When thinking about Australia, what do you think about? Barbeques, blond surfers, golden beaches and kangaroos? Of course there is all this to explore on your travels, but there is also another living Australian culture to explore, one with thousands of years of culture and forms the very fabric of the continent.
I asked Sandra Grimm from the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park in Cairns to give me some facts about the culture of the Aborigines – the original Australian’s….
- Most people think the Aborigines live in the Outback, but they have a great diversity of culture. For example, the “Tjapukai bama” are the ‘rainforest people’.
- They have the oldest art forms and rock art in the world, with some examples dating back 25,000 years.
- They are the only people who traditionally play the didgeridoo.
- What makes the Didgeridoo special is the fact that it is made from a tree that has been naturally eaten out by termites.
- They invented the boomerang for hunting.
- Aboriginals are not just one tribe. Australia is a massive place and over 700 Aboriginal languages were spoken. For example in only a radius of 80km around Cairns there are about 8 different languages and nations.
Just to name a few from this area: Tjapukai (Kuranda, Rainforest to coast), Kuku Yalanji, Yirrgandydji people (north Cairns), Mooridgie (west Mareeba).
- The Tjapukanydji people see themselves belonging to one of two groups: Gurrabana (the wet) and Gurraminga (the dry). These distinctions refer to the great seasonal extremes in their part of Australia. The marriage laws required that a person find a spouse from the opposite group.
- People think all Aboriginals are nomadic people. Not true – especially if they are coming from Cairns and Kuranda area. The good weather allows a lot of trading in a very small area as wet and dry land are so close to each other.
Find out more about the original Australians, interact with authentic members of the Tjapukanydji people and get hands on (with spear and boomerang throwing and traditional dancing) at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park.
James Thornhill is editor of The National Student (TNS).