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Cultural Connections

Northern Territory

Legendary former Aussie test cricketer, Matthew Hayden, tells all about his Top End family travels.


rom Uluru to Alice Springs, Katherine to Darwin, and all places in between, the family stayed at roadside retreats, five-star hotels and even a working cattle station, which Matt says was “a great thing for his kids to experience”. Camping in remote Daly Waters provided another highlight for the family. “We camped out by the Daly Waters Pub, one of the great iconic – and laconic – pubs of Australia. The kids played rock bowls in the street as we listened to country music. The whole campsite and community seemed to descend and there was such a great atmosphere.”

Making connections with the local Indigenous communities made a huge impact on the Hayden family. “In Katherine the kids learnt to make fire with Top Didj and there was a spear-throwing competition. My daughter, who is a state javelin champ, was all over that.

“Uluru in general was very special for the kids,” says Matt who compares the sacred experience of Uluru and its millennia of history to that of any great church or temple.

“You can get lost in that space on your own journey. Grace, Joshy and Tom all had a different take away of what it felt like for them.”


A traditional cook-up with the Bininj/ Mungguy people at The Warradjan Cultural Centre in Kakadu National Park certainly made an impression on the Haydens.

“We were every much in their hands. And we learnt as a family that around here men do men’s things and women do women’s things.”

For Matt and his sons that meant helping to prepare and cook buffalo, wrapped in paper bark and buried in a fire pit, while the girls made bracelets and grass bags.

“It was sensational. Any day the boys get a chance to light a fire is a good day. And the size of this big backstrap of buffalo would have made Fred Flimstone Proud.

“The greatest gift of a trip like this is time just to be able to travel across as a family and be together.”


“Being a bush kid myself, I’m big on trying different things, and along the way the kids tasted crocodile, emu and kangaroo. They didn’t even screw their noses up at a camel burger,” he says with pride.

The Haydens found it easy to keep the kids entertained on the long drives. “They enjoyed the car trips, just looking out the window and spotting stuff. And there is always a little waterhole or natural springs like the ones at Mataranka, so we’d drive for a few hours and then stop to cool off, relax and have a bite.

“The greatest gift of a trip like this is time just to be able to travel across Australia as a family and be together. It’s therapeutic.” But beyond quality family time, Matt felt his children came away with so much more from their Top End adventures.

“They’ve seen first-hand the way of life of the Indigenous people and the impact of the extreme isolation of outback communities. There is no question that my family now has a deeper understanding and respect for the desert and its Indigenous peoples, as well as a greater appreciation of just how big and remote Australia really is.”


Rim Walk, Kings Canyon © Andrew Jackson


Getting there

Flights to and from Darwin, Alice Springs, and Uluru are available from most capital cities.

This article appeared in volume 52 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.

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