of Country can be provided by any person wishing to demonstrate their respect for Traditional Owners of the land on which an event is held.

10. Engage a First Nations keynote or MC

To inspire audiences at a conference or seminar, consider engaging a First Nations Australian as a guest speaker or to MC the event. Australia has a raft of professional talent agencies that represent many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander speakers, ranging from sporting stars to actors and television personalities, many of whom live and work in Sydney or regional New South Wales. Through Pickstar, choose from celebrities like Luke Carroll – one of the world’s most successful and well known First Nations Australian actors – or Matildas soccer legend Kyah Simon. Saxton Speakers can connect you with First Nations talent such as pop star Jessica Mauboy or journalist and television presenter Brooke Boney. Or, engage International & Australian Speakers and Entertainers (ICMI), who represent inspiring speakers such as chef Mindy Woods – whose goal is to reignite First Nations culture by protecting native foods and the environment  –  and Aaron Pederson, a renowned Australian actor championing the changing representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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