School Holidays are challenging for parents one way to connect your with their culture is to introduce them to traditional aboriginal games and activities. Having children play traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait games will also allow the continuity of the culture that was set by our indigenous ancestors.
Let’s look at some of these traditional aboriginal games and activities that you can share with your kids.
This game was played by the Juwalarai people of the Naran River. The Juwalarai are an indigenous tribe from New South Wales. It is similar to rope skipping but with a twist. While skipping, players are also performing activities until he/she makes a mistake. Examples of the actions taken while skipping rope are taking thorns of their feet, digging in the ground, or hopping like a kangaroo.
It is a type of throwing game that is played outdoors. The goal of the game is to hit the target by throwing a ball with a spear. To play the game, the players would need a ball, a spear or a 1 meter stick with a cup at the end and a target mark at the other end. The Battendi was played by the indigenous peoples in the Lake Murray, Lake Alexandria and Lake Albert areas of Southern Australia. Battendi literally means “to throw a spear.”
Draw the starting line and place the target marks at some distance (traditionally 20 meters away). Allow a 10 meter area to throw and run up. If various players use the same target, it is recommended to use different colored balls.
The players stand at the starting line with the spear
At first, the game is distance throwing contest. 3 attempt are given to each player. A method of measuring is made from the throwing line and in a direct line to where the ball lands. The winner is the player that throws the ball the furthest.
Secondly, there is a target contest, which consists in throwing the ball at a target (traditionally representing a kangaroo 20 meters away). The distance to the target however depends on the age of the players. A round of 20 attempts is allowed and the ball must fully hit the target to count. The winner is the player that hits the most targets.
The boogalah is another game that was played by the Juwalarai group of New South Wales. The boogalah is another type of throwing and catching game. When the indigenous kids played it, they used a ball that was made from a sewn-up kangaroo skin. Then, the ball is thrown in the air and whoever catches the ball goes with all of their totem group into the group in the middle with the others are circling around. The ball is thrown into the air until one of the circle outside catches it. Then both groups change positions. The totem keeping the boogalah in play wins.
The game Bubberah means “come back”. The game is played using a boomerang. Each player will have the chance to throw their respective boomerang. Once they have thrown the boomerang they can’t leave their spot. The boomerang that returns closest to the thrower is the winner. Catching the boomerang is even better but you can’t move out of your spot to catch the boomerang. To catch the boomerang, it’s best done between flat hands. An injury to the fingers may happen if the player is caught with only one hand.
To play the game, you would need cones or any object to mark out the area and a ball, the ball traditional made from kangaroo skin stuffed with grass but any ball will do. This type of ball game is played by the Kabi-kabi people of Southern Queensland. The game observers used to mark their cheers by calling out ‘Ei, ei!” This game is a running and ball passing game. Much like basketball or football, the goal is for one player to run with the buroinjin or the ball and fully cross over the score line at the other end of the field to score a touchdown. The game is started or resumed after a goal with a pass by a team from behind their own score line. The player scores a point if they are able to run over the score line with the buroinjin, without being touched by an opponent.
This game is a great Boorah-time entertainment. This game is a traditional wrestling played by family clan against another family clan. Before they start the wrestling match, players’ bodies are greased to make them more slippery. One player will go into a ring and plant a painted stick with a bunch of feathers at the top. The other player will run in the ring and try to make off with the stick. The first player will grapple him and the wrestling match begins. Into the ring, others will join in to for their wrestling turn. The side that finally throws the most men wins.
This traditional game is also called “bowl-ball” and was a common game played by people from Western Australia and Victoria. The goal of the game is to hit the moving object using a ball or spear from a distance. Successful players who hit the moving target will help score points for their team. Efficiency and speed in throwing the spear were quickly learned from the game. The game aims to refer to the hunting activities that indigenous people have done at that time.
This Aboriginal game requires players to throw boodthuls towards a bush. Boodthuls or toy waddies are the miniature version of the typical indigenous war club. The goal is to have the boodthuls to graze the top of the bush. Grazing the boodthuls allow the clubs to accelerate, helping it to reach further, even beyond the bush. The player whose boodthul or toy waddy that had the farthest reach is declared the winner.
