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Published August 4th 2016
A unique & entertaining way to experience indigenous culture
At a large theme park such as Dreamworld, I don't usually expect to have a cultural experience. Screams. thrills and rushes of adrenaline sure, but an artistic, historic or educational experience not so much. So it was a fantastic surprise and delight to discover the Dreamworld Corroboree exhibit on a recent visit.
The exhibit was officially opened in February 2014, but had been in development several years beforehand. The aim is to share Aboriginal culture, with the large Dreamworld visitor audience, through stories, dance, song, art and wildlife. It is a celebration of both the historic and contemporary culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
The exhibit features the traditional owners of the land which Dreamworld occupies, the Yugambeh people, as well as other groups from throughout Australia such as the Kamilaroi mob of south-western Queensland, Savannah Ewamian, Western Yalanji, Mamu Ngadjon and Rainforest Peoples of Northern Queensland, Nyikina People of the Kimberley region, Kooma mob of Western Queensland, Moon-Bird People of Tasmania and the people of the Torres Strait Islands.
As you head into the Dreamworld Corroboree precinct you will first come across the arid enclosures which house native animals such as dingos, wombats and emus. Further along is the bilby house where you can catch a rare glimpse of this nocturnal marsupial running around its darkened enclosure.
In the wetlands section, you can see the menacing salt water crocodiles up close, especially if they are sunning themselves on the banks as they were on the day I visited. You will also see freshwater crocodiles, turtles and a variety of wetland birds.
There are many opportunities to see kangaroos up close as well as the always popular koala. We were lucky enough to come across a koala who was awake and more than happy to pose for the camera. There is also an option to have your photo taken with a crocodile, snake, bird or koala. ( I know which one I would choose) Height restrictions and fees apply. For more information click here.
In the large aviary area, you will find Tasmanian Devils, a variety of birds and the very unique looking Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo. In the rainforest section, you have the opportunity to see the prehistoric looking and endangered Cassowary. We found the animals were all easy to see and we could get very close to them as the enclosures are not too large.
Wildlife exhibits include a cassowary, koalas, dingos, kangaroos, tree kangaroo and salt water crocodiles
But unlike other wildlife exhibits, at Corroboree you can also learn the traditional stories associated with key animals and discover their relevance to Aboriginal culture through the signposted stories, artwork and totems. For example, in the aviary you can learn the stories of the Tasmanian Devil and Tasmanian Tiger from the Moon Bird people of Tasmania.
While I do enjoy wildlife exhibits for me the highlight was the Corroboree Theatre. It is here that you can view a screening of the "Creation Story of the Gold Coast", a dramatisation of the local Yugambeh creation story narrated by a 3D video storyteller.
The floor of the theatre is dominated by a large map of Australia which displays the tribe boundaries and indigenous language areas that existed throughout Australia at the time of European contact, which numbered in excess of 200 groups. Known as the Tindale Map, from its creator anthropologist Norman Tindale, it is important as it challenges the historically held view that Aboriginal tribes were nomadic with no fixed attachment to their lands. It is also a graphic reminder that no part of Australia was empty land, "terra nullius", at the time of European settlement. To me, the map is a poignant reminder of the scope of displacement of our indigenous people and reflects the extent of traditional language and knowledge that has been lost as a result.
The ceiling of the theatre is lit with a magnificent Timeline Serpent depicting the indigenous history of Australia, starting from 50 000 BC, when Aboriginal people were already established in Australia. To put this in perspective it was a time when Tasmania and Papua New Guinea were still joined to Australia by ice age land bridges. The timeline continues through to the landing of Captain Cook in Australia in 1770.
The walls of the theatre include sections covering The Dreaming, the arrival of Europeans and the Stolen Generations. Through stories, artwork, photos and interactive displays we are given a glimpse of Australian history from an indigenous perspective. For a younger audience there are interactive exhibits featuring digital dot painting and animated indigenous films.
Another important and refreshing feature of Corroboree is that there are indigenous staff members on hand who are more than happy to have a chat with you and explain the features and significance of different elements of the exhibit.
Throughout the day there is also an opportunity to participate in cultural practices with indigenous staff such as fire making, face painting, music making and cultural weapons demonstrations. Unfortunately, due to poor planning, we missed all of these activities on the day we visited. My suggestion is to check the show times on the brochure you receive on entry to Dreamworld if you don't want to miss out on these activities.
Plan your day so you don't miss the interactive activities (Image Credit: Dreamworld)
Similarly I did not know about the Dreamworld Corroboree App until after we visited. Available for free from the App Store it provides information about the wildlife and the associated cultural stories.
For refreshments with an indigenous influence you can visit the Koi Koi Cafe and if you are in the market for some souvenirs you can browse the Bunya Traders gift shop, both located within the Corroboree exhibit.
It is no surprise to me that Dreamworld Corroboree won the prestigious 2014 Premier's Reconciliation Award which recognises organisations taking steps toward unity and respect between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. I think it is an inspirational example of what can be achieved in terms of celebrating the world's oldest living culture and it makes me wonder why there are not many more attractions just like it.
Dreamworld is located at Coomera on the Gold Coast. It is open every day of the year, except ANZAC Day and Christmas Day. For directions and opening hours click here. Entry to Dreamworld Corroboree is free once you have paid for entry to Dreamworld. For ticketing information click here.
My family and I enjoyed the Dreamworld Corroboree precinct and came away with new knowledge and a greater insight into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. For me, it is an impressive, authentic, unique and entertaining forum where everyone can learn about indigenous culture and gain a better understanding of the rich history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia.