We, from nations with what we assume are older, more refined cultures, sometimes joke that Australia’s culture could fit on a mouldy processed cheese slice from the back of the hostel fridge.
So what are the chances Cairns, a slightly tacky mini-version of Australia (like an Aussie snow dome) could have culture?
Yet the gateway to Cape York Peninsula, Cairns is the perfect jump-off point to learn about the top end’s 40,000-plus year-oldindigenous culture, which remains rich, fascinating and full of life.
There are guided tours to regional areas like Daintree National Rainforest and Cape Tribulation that specialise in Aboriginalculture, courtesy
of traditional owners.
Some tours even visit Aboriginal communities, such as Wujul Wujul and Hope Vale (Dyuubi), north of Cooktown.
Plus there are rock engravings and other sacred sites aplenty.
You can learn how to survive in the wild, with bushtucker and remedies and have the delicate eco-system explained in a whole new light.
By taking traditional owner-guided tours you can be confident your money is helping to support the culture’s best interest, and that the peoples’ stories are being told correctly.
From the local dance theatres and cultural centres like Tjapukai (Australia’s first Aboriginal dance theatre in the nearby village of Kuranda), the Cairns region has plenty to offer.
You’ll learn to play the didgeridoo and throw a boomerang – if it comes back, you’ve done better than me.
It’s also important to remember when buying local art or souvenirs of cultural significance you check for the tag explaining its authentically indigenous to the area.
Many tourist shops offer cheap knock-offs that not only infringe on the artists’ right to make a living but also… well, you’re getting ripped off.
You’ll not only realise that with 40,000 years of art, dance and traditional stories, your county’s 400-year-old castle, or the even older Dot Cotton at the Queen Vic, pales in comparison.
More info: www.wettropics.gov.au and check out the Rainforest Aboriginal Heritage section for more advice and information.