The game originates from the Torres Strait group. The goal of the game to try to keep the ball up in the air by allowing each player to take turns in hitting the ball with the palm of either hand. Standing in a circle, players hit the ball while singing the “kai wed’ song. They ball used in this Indigenous game is a thick, oval, deep red fruit of the kai tree. It’s usually dried and is used to play this aboriginal game.
Played by the Aboriginal groups on Cape York Peninsula in northern Queensland, the name’s origin is from the Yir-Yoront people of north Queensland. Indigenous people used to play the game using “woomera” and “kalq.” However, in today’s time, the game can be played using a bat or a racquet. The aim is to continuously hit a ball in the air without hitting the ground.
Kee’an was a game throwing skill played in the areas of north Queensland. The name “kee’an” is derived from the Wik-Mungkan language which means “to play.” An emu shinbone or any other large animal bone with a twine tied to it is needed to play the game.. Good skills are a definite requirement as well to be successful in this activity as the goal of throwing the bone in the pit without touching the net is a great feat to the players.
This is an energy-torching game as the game requires a lot of running, passing and catching team keep-away game, keentan was played everywhere by both genders in the northwest central districts of Queensland. The action of the players jumping up to catch the ball resembled the movements of a kangaroo. Hence, it was described as the ‘kangaroo play’ by the Kalkadoon people. The ball used by the indigenous people was made from possum, wallaby or kangaroo skin hide tied up with twine. Because of the game’s movements, it is sometimes used as a skill or warm up activity in today’s sports like netball, basketball, Australian rules football, rugby league and rugby union.
Kolap is an activity focused on the throwing accuracy of the player. This object-throwing game was played by the Aboriginals of Mer Island in the Torres Strait region during the nineteenth century. The goal of the game is to throw towards a set target on the ground.
Played in many areas of the Torres Strait, this game is very much performed like the game hockey. Kokan, which was carried on Mabuiag Island, is the name of the ball used to perform the activity. The goal of the game is to move the ball towards the goal on the opponent’s side. This Aboriginal game is played by hitting the kokan with a baiwan or dabi (a rough bat or club). Played by both genders, the players are allowed two touch of the kokan -- to pass and shoot for the goal.
Koolche is a mini-game or skill activity that requires ball-throwing and hitting. This traditional activity was played by the Diyari people from Lake Eyre in South Australia. It is usually played in pairs in an open space and rebound ball.
Marngrook, Marn Grook, Marn-Grook
The game is played like the Australian rule football. Played by the Aboriginal groups in Victoria, men and boys of the group would happily assemble and try to go for the ball. The ball used in this game, originally, was made of the tightly packed and twisted hair of possum. The activity is started by giving possession of the ball to the tallest player or highest jumper among the group. Though it may seem a never ending game, players usually endure the activity as an exercise.
Mer is one of the islands in Torres Strait, while kai is an aboriginal fruit usually used in playing. It is a hand-hitting game, like volleyball. And like the sport, the object if the game is to keep the ball in the air for as long as they can. Overall execution of the players’ skill, teamwork, and movement are judged. Dropping the ball is also ‘penalised’.
Many children of Arnhem Land in northern Australia have played this running race. It is primarily performed as an evening past time for the children where it is usually accompanied by flickering lights from a campsite.
The “Parndo “ is known as an Aboriginal traditional ball game which is primarily played in South Australia near the Kaurna Nation. It is consist of a ball made from the opossum skin. The game’s nature consists primarily of kicking and passing game. This ball is flat shaped and is approximately the same to the size of a tennis ball.
Teams of 12 players on a soccer or rugby field and 15 players on an Australian football field
A rugby, soccer or Australian football field
A soccer ball, rugby ball or Australian football
Game play and basic rules
This is a kicking and hand passing game. Play starts and re-starts with a throw-up of the ball at halfway. When a player is in controlled possession of the ball (not a ‘loose’ ball) it must be passed to another player before a kick for goal is made. A player who catches/marks the parndo from a kick (at least 10 metres in distance) is allowed to move up to 5 metres without being touched or interfered with. Players who are not touched may run up to 10 metres with the parndo and then bounce or touch it on the ground and run for up to another 10 metres before playing the ball. A player has 3 seconds to play on after they catch/mark the ball from a kick.
