Over the last 25 years Tjapukai Aboriginal Park has allowed visitors to experience many facets of the Tjapukai people’s culture, and interact and learn more about the Tjapukai way of life and traditional practice.
Born in the basement of a shopping centre in Kuranda in 1987, the Tjapukai story is nothing short of phenomenal. In 1987, Don and Judy Freeman, international theatre artists along with partners David and Cindy Hudson and 5 local Tjapukai men; Willie Brim, Alby Baird, Wayne Nicols, Irwin Riley, Neville Hobbler and Dion Riley created the first Aboriginal dance theatre. The first ever opportunity for tourist visitors to experience and interact with a 40,000 year old culture. A dream which combined a love of the theatre and a rich ancient culture. They produced a one hour play that harnessed the spirit of the “BAMA” and presented it with love, humour and compassion. The show opened at a time when no one was sure what it would mean to present the Indigenous culture through tourism.
Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park is situated on a 25 acre site, it’s current location and it’s some 15 minutes north of Cairns. The park’s majority shareholders became the Aboriginal tribal councils, the area’s original landholders. Ensuring that the benefits of cultural tourism are conferred directly back to the people, the ‘BAMA’ of the rainforest.
As a tourist attraction Tjapukai enlightens and entertains audiences, crossing cultural barriers and engendering a warm feeling of simpatico and positive regard for a rich and ancient culture and it’s descendants in a modern world.
Tjapukai has won more than 200 awards and today, after 25 years of operations is recognised as the national ambassador for Australia’s Aboriginal cultural tourism. The success of Tjapukai has also encouraged the formation of other Aboriginal dance groups in the Tropical North Queensland region, which has created even more new jobs for Aboriginal people in the tourism industry.
Currently the park is undergoing a major revitalisation project which will see $12m spent on upgrading, renewing and introducing new aspects to the depiction of Australian Indigenous Culture through Tjapukai.
Tjapukai is an incredible success story and the flagship for marketing Australia’s Indigenous culture internationally.