Meet the Performers
Meet the Performers
Meet the Performers
Meet the Performers
Meet the Performers
Meet the Performers
Meet the Performers
Meet the Performers
Meet the Performers
Meet the Performers
Meet the Performers
Meet the Performers
Meet the Performers
Meet the Performers
Meet the Performers

Meet the Performers


Meet the Tjapukai performers and hear their stories.

Performer and Senior Cultural Presenter: Martha ‘Cookie’ Brim

Totem Name: Garna – Black Cockatoo

Clan: Djabugay

Commenced at Tjapukai: 1995

As a child, Cookie explored the Kuranda rainforest with her grandfather tasting blue quandong and white apple so she could learn about bush tucker and medicine used by the Djabugay people. She learnt the intricate art of weaving from her mother’s side. Cookie, a senior presenter, has been sharing her knowledge of women’s culture since Tjapukai’s opening in 1995. ‘I have been very lucky to travel overseas sharing my culture and meeting different people. My favourite times have been performing at St Kitts in Jamaica and meeting the Queen and Prince Phillip.’

Artist, Performer and Senior Operations: Michell Kapteyn

Totem Name: Badja-Badja – Blue Tongue Lizard

Clan: Djabugay, Yalandji and Ewamian

Commenced at Tjapukai: 1995

One of the first female performers to have joined Tjapukai, Michell is an accomplished artist and storyteller, and sings with the Gudju Gudju band. She has been learning the Djabugay language since she was a young girl and loves singing in her language. Michell has also been an aircraft engineer, building two spitfires, and a Djabugay Ranger where she learnt to live off the land. ‘My favourite moments have been performing for Australia in our bid to host the Commonwealth Games against Sri Lanka, meeting the Australian Olympics team and meeting Jessica Mauboy.’

Didgeridoo Player and Senior Cultural Presenter: Dennis Hunter

Totem Name: Gudju-Gudju – Rainbow

Clan: Djabugay and Bulway

Commenced at Tjapukai: 1996

A gifted storyteller, passionate performer and senior mentor, Dennis is a Djabugay descendant who grew up in Kuranda learning about traditions and culture from the elders. ‘I saw the original Tjapukai performance when I was 10 and was blown away. I knew I wanted to be here.’ Dennis worked closely with Story Inc creating the Bulurru Storywaters Creation Story and is the face behind Damarri, the brother from the wet side. ‘Filming with the latest technology for the Creation Story, performing in Taiwan, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and meeting Jimmy Barnes, Peter Andre and Jason Alexander has given me amazing life experiences.'

Artist and Senior Cultural Presenter: Napolean Phillip Oui

Totem Name: Weika – the Quiet One

Clan: Djabugay

Commenced at Tjapukai: 1996

Phillip grew up watching his grandfather, a sword maker in the Djabugay tribe, make weapons and boomerangs. Today he continues the tradition by painting rainforest-inspired shield designs and exploring new avenues for his art, including fashion after one of his paintings was purchased as a design for clothing. Phillip uses this shield design for his body art when dancing or playing the didgeridoo at Tjapukai where he has performed for 19 years. He has travelled the world as part of the troupe.

Performer and Cultural Presenter: Gordon Hunter

Totem Name: Bana – Running Water

Clan: Djabugay

Commenced at Tjapukai: 1995

‘Tjapukai has opened the doors for me to travel to Malaysia and Guam playing the didge. I love meeting new people and teaching them about our culture.’ Gordon, a Djabugay descendant and gifted didgeridoo player, has been with the company since the very early days following in his family’s footsteps.

Cultural Presenter and Performer: Georgina Hobbler

Totem Name: Bagarra Bandjil – Rainforest Woman

Clan: Djabugay

Commenced at Tjapukai: 2003

A love of dance and the ability to work with her sister Martha, originally brought Georgina to Tjapukai. Her extensive knowledge of bush foods and weaving has been passed down from her mother and grandmother from their home in Kuranda. ‘I have proudly carried the Queen’s Baton, been included in Tourism Australia’s Where the Bloody Hell are you? Campaign and was a finalist in the Cairns Tourism Awards.’

