Blue Mountains Country & Culture



By: Ellen Hill       Photo: David Hill

Listen to the trees sigh to the pulse of the breeze. Feel gum leaves crunch under foot and the warmth of the sun’s rays on your cheek. Look up. Look down. Notice the critters, the clouds, the view.

This is Darug and Gundungurra Country. Father Sky is above. Mother Earth is under you.

NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service Aboriginal Discovery Ranger Craig Tangye is a Darug man from the Boorooberongal clan around the nearby Sackville and Richmond area along what is now known as the Hawkesbury River (Dyarubbin). He now lives in the lower Blue Mountains.

Country, he says, is more than the physical environment: “It’s also a living, breathing thing.

“It’s about understanding and interacting with animals, plants, the country itself, and including the sky.

“It’s Father Sky and Mother Earth working together to look after all things on the planet.”

Tangye explains further: “We view our own mother as someone who's a caretaker of us, who provides us with warm shelter, food, medicine. However, the land literally provides us with warmth, food, medicine, shelter.

“And having Biame (all-father deity), with rain and wind sending seed out and nurturing Mother Earth to then nurture us in the plants and animals on it – it’s a gigantic cycle.”

Culture and Country are not restricted to Aboriginal people.

It’s behaviour, attitude, mindset.

Leave your headphones and mobile in your pocket when you take to a bush track. Listen to the bird calls and the distant rumble of thunder as a storm gathers over distant peaks.

Fill your nostrils with the tang of eucalyptus. Feel the grit and strength of sandstone rock under bare feet.

“For most small walks I walk barefoot,” Tangye says.

“It’s hilarious that the one part of our body that's connected to the earth all day long never really touches the earth because we wear shoes.”

So what is the difference between Country and Culture. Does one influence the other, or are they entwined?

“Culture is living in, with and on Country,” Tangye says.

And through Country flow ancient songlines, roadmaps to locations passed down through song.

“They’re always here, they've never gone away but we have lost touch with them.

“You’ve got to find the people who know the songs. You can't punch it into Google.

“Kids are amazing. There's certain parts of song lines or Country where a kid of any culture will start dancing, start seeing, start humming, start grooving, and the adults will wonder what they’re doing. Often it’s that they’ve picked up on a songline or on a place with history.”

Although the local, NSW and Australian governments manage the land of the Blue Mountains, caring for Country is a responsibility shared by all who step on it – residents and visitors from near and far.``We are for the footprints that we leave,’’ Tangye says.

Caring for Country is as simple as taking your rubbish with you, not damaging the bush, introducing others to the land, sharing your experience and learning more about it.

``Whenever I'm at a place or a new place specifically, I don't know if you'd call it a prayer, but I ask permission in my head if I can be there and give thanks for being there.

``The responsibility is to leave the place how you found it, if not in a better condition.

Tangye encourages visitors (and locals) to explore the whole region, including hidden gems such as the lower Blue Mountains with its myriad swimming spots, rock jumping and tranquil scenery. Yarramundi, Lawson and the Glenbrook area of Blue Mountains National Park are examples.

“My all-time favourite experience of the Blue Mountains is the Grand Canyon Loop. It’s got everything: canyoning, bushwalking, cold swimming holes and breathtaking views.”

Learn more about Country and Culture through NPWS guided experiences:


Grand Openings
Craft Beverage Trail


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