The destination that changed Ernie Dingo

Australia has grown up with Ernie Dingo. The Australian actor, television presenter, comedian and teacher from the Yamatji people of the Murchison region of Western Australia is a designated National Treasure.

Ernie Dingo SBS
Ernie Dingo. Picture: SBS

In his latest television show, Going Places with Ernie Dingo, Ernie finds the time to chat with the locals in the towns he visits. He gets under the skin of the culture in each town and unearths some incredible stories.

Family Travel asked Ernie Dingo about his experiences with the show and for his advice for families travelling around Australia. Read on to find out which one destination more than any other in Australia, changed his life.

What are your top destinations for families seeking to connect with Indigenous culture in Australia?

Start in your own backyard, get to know what Indigenous country you’re on. There are probably Indigenous kids that go to the same school as your kids, you know, befriend them. Understand the local culture because you’re living there.

Indigenous Australians
Start a conversation and you will learn a lot more about culture

Otherwise, get outside metropolitan areas, there are Aboriginal communities all over the country, with different languages and different values.

You could go to Alice Springs and learn the basics of what’s happening to the Arrernte people in town. Visit one of the surrounding communities, or go up to Cairns, where you’ve got communities all around the Cape.

Simpsons Gap Alice Springs
Alice Springs is home to the Arrente people.

My kids are riveted to your show! How does Going Places with Ernie Dingo change people’s perception of Australia?

Oh poor kids! No, I’m glad kids are watching the show! Because that means we’re making a show that reaches all levels of understanding, including children’s.

If your kids are talking about the program and asking questions about what they see, and are enjoying what each area has to offer and the locals who we interview, let them know that everyone has a story about the interesting places that they’re from.

There’s probably an old bloke who lives next door that could be Croatian. He’s an old Croatian fella and you barely ever talk to him because he talks funny, well the reason why he talks funny is because he is still deeply entrenched in his cultural heritage and the love that he has for it. He has not changed. He hasn’t changed the way he speaks because he’s not ashamed of it.

Encourage your kids to speak to their school teachers; I’m sure they have stories too. It’s just about appreciating everyone around you and what they do, and enjoying their stories.

How can Australian families connect more with Indigenous cultures when on holidays?

Take them on holidays with you and see what happens. If you’re going to go on holidays, chuck a couple of blackfellas in the car with you! I tell you what; it’d be a fun ride!

You will learn a lot more. That would be the most hilarious and most wonderful way to learn about Aboriginal culture. Take them with you! Don’t wait to get there and pick and choose who you want to talk to. Grab a couple of your neighbours and bring them on holiday with your family. You’d get firsthand information left, right and centre!

Indigenous Australia kids
The best way to understand Indigenous culture is to talk to people

Seriously though, you can go to so many places but a lot of them are really far away, you could go to Yirrkala, most of the time no one would bat an eyelid – unless you did. They would welcome you there. Same as Aboriginal communities everywhere, if you go out of your way to visit these places, to any Aboriginal reserve community – they will go out of their way to make you feel welcome.

Ooenpelli in Arnhem Land

Would you like to see more tourism destination councils include more Indigenous information on their websites?

Would I like to see it? Personally? Ah, it’s up to the individuals. That’s why there is segregation. That’s why there is a separation. That’s why there is black and white, because of non-inclusion.

To include Aboriginal tourism destination information within your tourism board would be wonderful. But most of the time, a lot of the tours that Aboriginal people do, they have to be white, they have to have insurance, and policies and OHS and all that – where you don’t really get a chance for them to be themselves because they have to be non-Indigenous.

Yirrganydji Aboriginal men

They take them in a car that’s comfortable, that’s a certain temperature; it’s like five-star accommodation. You don’t really get the proper experience of being with an Aboriginal on an Aboriginal tour. How do you include that? How do you include that kind of colour in a tour magazine?

Name one destination that changed the way that you see the world and why did this happen?

Broome. Broome changed the way that I see the world. I was playing basketball, and at the time a lot of kids came down from up top to see Perth, and when a lot of them came down to play, they told me about Broome and it being 2000kms away.

Broome Western Australia
Broome Western Australia

It was just so far away, until I went there and played basketball under an alias, to get the free ticket because my mate couldn’t go. So I went up as him and played basketball under my name and got the best basketball score at the carnival. The people presenting me with the award were the people who saw me come up as one name and were presenting me with the award under my real identity!

Broome, you know, due to the pearling industry and the Lutheran missions, the German preachers and the Irish nuns the swirling of cultures all through the peninsula… it was a melting pot.

There were Chinese and Japanese people; you’d see them all walk around in white suits knowing that there was red dirt only so far away.

It was just a sense, of everyone wanting to belong. Everyone included in with the Aboriginal community.

There were some bad times…yeah, but it was the industry that made people do some atrocious things. But it came through with this melting pot, and by the time that I got up there, there were all these different faces and nationalities around you.

You know you would go through five other nationalities before you’d find someone that said they were Aboriginal. It brought all these cultures together.

The new season of Going Places with Ernie Dingo will air on SBS from Wednesday 12 June at 7.30pm and o NITV from Sunday 16 June at 7.30pm. Episodes can be caught up on SBS On Demand.

Read More:

Catriona Rowntree’s top places to travel with kids

Melissa Hoyer tells how travel with kids changed her

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