Cairns indigenous culture centre Tjapukai was relaunched yesterday after a $13 million upgrade.
The new vision, titled ‘Tjapukai – Where Australia Begins’, reflects the centre’s aim to provide visitors with an informative and stimulating immersion into Indigenous Australia’s rich history and culture.
The major investment by owners Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) has seen the introduction of new exterior and interior designs, the opening of new theatres, restaurants and galleries, and the creation of new productions and tour experiences.
Tjapukai is located to the north of Cairns, next to Skyrail and set in 25 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens with a backdrop of the Barron Gorge National Park rainforest.
Tjapukai CEO Greg Erwin said, “We’ve re-imagined the entire Tjapukai experience, using 21st century technologies to tell the Dreamtime stories of Indigenous Australia in even more engaging and compelling ways than before.
“Appreciating Indigenous culture is considered one of the primary attractions for visitors to Australia, and with the significant upgrade to the centre, we believe that Tjapukai will play a major role in highlighting Tropical North Queensland as Australia’s richest and most accessible destination for quality Indigenous tourism experiences.
“The Tjapukai dance troupe has captivated audiences around the world with their vivid and dramatic performances, and we now have a venue that will make the experience for visitors even more memorable,” said Erwin.
Erwin said the new exterior and interior design reflected the local Djabugay people’s beliefs that everything in society and life is divided between wet and dry, and based around the region’s climatic seasons.
The ‘wet’ is represented by the rainforest, which has been brought into Tjapukai with vast windows providing views towards Red Peak mountain range, as well as a new canopy rainforest feature in the Breezeway art exhibition space.
The ‘dry’ is represented by a dramatic contemporary new exterior design with red and orange panels backlit to provide an illusion of fire that is so much a 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 traditional dance, a feast from the underground oven, camp fire stories and a fire-making ceremony that culminates with the dramatic lighting of a 40 metre fireball.
The range of interactive packages has been expanded to provide full day options in addition to the half-day and night packages. Two of the new packages are ‘Cultural Creations’ that includes admission to Tjapukai, plus boomerang painting, islander weaving and jewellery making guided by an indigenous artist and ‘Guided Indigenous Bush Food Trail’ that includes admission to park and an Indigenous-guided Bush Foods Journey through the parkland finishing with damper and native fruit jams.
New productions have been developed and two new theatres launched to showcase the talents of the Tjapukai performers: Bulurru Storywater provides an ‘in the round’ theatre experience that uses advanced visual effects to present the ancient Dreamtime Creation Story of the local Djabugay people.
Bundarra Dingal Cassowary Egg Theatre is an innovative, architecturally ground-breaking auditorium designed in the shape of a cassowary egg. The multi-purpose theatre is also available for conferences and events, with a capacity to seat up to 150 delegates (or exclusive dinners for 80).
A new timeline gallery, History and Heroes, has been created utilising a range of media to explain and explore Australian Aborigines’ diverse history, covering the impact of the stolen generation as well as the inspiring and motivating stories of Australia’s Indigenous Heroes, both past and present.
Tjapukai’s dining options have been significantly expanded with the opening of Flame Tree Restaurant and Bar, which overlooks the serene Storywaters Lake. The restaurant and outdoor cafe will offer a range of dishes, many inspired by Indigenous recipes and bush tucker produce.
In addition, the Cultural Village has been significantly upgraded, making it an all-weather venue with a sand-based dance theatre, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island dance performances are staged.
Daily bush tucker and bush medicine tours are conducted in the gardens, along with boomerang throwing and painting lessons.
Erwin said that the new packages and programme would provide far greater flexibility for wholesalers and travel agents, with new attractions and events to suit an even wide range of travellers.
“Tjapukai has been a popular inclusion in most international and domestic tour itineraries for the past 28 years, and the aim of the re-development is to make it even more relevant for visitors who want to gain an authentic and fully-interactive insight into Aboriginal history and culture,” he said.