One of the biggest events by far on the Cape York Peninsula calendar is the biennial Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival, a three-day event bringing together aboriginal communities from around the Cape to showcase their music, dancing and culture.
While the Laura Dance Festival has been running for 34 years, it has been said that the dance floor may actually be the oldest in the world. Indigenous communities have been coming to this sacred site to dance and pass down stories to the next generation for thousands of years.
It may be a long road trip to the middle of the outback but the festival is an incredible opportunity to watch authentic, traditional aboriginal dancing.
You can’t help but feel an incredible connection to their culture and feel honoured to be able to share in it.
The Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival attracts a real eclectic mix of visitors from families, couples and grey nomads through to backpackers, overseas tourists, school groups and locals.
In fact, this year around 4,500 people attended the festival, with most people staying for the entire three days. And with a strict ‘no alcohol or drugs’ policy, the festival atmosphere was joyful and family-friendly.
[headline size=”small” align=”left”]the festival[/headline]
The aboriginal dancing is definitely the biggest attraction of the festival with a large dirt floor arena playing host for each of the indigenous communities to perform.
Over the three days, dance groups perform and compete for an overall prize and to take home the winning shield.
Performers this year came from communites from all around Cape York including Bamaga, Coen, Hope Vale, Yarrabah, Mapoon, Pormpuraaw, Kowanyama, Mossman, Kuranda, Aurukun, Lockhart River and Djarragun, to name just a few.
The festival also has a range of stalls including food stalls, kid’s craft, clothing, art galleries and helpful community resources. We were amazed to see such a huge variety of food stalls given our location in the middle of the outback.
There was hot espresso coffee, Indian cuisine, wood fire pizzas, fish and chips, hot baked potatoes, indigenous cuisine and slushie drinks.
The craft stalls had lots of great activities on offer for kids including canvas and boomerang painting, clay to make sculptures, recyclable materials to create art and face painting.
And for the bigger kids there were weaving classes.
[headline size=”small” align=”left”]accommodation at the laura dance festival[/headline]
As the festival is located approximately 15 kilometres before the actual town of Laura, the majority of people attending the festival camp at the Ang-Gnarra Festival Grounds.
Realistically there aren’t many other options since there is minimal accommodation available in the actual town itself.
Some people came with hired campervans, camper trailers, tents and swags while others just threw down old mattresses and inflatable lilos.
[headline size=”small” align=”left”]amenities[/headline]
Just to be clear, there are no powered sites or flash amenities at the campground, this is strictly bush-camping, although there are a few eco toilets. Surprisingly there was never a queue for the toilets, considering there were 4,500 people at the festival.
There is also no fresh drinking water so bottles of hand sanitiser hang from surrounding trees and posts near the toilets to wash hands. Seasoned campers won’t bat an eyelid, but if you are used to more luxurious accommodation, you might find it a bit of a culture shock.
However, showers are available at the festival, if you are prepared to walk from your campsite to the festival amenities.
Camping at the festival is basically bush camping so you need to take your own drinking water, gas and cooking facilities.
You can have your own campfire but being surrounded by natural bush, it is really important that campers are responsible and always put their fire out
[headline size=”small” align=”left”]travel nq fast facts:[/headline]
- The Laura Dance Festival is held every two years. The next one will be in June 2017.
- Laura is 330 km north of Cairns
- Absolutely NO alcohol or drugs at the festival and bags and vehicles may be searched
- Festival wristbands are to be worn at all times during the festival
- There is a river running behind the campground that is croc-free and a popular swimming hole for festival-goers (but double check prior to swimming)