The Far North Queensland city of Cairns is often the first port of call for visitors to Australia, especially those from Asia and young Europeans on the “Back Packer Trail”. After cuddling a koala, many visitors have an indigenous tourism experience at the top of their Australian “must do” list.
To enhance the educational and tourism experience for both overseas and local visitors, the 28 year old Cairns Indigenous tourism icon ‘Tjapukai-Where Australia Begins’ has been re-invented with a new vision and identity. Following a $13 million upgrade, Tjapukai has been re-launched with new exterior and interior designs, new theatres and restaurants, plus a completely refreshed range of performances, tour options and packages. This significant upgrade reflects the venue’s aim to provide visitors with an informative and stimulating immersion into Indigenous Australia’s rich history and culture.
Located to the north of Cairns, next to the Skyrail, Tjapukai is set in 25 acres of landscaped gardens with a backdrop of the Barron Gorge National Park rainforest, which has been brought into Tjapukai with vast windows providing views towards Red Peak, as well as a new rainforest installation in the arrival lobby and gallery.
Visitors will be greeted by new exterior and interior designs that reflect the local Djabugay people’s beliefs that everything in society and life is divided between wet and dry. The ‘dry’ is represented by a dramatic contemporary new exterior design with red and orange panels backlit to provide an illusion of fire, which is an integral part of Aboriginal culture and tradition.
A newly designed ‘Night Fire by Tjapukai’ programme has been launched to provide visitors with an entertaining and interactive night-time experience that includes dinner, performances, camp fire stories and culminates with the dramatic lighting of a 40 metre fireball.
Dining options have been expanded with the opening of Flame Tree Restaurant & Bar, overlooking the serene Storywaters Lake. The restaurant and outdoor cafe offer a range of dishes, many inspired by Indigenous recipes and bush tucker produce.
To showcase the talents of Tjapukai performers, two new theatres have been launched and new productions developed. Bulurru Storywater provides an ‘in the round’ theatre experience using advanced visual effects for a new ‘Creation Story’ production, dramatising the Djabugay people’s Dreamtime story of the creation of the world. The Bundarra Cassowary Egg Theatre, designed in the shape of a cassowary egg, can seat up to 150 for dance, art and multi-media performances.
A new History & Heroes Timeline Gallery has been created to explain and explore Australia’s diverse Indigenous history, covering the impact of the stolen generation as well as inspiring and motivating stories of Australia’s Indigenous Heroes, both past and present.
The range of full-day and night packages has been expanded to provide new half-day options, including an Indigenous-guided bush foods journey, boomerang painting, weaving and jewellery making.
Tjapukai CEO, Greg Erwin said “Australia’s Indigenous history has such rich character and great stories that, with the launch of the new facilities and concept and an emphasis on interactive experiences, we believe Tjapukai will appeal as much to Australians as it does to international visitors. Tropical North Queensland is renowned for its Rainforest and Reef and with the re-launch of Tjapukai, we believe the region will become equally well known as Australia’s premier destination for quality Indigenous-owned attractions and activities.”