Torres Strait Islander Dancer and Cultural Presenter: Frances Newie

Totem Name: Aboriginal Family from Lawn Hill and Torres Strait from Badu and Moa Islands

Clan: Djabugay

Commenced at Tjapukai: 2001 – 2005 and returned 2010

Frances was brought up in Weipa with strong influences from her Aboriginal roots and later learnt Torres Strait Islander dancing when visiting her island relatives for ceremonies. She learnt to weave from her grandmother and enjoys hosting the Cultural Creations activities and starring in the Torres Strait Island dance performance. ‘My favourite time is performing at a large function or event when we all come out together to dance at the end, as there is such a strong feeling of solidarity. I love teaching my grandchildren our traditional dances’.

Performer and Cultural Presenter: Dale Edmund

Totem Name: Gaway - Star

Clan: Djabugay

Commenced at Tjapukai: 2010

Gaway means star and that is just what you will get when you meet Dale. Whether she is painting faces, performing on stage or teaching visitors about her culture, her effervescent personality shines through. Coming to Tjapukai as a work experience student, Dale has worked her way through every department. ‘My job is to ensure everyone gets to experience the best of Tjapukai so I make sure I have a friendly smile for everyone.’ Dale has travelled to Japan performing and one day wants to run her own touring company.

Professional Dancer and Cultural Presenter: Tamara Pearson

Totem Name: Bungan Djilla – Yellow Sunbird

Clan: Kuku Yalanji and Bagarr Muuguwarra

Commenced at Tjapukai: 2012

Tamara holds a Diploma of Performing Arts from NAISDA and has won Dancer of the Year at the Deadly Awards. Her performance list includes Dreaming, Woodford and Sydney Dance Festivals and her own Sacred Creations contemporary dance company performing at the Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival and kids workshops. ‘I saw Tjapukai in 1992 as a young girl and I knew that dance would always be a part of my life. The spirit I felt then has stuck with me.’

Torres Strait Island Performer and Cultural Presenter: Marie Newie

Totem Name: Nyinggarra – Freshwater Eel

Clan: Aboriginal Family from Lawn Hill and Torres Strait from Badu and Moa Islands

Commenced at Tjapukai: 2012

Brought up with her sister Frances in Weipa learning about their Aboriginal origins, Marie later connected with her Torres Strait family before moving to Cairns. ‘Working at Tjapukai is something different. I love meeting new people and learning about different cultures. I am lucky enough to be able to teach people weaving and jewellery making as well as performing dances from the Torres Strait Islands.’

Songwriter and Cultural Presenter: Jamahl Jones

Totem Name: Kgunurra - Crocodile

Clan: Mabuiag Island, Torres Strait

Commenced at Tjapukai: 2012

Jamahl’s first love is music, playing the guitar, singing and drums. He has auditioned on The X Factor and mastered the didgeridoo in just three months. ‘I wanted to work at Tjapukai to learn and understand more about Indigenous culture. I would like to teach young people to respect their culture and present it from the heart. My most memorable moment has been performing at the Cairns Show in front of 20,000 people.’

Didgeridoo Player and Cultural Presenter: Jonathon Nandy

Totem Name: Nguda - Cloud

Clan: Djabugay

Commenced at Tjapukai: 2012

‘Ever since I was in school I always wanted to be a dancer at Tjapukai just like my uncles and grandads. I love learning about Djabugay traditions and then showing people from all over the world how special it is. I want to learn more so I can teach the young ones.’ Jonathon is a talented dancer and didgeridoo player, has performed in the Blue Mountains, onboard cruise ships and with Jessica Mauboy. He has been part of the Tjapukai family from a very young age.

Didgeridoo Player and Cultural Presenter: Jacob Snider

Totem Name: Gindan - Moon

Clan: Kuku Yalanji

Commenced at Tjapukai: 2013

‘When I was a small boy my father used to paint me up and put me on stage, working at Tjapukai with my family keeps me strong in my traditions. Every day is memorable, I present to the world my culture, and want to teach young people how to keep the culture strong, as it’s hard for this generation.’ Jacob is a talented didgeridoo player and our in-house trickster, who always has a joke to share and a smile on his face.

