5 Ways to Experience Aboriginal Culture in FNQ

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When international visitors think of Australia it’s usually set to the distinctive sound of a didgeridoo. Besides seeing the icons of the Sydney Opera House, Ayers Rock (Uluru) and the Great Barrier Reef, a trip Down Under would not be complete without some experience of aboriginal culture.

When you come to Australia you need to step outside the capital cities to even see any indigenous people. However, close to Cairns there are a number of different ways of learning about indigenous traditions and Dreamtime stories.

You can enjoy indigenous tours, take an aboriginal painting class, visit ancient rock art or just sit back and be mesmerised by traditional aboriginal dancing.

1. The Bama way


aboriginal culture with willy gordonTo truly see the region through the eyes of the indigenous people who have lived on the land for thousands of years, then a tour with Nugal-warra Elder and storyteller, Willie Gordon, is one worth doing.

The Bama Way is an Aboriginal trail from Cairns to Cooktown and Willie is incredibly knowledgeable about the area and shares stories of his ancestors.

He will take you on a walk to some amazing aboriginal rock art sites just outside of Cooktown with tales about the spiritual and cultural meanings of the rock paintings and why they help keep aboriginal culture alive.

2. Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours

If you want to experience traditional aboriginal hunting and fishing then you definitely need to join Linc and Brandon Walker, the Kubirri Warra Brothers on one of their two-hour, hands-on Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours.

You will learn how to throw a spear and hunt while observing and stalking wildlife at one of their traditional fishing grounds, which is made up of beach, mangroves and reef.

They run two coastal beach walks during the day and a spearing tour at night, which is their traditional way of fishing.

3. aboriginal art workshops

aboriginal art classes for kidsOne of FNQ’s prominent aboriginal artists, Brian Swindley, better known as ‘Binna’, offers authentic indigenous art classes at his Janbal Gallery in Mossman.

Many of his own paintings grace the walls of international art lovers and all of his art has a story.

You can go along and paint your own boomerang or canvas under Binna’s guidance in either a group workshop or one-on-one with Binna.

However, bookings are essential so contact him directly on email if this is something you’re thinking of doing.

4. mossman gorge

Another great way to learn about ancient indigenous traditions is to do a Dreamtime tour.

Run by experienced aboriginal guides, you get to explore Mossman Gorge and the Daintree Rainforest to learn about native bush tucker, the ochre face paint used by the aboriginals and Dreamtime legends before enjoying a bush tea and damper.

It’s a great way to spend the morning and really get an understanding of the indigenous people’s connection to this land.

5. tjapukai aboriginal culture park

If you are a little short on time but still want to experience aboriginal culture then Tjapukai is probably worth a visit. It is just 15 minutes north of Cairns and was established as a tourist destination over 25 years ago.

It is dedicated to all things indigenous with interactive demonstrations and performances.

You can watch aboriginal dancing, learn how to play a didgeridoo, throw a boomerang, learn all about bush tucker found in the rainforest and either enjoy lunch in the restaurant or take in dinner and a show.

It’s basically like a theme park dedicated to aboriginal culture, but without the rides! It is touristy but it also meets a need if time is short.

travel nq fast facts:

  • The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) is an annual event held at the end of July. Held over 3 days it encompasses an art market as well as performances.
  • There are also galleries in Cairns selling indigenous art. Canopy Artspace on Grafton Street mentors emerging aboriginal artists.
  • For an authentic experience of aboriginal life in Australia, Yarrabah Aboriginal Community has an arts precinct and museum.

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