An important event each year in Melbourne in October is the Melbourne International Arts Festival.  This festival is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the First peoples of Australia.  Study Melbourne Ambassador, Felycia Viffany, attended the opening of the Melbourne International Arts Festival and shared her thoughts on the Tanderrum ceremony and what she has learned about Aboriginal culture and history. 

The Festival is is opened by the First Peoples of Melbourne who perform the Tanderrum ceremony.  This ceremony brings together a number of Aboriginal tribes which traditionally lived across Victoria, including the Wurundjeri/Woiwurrung, Boon Wurrung, Taungurung, Wadawurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung language groups of the Eastern Kulin Nation. These groups are the traditional owners of the land in Melbourne.

"The experience I had was fantastic and really opened my eyes."

Aboriginal Ceremony in Fed Square

The ceremony began with sand and smoke, which serves to pay respect to the traditional custodians of the land and seeks permission to perform the ceremony on their land. 

“At first I had no idea why there was sand and smoke in the middle of the ceremony. But as the performance continued, I realised this part of the ceremony acknoledged the law of the land and its traditional owners.” 

The part I will never forget is the final dance. All five language groups danced together to songlines that haven’t been sung by the Kulin Nation for over 100 years. It is so meaningful and amazing to see different groups dancing together, and it reminds me of the importance of respect and giving.

Felycia was able to meet and speak with some of the performers, including a 92-year-old Aboriginal woman who gave her a big hug. “Even though it’s just a small interaction, I will never forget her confidence and encouragement. It was totally unforgettable,” writes Felycia. 

Felycia said that learning about Aboriginal culture in Australia is very important and highlighted her own experiences as an international student in Victoria.  

"Understanding the spiritual connection to land helps me develop as a person that respects diversity and understands cultural difference," said Felycia.

An Aboriginal Ceremony at Fed Square

Learn more about Aboriginal culture in Melbourne

Aboriginal people are Australia’s first inhabitants and the traditional owners of the land where we study, live and work. They are the oldest continuous living culture in the world, with a living history reaching back for more than 60,000 years. There are many ways you can learn more about Aboriginal culture and histories in Victoria, including Walking Tours that explore the rich Aboriginal history in Melbourne, led by a local Aboriginal guide. 

The Koorie Heritage Trust runs these walking tours every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Learn more about them here or you can visit them in person at Federation Square.  

To learn more about Aboriginal culture in Victoria, visit