Professional Dancer and Cultural Presenter: Nancy Retemoi Cook

Totem Name: Gurringaygu – King Parrot

Clan: Murray Island (Mer) and Darnley Island (Erub), Torres Strait

Commenced at Tjapukai: 2013

Nancy is a gifted dancer, having studied contemporary dance for five years. ‘I wanted to work at Tjapukai because of my passion for the performing arts, especially dance. My favourite performance was the last one we did with Warren Clements, Wunba (Sugar Bag Tree). He worked at Tjapukai for 18 years and I feel privileged to have worked beside him.’

Torres Strait Island Senior Cultural Presenter: Patrick Vandenbroeck

Totem Name: Ngawuyu – Mating Sea Turtle means Unity

Clan: Mabuiag Island and Gunggandji

Commenced at Tjapukai: 2014

Patrick is the senior Torres Strait Islander advisor at Tjapukai. His passion is dance performance and presenting the differences between Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal Australia. ‘I want to advise young people to grasp knowledge and an understanding of culture from their elders and I’d like to walk away knowing that I have passed it on.’

Torres Strait Island Dancer and Cultural Presenter: Leslie Sam

Totem Name: Utagah – Dingo and Koedal - Crocodile

Clan: Angkamuthi, Wagadagam Injinoo and Mabuiag Island, Torres Strait

Commenced at Tjapukai: 2014

Leslie is dedicated to sharing her Torres Strait Island culture and is a key performer in the Torres Strait Islander dance troupe. ‘I have a passion for my culture. I love teaching it to other people and would like to travel the world to showcase my culture. My most memorable moment has been representing Tjapukai at the NAIDOC Ball and I would like to teach young people to show pride and have passion.’

Performer and Cultural Presenter: Leslie Bassani

Totem Name: Gurrmbun – Red Belly Black Snake

Clan: ama Lama, Yidinji

Commenced at Tjapukai: 2014

Leslie is one of our youngest, upcoming star performers. ‘Experiencing the Night show for the first time has been one of my highlights. I would advise young people to learn from their family elders about their culture, so that you can educate generations to come. I want to learn the most I can while I’m working at Tjapukai, especially public speaking skills, knowledge and understanding with cultural activities and lead roles. I’d like to take this back to my community and teach the young ones.’

Didgeridoo Player and Cultural Presenter: Derek Rose

Totem Name: Wangulay – White Cockatoo

Clan: Djabugay

Commenced at Tjapukai: 2015

Derek is a Djabugay descendant and one of our newest performers with a passion for playing the didgeridoo. He has performed at the University of Technology in Ultimo Sydney.

Cultural Presenter: Hamish Yeatman

Totem Name: Namalbarra - Eagle

Clan: Guungandji

Commenced at Tjapukai: 2012

Brought up in Yarrabah on the east coast of Cairns, humorous and light-hearted Hamish joined the Guru-Gulu dancers performing at NAIDOC events and at Federation Square in Melbourne. He was chosen to be the face behind Guyala in Tjapukai’s new Creation Story and travelled to New Zealand to perform a lead role in the latest production.

Didgeridoo Player and Cultural Presenter: Kerese Cameron

Totem Name: Thunder

Clan: Wayini

Commenced at Tjapukai: 2005

Kerese learnt traditional Aboriginal dances from his uncle when participating with his family at the Mornington Island dance festivals as a boy. He is also an accomplished didgeridoo player and has performed at the General Motors Holden launch, the Cairns Show and with Jimmy Barnes. ‘The part I love most about my job is swapping culture with people from other countries and sharing each other’s stories.’

Cultural Presenter: James Larry

Totem Name: Umai - Dog

Clan: Yam Island

Commenced at Tjapukai: 2014

James is from the Torres Strait Island of Yam. He is employed with Tjapukai in the Horticulture department, but chose to drop his ‘greens’ part time to join the Torres Strait Island Dance Troupe. ‘I have the best job in the world, I garden all morning then get changed into cultural dress and perform dances from my home! I love it’

Dance Theatre

Spear & Boomerang Throwing

Meet The Performers

Didgeridoo Show

Hunting & Weapons

Guided Bush Foods Walk

Bush Foods & Medicine

Meet the Performers