I had an amazing time at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park, my first experience of indigenous culture in Australia. I arrived just before 9am which gave me some time to register and explore the reception area. On the left side Reception, there are some paintings, traditional shields, boomerangs and didgeridoos displayed.

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Tjapukai Self Drive

The first guided tour of the day started at 9:15am. When you check in you are given a sticker to reflect your grouping for the day. I was in purple group that read “DUDUWIN”. Afterwards I found out it means purple-crowned pigeon in the local Aboriginal language.

Two men came complete with body paint and costume welcomed us and introduced themselves before leading us to BUNDA:RAA DINGAL / Cassowary Egg Room. Our guide introduced us to the didgeridoo, the Aboriginal wind instrument that was originally played as accompaniment to ceremonial dancing and singing. Today the majority of didgeridoo playing is just for recreational purpose.  He went on to explain to us how they get their body painting pattern, the meaning of the huge painting in that room and at the end played a short film showing the impacts of the early settlers on local Aboriginal life as well.

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Soon after that, we headed to the Bulurru Story Water room for a great presentation complete with special effects and live performers to bring you into the story. Starting from their belief in how the earth formed up to their belief in the sacred bird of cassowary and the moon. Life springs from the cassowary egg, into a world marked by the wet and the dry seasons. These opposing seasons are represented by two brothers – Guyala from the dry side and Damarri from the wet side. The presentation goes for approximately 20 minutes and is well worth including in your day at Tjapukai.

Time to move outside to see Bayngaa (the traditional oven of Aboriginal people). A Bayngaa is an underground oven used to cook food for ceremonial purposes including weddings, celebrations and burials as well. After the hole is dug a fire is made using hardwood. Meats are then covered with banana leave before they put the hot stone on the top. During the ceremony, cooking is a man’s jobs whilst the women go to forest to pick fruits. Later food is eaten using the fingers and plates made from candlenut leaves.

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We walked over a large waterhole to the Warrama theatre, a semi open stage with unique Aboriginal-style backdrop. From the beginning to the end of the show, the dance performance is riveting. They share stories of hunting through the dances of kangaroo and cassowary. The audience also can come to the front of the stage and join the dancers when they do “shake a leg” dance. During the performance they also demonstrate how they make fire with only sticks.

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After the dance our group of 10 continue to the Boomerang and Spear Throwing area. I become more exited now as the guide gives a short briefing on how to throw and catch the Boomerang. I was chosen first to have a throw of the Boomerang – my first and second throws are so weak, so the guide demonstrates again, highlighting my arm needs to be at 1 o’clock as I release the Boomerang. His guidance helped as my third throw was a lot better! Everyone in the group had the chance to throw a few Boomerangs and I am happy to say mine was far from the worst throw!!!

The Spear weapon is used to hunt kangaroo, and it consists of a shaft and long skinny stick like arrow. The shaft is used as a launch pad, a little bit like for a rocket and it is important when throwing the spear to continue holding this shaft. Throwing the spear was a lot more difficult than the boomerang but I really enjoyed it.

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There are additional presentations for bush tucker (food) and traditional medicines which are also very interesting.  All up the guided tour and presentations take about 3 hours.  Guided tours depart regularly throughout the day.  There is a large restaurant on site where you can purchase some traditional foods as well as kangaroo and crocodile….. don’t worry, there is a great range of other choices available as well.

Be sure to leave some time to visit the gift shop, convenient located near the entry/exit of Tjapukai.  Artifacts including didgeridoos, boomerangs and artworks are available for purchase.

The tour I did was the self drive tour ,  Tjapukai is located approximately 25 minutes north of Cairns and is serviced by public buses as well as tours that include transfers from either Cairns or Cairns Northern Beaches.

Tour Review by Putu

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