June 30, 2011 | By Donna Evans
The Tiwi Islands are just a short flight (20 minutes across the Timor Sea) from the mainland of the Northern Territory in Australia, but they are a world away in tradition. Though Bathurst and Melville are just 80 km from Darwin, they are not accessible without a tour. When you arrive, you will be warmly greeted by the Aboriginal people who inhabit the island and diligently continue the traditions of their ancestors. Though their lives are modern, their culture is still intact as one of the oldest living cultures.
The islands offer so much beauty in their beaches, rainforests and rock pools – as well as their people. Nguiu is the city of arrival and the tour you take is owned by the Tiwi people. They are your guides as you visit their village and arts and crafts.
They will share their “smoking” ceremony with you once they are properly painted to perform. The ceremony is actually a blessing and they enjoy performing their dancing, singing and tradition for their guests.
Their cemeteries are very sacred and you are not allowed to photograph their totems or holy places. You will be curious, but should also be respectful of their wishes.
Their artwork is renowned and you will have the opportunity to enjoy and purchase fabrics, carvings and other handicrafts created by the Tiwi people.
They will spoil you with billy tea and damper as a thank you for visiting them and letting them share a part of their lives with you.
For a unique cultural experience in Australia, you should take the time to see the Tiwi Islands and learn their unique customs and culture.