Mamamia Recommends: Sydney’s new interactive kids’ space celebrating First Nations stories.

Australian Museum
Thanks to our brand partner, Australian Museum

When it comes to family days out with my boys (aged four, six and nine), the perennial challenge is finding an activity or destination that equally engages and entertains all three of them.

Add to the mix a destination that’s actually interesting for the grown-ups and you’re on to a winner.

So, we were excited to learn about Sydney’s newest family-friendly day out for any day of the week: the free Burra learning and play space at the Australian Museum in the heart of the city.

What is the Australian Museum’s Burra about? 

Burra means eel in the First Nations languages of Sydney and the South Coast, and it’s also the name of the new inspiring interactive learning and play space for a wide range of ages at the Australian Museum, ideal for kids from 1 to 13 years old.

But, this is not your average museum experience. You don't even need to book a visit in advance.

At Burra, kids are encouraged to touch, play with and immerse themselves in the learning experiences waiting for them there, which combine the unique experience First Nations stories and knowledge of the region with Western science, to create a family day out that is seriously like no other. 

By following the incredible migration of the burra (eel) along estuaries and rivers, across rock pools and then out to sea, kids can follow the life-cycle of the surprisingly resilient animal, while learning about the environment, science, and the importance of caring for Country, as well as each other. 

Image: Anna Kučera/Australian Museum. 


Come for the… 

Free family day out that will equally engage kids of all ages.

It's honestly the perfect-crowd pleaser no matter the weather. Any parent will tell you – a day out that suits kids of several age brackets is an absolute dream. Plus, no bookings required, so you can be as spontaneous as you like, either making it your primary destination, or adding it to a unique day out in Sydney, celebrating the crossover of art, education and culture.

Image: Anna Kučera/Australian Museum. 


Stay for the… 

Intriguing and inspiring interactive displays, which will get your kids thinking differently about the world around them. The importance of Country also shines through at Burra, while helping us all view Sydney’s environment through a new perspective. 

This is ‘edutainment’ at its best, really. The kind of learning experience that is actually playful and engaging, with plenty of golden nuggets to learn and takeaway with you. 

Image: Anna Kučera/Australian Museum. 


What's so unique about it?

The Burra exhibition is such a unique mix of creative interactive experiences and inspiring learning. Set across 700sqm, Burra is an immersive space for kids to explore. One part is aimed at younger kids aged 1 to 8 years: think interactive play zones, sensory walls and opportunities to touch, feel and look at pieces inspired by burra’s journey from river to ocean. 

The other part is more about learning and engagement, for inquiring young minds aged 8 to 13 years: where microscopes are at the ready to get a closer look at amazing natural artefacts, where you can learn more about prehistoric animals who lived here like the diprotodon, and discover First Nations stone tools while having a go at creating your own stone axe grinding grooves. 

An artist's render of the entrance and pathway to Burra, opened July 2022. Image: Australian Museum. 


The beauty of Burra is that it also explores the Gadigal tradition of non-linear storytelling

Growing up, many of us are taught that stories should have a beginning, a middle and an end, moving in a straight line from start to finish. First Nations people don’t always think about things in timelines with set starting and finishing spots, and instead, think in patterns and cycles using the place and time where we are now as a starting point. This is known as non-linear thinking and storytelling.


So, Burra starts with the Gadi grass trees of Gadigal Country, as this is where the Australian Museum stands. Even though it’s not the ‘start’ of the eel life cycle – they’re born in the Pacific, and spend different stages of their lives in saltwater and freshwater. 

This is one of the unique reasons using the eel’s journey as the hook for the storytelling at Burra is so engaging. It means we have to learn to follow and interact with new rules in a new place and challenge our preconceptions. 

Image:  Anna Kučera/Australian Museum. 


Why does Mamamia recommend it?

A visit to Burra will give you a whole new view on the history and environment around us in Sydney and its surrounds. 

You’ll learn about the creatures who call our region home, while also discovering more about the way the Gadigal people survived and thrived in the region – the food they ate, the techniques they used, and the way they cared for the ecosystem. 

It’s also an opportunity to engage your kids with bigger conversations around wildlife conservation, cultural awareness and climate change.

The combination of art, science, culture, First Nations traditions and play, is truly unlike anything else we’ve had a space dedicated to exploring.  

Okay, what's the practical stuff I need to know?

Burra is a permanent interactive display at the Australian Museum, open daily. It’s free to visit, and there’s no need to pre-book. It’s suitable for kids aged 1 to 13 years of age, and one of the best destinations in Sydney for fun, free edutainment the whole family will seriously enjoy. 

The space just recently was launched to the public in July 2022.

Spend as little or as long there as you like, as this is sure to be a place you want to return to, to explore further and discover more. The huge family-friendly space is full of surprises. 

Plus, you have all the amazing facilities of the Australian Museum on hand, including the Billabong Waterhole for when you get peckish, and the other permanent displays. A quick stop by the dinosaurs too, anyone? 

Feature Image: Anna Kučera/Australian Museum.

Australian Museum
The Australian Museum (AM) was founded in 1827 and is the nation’s first museum. It is internationally recognised as a natural science and culture institution focused on Australia and the Pacific. The AM’s mission is to ignite wonder, inspire debate and drive change. The AM’s vision is to be a leading voice for the richness of life, the Earth and culture in Australia and the Pacific. The AM commits to transforming the conversation around climate change, the environment and wildlife conservation; to being a strong advocate for First Nations cultures; and to continuing to develop world-leading science, collections, exhibitions and education programs. With 22 million objects and specimens and the Australian Museum Research Institute (AMRI), the AM is not only a dynamic source of reliable scientific information on some of the most pressing environmental and social challenges facing our region, but also an important site of cultural exchange and learning.