Season 1, Episode 10

Tjapukai Cultural Park

Join Benjamin Starr as he visits the Tjapukai Cultural Park, where they use the latest technology to bring to life Aboriginal culture through dance and song. Birry, the audio technical guru brings an interesting insight into the Aboriginal history and culture.  

Hosts & Guests

Benjamin Starr


Read the transcript


Ben: Well we’re driving our own adventure and I tell you what we’ve ended up with a really cool place, Tjapukai. We’ve got Birry here who is the audio technical guru of this joint. He keeps everything going, the lights, the dancing, the music, it’s like a cruise ship here. Tell us all about it, what is this place about? 

Birry: This is a place for many people to experience a bit of Aboriginal culture.

Ben: Yeah.   

Birry: Mainly the Tjapukai Culture.

Ben: Tell us about the Tjapukai Culture, where did it come from?

Birry: Well we’re rainforest coastal people. Back in, a language was, one almost extinct through the eighties, then it took a group of people to start reviving the language.

Ben: Really?

Birry: And from that, everything just snowballed from there, performance and showcasing culture.

Ben: It’s a great thing to see around the world now, but particularly in Australia in government, they’ve got somebody in there representing the aboriginal people which is a good thing. There’s a lot of languages that are dying out still aren’t there?

Birry: Absolutely. It’s extraordinary how much we lose every year and we were just one of the lucky ones you know. We had Elders from the circumstances that they went through, forbidden to speak language, practice culture, swelled to where we are today.

Ben: Tell us about the performing arts, what type of things do you guys do here? 

Birry: We do a live performance, that’s where people, we also get people to join in as well.

Ben: Yeah, really?

Birry: Do a bit of shake a leg.

Ben: Oh good. 

Birry:  And also singing along with us as well.

Ben: Yeah.

Birry: So, I’ve got a nice back and tractor that people get to sing along, dance along to, and also a live performance with a 3D show as well, projectors that tells of a creation story here.

Ben: Yeah, and it’s also a function centre as well isn’t it?

Birry: Very much so, yeah. We do get a lot of people come in they just found the place amazing, great setting for to have their functions.

Ben: Yes, and it’s set on what 25 acres?

Birry: 25 acres, yep. 

Ben: So, what happens, you come here and for the day and you can see some of these shows and then what, you can walk through the parkland?  Are there other features to see along the way?

Birry: Absolutely. We do have a guided bushwalk tour. That one we have our bush food medicine demonstrations, weapons didgeridoo show as well, and you get to do spear and boomerang. 

Ben: Oh really?

Birry: Which kids really love. Yeah.

Ben: I threw a boomerang once and it flew around and hit me in the head and someone said that it what a boomerang is about, it flies away to come back.

Birry: Well I suggest wear helmet next time.

Ben: Hey tell me, what’s, the thing that I love about the aboriginal culture is, it is a culture that’s based on a lot of fun as well. You know, people would think it’s very serious, but I think it’s all about living in the environment, being in the present moment, you know learning to throw a boomerang. You’re going to have problems; you’re not going to get it right the first time.

Birry: Even I don’t get a right every day. And I have a few goes and you know, but that’s what Tjapukai culture about having fun.

Ben: Yeah.

Birry: As well with our old people we see that a lot of humour, you know that got them through hard times as well. Very much so.

Ben: Now we took the Skyrail a few minutes ago, we went all the way up to Kuranda. What’s the significance of Kuranda? What’s that all about up there?

Birry: Kuranda is a very special place for Tjapukai people, that was a meeting place.

Ben: Uhhuh.

Birry: So, the Tjapukai name for Kuranda is Nong Bai, which means a meeting place of the platypus. 

Ben: Oh really? And what happens in a meeting place, when they go to a meeting place, is it about talking about how things are operating or what we need to do to fix this?

Birry: Whole range of stuff. We go from sorry business to celebrations, also there is a very special place the birthing place.

Ben: Really? And the aboriginal people still use all these places like the birthing place and all that or is it is it just a respectful thing now? 

Birry: Well with tourism, you know it can.

Ben: Yeah.

Birry: In the early days it did push a lot of our people out of the way.

Ben: Yes.

Birry: And now we know those places, but we just ask people to respect those places.

Ben: Yeah, yeah. When people come to Cairns as a tourist and they are coming up to drive their own adventure, what would you say to them as tourists they need to respect about your land here?

Birry: There are a lot of sacred places around Kuranda, very significant, they’re like ours dreams   story waters like reading stories other people call them, and the land is just like scattered with these places that’s very significant for the Tjapukai people.

Ben: Yes.

Birry: So, we just ask that they respect the land that they walking on.

Ben: We see a lot of people talking about on our series that we’ve been recording that global warming is having an effect on our planet and the reef and all those sorts of things. Are there things that we need to be aware of as tourists to protect the environment from the aboriginal culture?

Birry: Well as we know the waterways start way back up in the hills, so everything’s connected and we, from creation we were taught how to look after country.

Ben: So, coming here, people are going to get this cultural experience of dance, are they going to walk away with a cultural experience a of say food as well?

Birry: Yeah, we do bush food medicine, you know just for this area.

Ben: Yeah.

Birry: Also like after in between shows and all that, people get to have one on one conversations with our performers, so yes, they get more in depth with things what they feel free to ask questions.

Ben: Tell me, when people come to Cairns what are three things you think they should do? Apart from coming to Tjapukai, what other things do you think they should do as a tourist? 

Birry: We have the Skyrail right here next door, which takes you over Tjapukai countries through the rainforests, then you got the Kuranda rail as well and we do have white water rafting down the road. 

Ben: Really? And is that a sacred site as well the river?

Birry: Recreational.

Ben: It’s recreational. So, go, go hop on a raft and go for a white-water raft hey?

Birry: Just be careful where you go, crocodiles.

Ben: Oh, my goodness. Now are crocodiles really that bad up here?

Birry: There’re getting bigger.

Ben: And they’re not getting friendlier?

Birry: No. It’s just interaction, more of us are going into more areas, clearing the land for housing. And that’s, that’s having a major effect?

Birry: Absolutely.

Ben: Yeah yeah, because we’re interrupting their homeland and they’ve now got to move somewhere else and they don’t like to move.

Birry: Not movin. 

Ben: Well this has been a great experience. So what show is currently playing up here that we need to see? What what’s one of the shows that you’re putting?

Birry: Lot of our younger one’s performers up in Karanda.

Ben: Yes.

Birry: Sort of like the base, home base for Tjapukai people, so we do have a lot of young performers there so they always creating dances and all that and performing at big events as well, so between those young ones, we incorporating more language into the dances now.

Ben: And tell me, for people to find out or to book, do they book through the Tjapukai Centre here. Do you have a website that they can go to?

Birry: We have a website that you can go to, there’s plenty of specials on there as well or just pop in.

Ben: Just pop in. What’s the website?

Birry: It’s     

Ben: Fantastic, and of course Ingenia Holidays do a lot with you guys, so you can go to their site as well. Well I tell you what, what a fabulous interview. Thank you very very much for your time.

Birry: Thank you.

Ben: Fantastic. There you go, we’re driving our own adventure.

Intro Guy: Thanks for listening to Drive Your Own Adventure with Ingenia Holidays. With Holiday Parks and resorts across New South Wales and Queensland, Ingenia Holidays offers the ideal place for an extended break, weekend getaway or short stop.  Find your dream destination with Ingenia Holidays            

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