Cairns & Great Barrier Reef is the only region in Australia with two distinct Indigenous cultures; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been continuously active longer than any other culture on the planet.
The region is the ideal place to delve deeper, absorb age-old wisdom and be inspired with direct access to Traditional Custodians, both elders and the new generation.
Delegates will forge connections with sacred surrounds. Be welcomed by a smoking ceremony that cleanses and diverts bad spirits, learn traditional hunting techniques on historic fishing grounds, or gain insights into ancient artforms with rock art tours. Follow the songlines across the landscape where the night skies come alive with the stories of ancestors.
Here are nine ways to connect your delegates with these ancient cultures 60,000 years in the making.
A Welcome to Country
Protocols for welcoming visitors to Country have been a part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures for thousands of years. Clear boundaries separated the Country of each group. Crossing into another group’s Country required permission. Hosts would welcome visitors, offering safe passage and protection of their spiritual being. Visitors respected the land-owner group’s rules whilst on their Country. Today, these protocols have been adapted to contemporary circumstances.
A Welcome to Country is held at the beginning of an event and can include singing, dancing, smoking ceremonies or a speech in traditional language or English. It’s delivered by Traditional Custodians to welcome your delegates to their Country.
Find out who our Traditional Custodians are for the different areas within Cairns & Great Barrier Reef.
A Walkabout Adventure
Spend a day away from the conference room learning the traditional hunting and gathering techniques of the coastal and rainforest Kuku Yalanji people with Walkabout Cultural Adventures. Venture into the mangroves in search of mud crabs and collect shellfish in tidal pools at Cooya Beach north of Port Douglas. If your group’s hunt proves fruitful, the catch will be cooked to enjoy; hopefully with the addition of a succulent mud crab.
The journey continues north to the Daintree Rainforest and Mossman Gorge sampling bush tucker and learning the bush medicines that have been used for thousands of years by the local Aboriginal people. Delegates should pack their swimwear to cool off in the pristine waters of Mossman Gorge at a private swimming hole.
A Dreamtime Walk
The Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk tour focuses on Mossman Gorge, a World Heritage listed Eden that’s hailed for its sparkling streams, cascading waterfalls, stunning rainforests and a dramatic gorge. Here, the magic and the mystery of a World-Heritage listed forest comes to life with a local guide who stops frequently to identify bush foods and show delegates many unusual uses for native plants. During the tour hear the traditional stories of the area, witness a smoking ceremony and come that little bit closer to understanding the sacred land.
A Pamagirri Experience
For those shorter on time, but still wanting to dive into Australia’s history, Rainforestation Nature Park is perfect. Located in the World Heritage Wet Tropics Rainforest at the top of Kuranda Range, the nature park offers a delightful insight into the Pamagirri’s culture and community. Delegates watch a 20-minute tribal dance show in a natural rainforest setting before taking a guided Dreamtime walk modelled on the Rainbow Serpent. A much-loved group challenge is always testing delegate boomerang and spear throwing abilities.
A Daintree Dream
Down Under Tours can create a flexible Aboriginal experience to fit your event agenda. The Daintree Dreaming Program is an exclusive Aboriginal cultural journey from coast to rainforest aboard luxury vehicles for your delegates. After exploring the lush rainforest of Mossman Gorge, your group journeys to the mangroves and mudflats of Cooya Beach to join a traditional Aboriginal fishing expedition with a Kubirri Warra clan member. Or if you’d rather stay on dry land, the group is invited to join resident artist Binna at Janbal Art Gallery for an immersive Aboriginal Art Class, to share KuKu Yalanji culture through painting and storytelling.
A Dreamtime Dive
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have maintained important relationships with the land and sea for thousands of years. Add an unforgettable cultural spin on your delegate’s day on the reef with Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel. Your group will be welcomed to country by Indigenous Sea Rangers and hear the creation story of the Great Barrier Reef, gain a deeper understanding of how they have interacted with the reef throughout the generations before exploring coral gardens below.
A Flame-Lit Forest
Like a scene from a fairytale, your group is guided down a flame lit path to an enchanting marquee set in tropical rainforest surrounded by twinkling fairy lights and flickering candles, welcome to Flames of the Forest. Let the sounds of the didgeridoo played by local Aboriginal brothers permeate the air and listen to the stories of their culture and land. Feast on a tropical tasting menu fusing local and native produce in a contemporary dining experience.
An Art Class
Delegates can take away a souvenir that means more than most with their own hand-painted boomerang or canvas guided by acclaimed Aboriginal artist, Brian “Binna” Swindley, owner of Janbal Gallery. Art is an important part of Aboriginal culture and Binna will help delegates understand stories through painting. Browse the 100% Aboriginal owned and operated Janbal Gallery and maybe even purchase an additional piece of authentic Aboriginal art to take home.
An Ancient Eco Tour
Take a journey across the Trinity Inlet and through the mangroves to a lesser-known part of Cairns for an authentic delegate experience with a timeless culture. Here, on Mandingalbay Yindinji land, your group will be welcomed to country with a cleansing smoking ceremony followed by a guided walk with Indigenous Rangers discovering the bush supermarket and pharmacy. The Hands On Country Eco Tour explores ancient rainforest, coastal and estuarine landscapes and the animals that call these habitats home. For something different, large groups are able to participate in a Deadly Dinner or overnight stays.
A Fair Full of Art
One of Australia’s premier Indigenous art events, Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, is held in Cairns & Great Barrier Reef with thousands of people flocking to the event each year in July. The main attraction, offering an ethical art marketplace, takes place across three days at the Cairns Convention Centre; Cairns comes alive hosting many satellite events around town. Delegates can purchase authentic Indigenous art, interact with artists, engage in industry talks, participate in workshops such as basket weaving and watch film screenings and traditional song and dance performances from across the region.