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Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park

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by Rose (subscribe)
In the words of JR Tolkien "Not all those who wander are lost". My passion and loves are my family, travel and writing. I'm fortunate to be able to combine all three for an extraordinary life adventure....
Published December 29th 2017
Tjapukai aboriginal cultural centre, Indigenous culture and art, traditional Indigenous story telling and performances, things to do in Cairns, things to do with kids Cairns
Image by Tjapukai


As we sit in quiet anticipation along with the other guests, visitors from all around the globe, we wait patiently as we embark on a journey of discovery to learn more about one of the oldest living cultures in the world.

I gaze around at the room full of people, who have come here to share, listen and discover the Dreamtime creation stories as told by the local and original inhabitants of this rainforest region, the Tjapukai people. For thousands of years, this spiritual connection with country has been passed on from generation to the next, providing the knowledge and skills of how to live in harmony with this diverse and challenging landscape.

My sons sit enthralled as the Dreamtime stories come to life, using traditional oral storytelling and digital imagery, celebrating this ancient culture dating back over 40,000 years. It is one that has survived despite genocide and forced assimilation.

Tjapukai aboriginal cultural centre, Indigenous culture and art, traditional Indigenous story telling and performances, things to do in Cairns, things to do with kids Cairns
Fire making demonstration


Tjapukai is one opportunity to embrace and recognise this ancient history of ours and work to ensure its continued survival because it is a part of who we are, our people and the land we all call home.

And so, as we entered the doors of Tjapukai for the first time, situated on an extensive 25 acre property and only a short 15 minute drive from Cairns, we step back in time ready for a unique Indigenous cultural and educational experience.

Tjapukai aboriginal cultural centre, Indigenous culture and art, traditional Indigenous story telling and performances, things to do in Cairns, things to do with kids Cairns
Art gallery and gift shop showcasing Indigenous artists


The main Tjapukai centre showcase a stunning visual collection of Indigenous Australian art and other gift and home wares created by local artists.

There is a cafe available for a quick morning coffee before the guided tour begins at 9:15am. Our cultural guide for the day is Joe, or known by his Indigenous name and totem animal, Gurrangga (Kookaburra). With extensive knowledge, humour and an engaging style, he led the tour throughout various parts of the beautiful grounds.

Our first stop was a screening of a historical documentary with original footage showing the impact and treatment of the Indigenous Australians since white settlement. Coming to terms with our history gives us the opportunity to create a different future and story - one of pride, recognition and acceptance.

Tjapukai aboriginal cultural centre, Indigenous culture and art, traditional Indigenous story telling and performances, things to do in Cairns, things to do with kids Cairns
Image by Tjapukai


We then entered Dreamtime and the creation of our world. The story is re-told of the two Bulurru Dreamtime brothers, each of whom represent the wet and the dry season, and who laid down the contours, created the plant foods and established customary law.

Following this was a brief stop to observe the preparation of meat and vegetable in a bayngga (a traditional cooking pit) which we later sampled at lunch.

Tjapukai aboriginal cultural centre, Indigenous culture and art, traditional Indigenous story telling and performances, things to do in Cairns, things to do with kids Cairns
Cooking bayngga style


A bridge walk over a natural dam with plenty of turtles and freshwater eels swimming below led us to an outdoor natural stage. Here we enjoyed a traditional corroboree, witnessing dances and performances re-telling the stories of Indigenous hunting and traditional life. This was informative and integrated traditional language and included lots of audience participation.

Tjapukai aboriginal cultural centre, Indigenous culture and art, traditional Indigenous story telling and performances, things to do in Cairns, things to do with kids Cairns
Traditional stories shared


Our guide, Gurrangga, then led the way to an interactive boomerang and spear throwing demonstration, where we all had several attempts at throwing these amazing specialised tools. While some of these landed in a tree, for the most part, we were able to demonstrate some skill of flight!

Tjapukai aboriginal cultural centre, Indigenous culture and art, traditional Indigenous story telling and performances, things to do in Cairns, things to do with kids Cairns
Image by Tjapukai


Following this, we headed to the Digeridoo shelter where we learnt about how this ancient instrument is made and why the timber used and the length of the digeridoo creates different sounds. We were given the opportunity to observe up close a variety of digeridoos, and discovered the unique skill required to make this amazing sound; seamlessly integrating the essential aspects of rhythm, breathing, vocals and lots of practice.

Tjapukai aboriginal cultural centre, Indigenous culture and art, traditional Indigenous story telling and performances, things to do in Cairns, things to do with kids Cairns
Digeridoo demonstration


Upon entering the world of men's lore, we gained further insight into the making and use of traditional tools for hunting. We learnt about the shape, size and style of tool and its purpose. We also learnt a little more about traditional customs and law.



Finally, behind a backdrop of a small rhythmic waterfall, we moved to a shelter of a different kind, to a table packed with native seeds and plants to discuss the varied use of bush foods for medicinal and culinary purposes. Sharing old knowledge and an understanding of the local environment which has developed over thousands of years.

Tjapukai aboriginal cultural centre, Indigenous culture and art, traditional Indigenous story telling and performances, things to do in Cairns, things to do with kids Cairns
Native bush foods


There are additional activities which can be included in your day:

Cultural creations whereby you can learn the intricate art of weaving, paint a boomerang and create rainforest-style craft jewellery with talented local artists and;

A one hour Indigenous Guided Bush food trail through the extensive park. Learn about native plants as you explore the local area and finish with a sample tasting plate of native fruit spreads and damper overlooking the lake.

For more information about these packages, click this link here.

Tjapukai aboriginal cultural centre, Indigenous culture and art, traditional Indigenous story telling and performances, things to do in Cairns, things to do with kids Cairns
Tjapukai amazing cultural performers


After a 2.5 hour guided tour, providing a further understanding of some of these rich, strong and diverse traditions with our knowledgeable guide, Joe, we were ready to sample some traditional foods cooked the modern way!

Dine on exotic tropical produce featuring Indigenous flavours with a buffet lunch available at the Flame Tree Bar and Grill restaurant and cafe or choose from a range of a la carte menu dishes on offer.

We chose a delicious and well-presented sample tasting plate with servings of crocodile, emu, kangaroo and seafood.

Tjapukai aboriginal cultural centre, Indigenous culture and art, traditional Indigenous story telling and performances, things to do in Cairns, things to do with kids Cairns
Delicious tasting plate


There are day and night dining and cultural performance experiences available. For more information on the Flame Tree Bar and Grill, click here.

For daytime packages and cultural activities, click here.

To discover Tjapukai by night, including a Fire Ceremony with Buffet Dinner and a spectacular Dance Show, please click here .

However you choose to enjoy it, a visit to Tjapukai is the perfect way to gain a deeper understanding of Australia's diverse Aboriginal heritage.

How to get here;
Public transport is available via Sunbus and a shuttle bus operates daily. Please phone Tjapukai for transfer times and details.

Tjapukai aboriginal cultural centre, Indigenous culture and art, traditional Indigenous story telling and performances, things to do in Cairns, things to do with kids Cairns
Grounds map


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Why? Discover where Australia begins at Tjapukai. Explore the rich history of the world's oldest living culture with performance, dance, food and the arts. Immerse yourself in the day and evening interactive demonstrations and cultural performances. Buf
When: All year round; with day time and evening tours and performances.
Phone: 07 4042 9900
Where: 4 Skyrail Drive, Caravonica (Cairns) Queensland 4878
Cost: Please contact Tjapukai or see the website for more information on the range of packages available for both day and evening tours
Your Comment
Great article! This is a great place to experience a different culture.
by Jay Johnson (score: 3|1368) 347 days ago
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