A player may not kick straight for goal from a catch/mark but may kick to another player. A player may kick for goal only after they receive a pass/ handball from another player from the same team. A player must kick for goal and score without being touched for it to count - if a goal is scored after a touch, no points are given. If the ball is loose on the ground, players may tap or hit it with open hands, or kick it along the ground but a controlled hand pass has to be made to another player before a goal can be scored. A player contacting a loose ball is not considered to be in possession.
When a player gains possession of a loose ball they may run with it or kick it to another player but it must be passed to at least one other player before a kick for goal can be made. A score cannot be made unless a pass/handball is made to another player.
In attempting to catch/mark the ball players should attempt to avoid all contact — a player in position first is usually entitled to catch the ball. A player may not punch the ball at any time; only a hit with an open hand is allowed.
A player who is touched while stationery must pass or kick the ball immediately (a quick ‘one and two’ count) or release the ball to the ground for another player to play. After being touched a player cannot
interfere with another player as they attempt to play the ball but they can touch them when that player has possession.
For safety reasons players are not to dive on the ball on the ground but must bend over and pick it up — no other player may contact a player or kick at the ball as they do this (this is judged to be dangerous play).
A ball on the ground cannot be kicked for goal.A kick may be charged down but a player cannot be contacted.
No shepherding/obstructing opposing players is allowed at any time.
Rugby: Drop kick over crossbar 3 points; punt kick over crossbar 2 points; kick off the ground no points; punt or drop kick below the crossbar all 1 point; hit or pass between the uprights 1 point.
Australian football: Normal scoring but can be played with 8 points for a drop kick between the goal posts.
Soccer: Either same as rugby or score 2 points for a goal when the ball is kicked from the hands and no points if kicked from the ground.
• Players are only allowed to kick the ball if they have received it from a pass/handball.
• The game may be played with teams going to either goal if they gain possession.
Refer to the rules of Australian football for the basics of the game.
This game is an attempt to include some of the intent of the traditional game in a version that will allow for a more modern game.
In the Kaurna language spoken in the southern parts of South Australia a parndo was a ball to play with.
“Dodgeball” is a common game which is played not just in Australia but also in the various countries in the world. The game Puloga is played just like the game, dodgeball. This game is commonly played in the Tully River Regions of North Queensland and Cardwell.
Over the years, the Purlja is played by a lot of Warlpiri Aboriginal people. The game is associated with football due to the game’s similarities. It is also believed that Purlja was primarily played in the north-west of Alice Springs for thousands of years.
The game is associated with a mock combat game such as “poison ball” and “brandy.” Taktyerrain is open for boys and girls who want to join the game. In the match, the throwing sticks are required where at times toy spears are used as an alternative. This is made from grasses, reeds and other primary materials.
On Bathurst Island the children collected the seed heads of the spring rolling grass (Spinifex hirsutis) growing on the sandhills near the coast. They took the seed heads to the beach and tossed them into the air where they were blown along by the wind. After a start, the children chased the seed heads and tried to pick them up while running at full speed.
In many Aboriginal settlements in remote parts of Australia the children commonly played games with ‘rollers’. These could be toy trucks made from wheel rims or large tins filled with damp mud. The rollers are pushed or pulled with handles made of wire. Sometimes groups of children with rollers have races.
This traditional game is widely known in the Western Australia where it is only played by the girls only. The game swirls to the challenge of defending the young children through applying strategic planning for the team. A short stick is usually placed on the ground to represent a baby. Since the game focuses on that stick, these can be used to protect her digging stick. In response to the request for food, the mother tried to fend them off using her digging stick.
The young noongar (or nyungar) girls in the southwest of Western Australia had many games they played just among themselves because after a certain age they were not permitted to play with the boys of the camp. In one of their games a short piece of stick was placed on the ground to represent a nhoba (baby). Each girl had to defend her child from the wanas (digging sticks) of the other girls — all of whom pretended to try and kill the nhoba (baby). Wanas were thrown from all sides at the young ‘mother’, all of which she tried to fend off with her own stick. The mother held her wana between her thumb and forefinger, putting it over her head, behind her back, against her side, in whatever direction the missiles came, thus learning to defend her young ones. In real adult fights women sometimes stood beside their husbands and warded off the kidjas (spears) of their enemies. Click here for how to play
Traditional game known for the Walbiri people of Central Australia played a stone bowling game. One player threw a stone which was the used as a target by the second player.
Players alternated turns with each aiming at the other’s stone.
Between 1 and 4 players
The game can be played alone, one player against another player, or in pairs of players against another pair
Use two sets of lines (each 5 metres long) marked 10 or more metres apart — the distance depending on age and ability of playersUse balls/bowls such as bocce balls
Game play and basic rules
The game is a bowling game where balls are rolled underarm along the ground. Players may toss a coin for choice of start. Turns are taken from behind designated lines.One player starts the game by rolling their ball toward the line marked on the ground 10 metres away. If the ball passes beyond this line then the other player scores a point.After a fair roll which stops before the line, the second player rolls their ball to try to hit the first ball. If the ball is hit, the second player scores a point.
Both players then collect their balls and the game is restarted from the other end. Players alternate turns. The second player now has the first turn.If the game is played in pairs one player from each pair stays at each end. Teams alternate turns.One point is scored for each hit.
The first player or team to reach 11 points is the winner.
Play continues until the game is decided.
We all love a game of hide and go seek, let's Change the name of it to Whagoo, Its much cooler. This game has been equivalent to the famous hide and seek
The Wimberoo is a fireside game where the winner possesses the leafs which have traveled highest. This game was played over a camp fire. A dry Coolabah leaf was warmed until it started to bend. This was then placed into the hot current of air above the fire. The winner was the person who owned the leaf that travelled the highest.
This is a traditional game of football game where the ball is greatly known for having a possum fur predominately played by Aboriginal groups in NSW. The ball is made of possum fur. It is played in a group of four to eight players in circle. It is a cooperative kicking game to see for how long the ball can be kept in the air before it touches the ground.
In the district of north-western Australia, players are known for using the flat pieces of wood and flora elements to use to make sporting games. This game is a traditional game like handball.
This hand hitting or handball game was played with a zamia (Cycas media) seed by the people of Bathurst Island in northern Australia. In the Meda district of north-western Australia players used flat pieces of wood.
Two players in single games or teams of 2–3 players
A small inflated ball or a covered sponge ball as the zamia seed
Game play and basic rules
Two players face each other and hit (volley) the ball back and forth with the palms of their hands as many times as possible.
Use a playing area 12 metres long and 3 metres wide. Mark a halfway line and two lines across the court one metre each side of a centre line — the area between the lines is out‑of‑bounds.
One or two players in each team
Players hit the ball underhand (below the waist) and/or sidearm (below chest high — under armpits) to each other in a game to 11 points (three serves each). Teams have one hit to return the ball (younger players have two hits for each return — one to control the ball and one to hit).
Cooperative team game.
Divide the players into two teams facing each other 3–5 metres apart. Players of both teams attempt to keep a rally going as long as possible — aim to set a record for the group. To make the game more of a team effort allow each player up to two contacts (to control and then hit the ball) and each team at least two and no more than three player contacts. When players become more confident, try to hit the ball higher and restrict each player to one contact.
The game is named wulijini after the Tiwi language (Bathurst Island) word for ‘play’.
The game is known as a trial fight. It revolves on the challenge of defending himself from the bark toy boomerangs. Each player is more likely to own their bark shield.
This game is recorded for being played by the men of Ulladulla in New South Wales. The Yiri is believed as a traditional game or the game of accuracy. However, in the modern versions, the competitors developed the game where people throws tennis balls at a moving tyre. Also, there is another game conceptualisation where pieces of bark or woods are placed in a running river where the aim is to spear the moving target to win the match.