Indigenous events in 2019 to connect you with country
The thump of stomping feet vibrates the ground; dust explodes in tiny clouds above their ankles as dancers tell a history over 40,000 thousand years in the making.
While artefacts in a museum tell part of the cultural legacy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples, Indigenous events are the best way to immerse yourself in the colour, dress and sounds of one of the world’s oldest civilisations.
Make 2019 a year to experience a Welcome to Country that will leave a lasting impression with these Indigenous events and tours.
When: 1 June – 31 August 2019
Where: Minjerribah (North Stradbroke), Redlands and Brisbane.
What: The Quandamooka peoples celebrate their connection to the land around the Redlands and Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) with over 55 events running across the three-month Quandamooka Festival. The significance of the Indigenous connection to land will be woven through events as diverse as culture talks, ocean cleanups and art workshops,
Experience the spine-tingling Welcome to Country (June) and don’t miss the Welcome the Whales event (July) as the humpbacks make their annual migration. Expand your understanding further and take to the easy Goompi Trail with a local Aboriginal guide to learn about traditional hunting methods and bush tucker around Dunwich. Tours are available year round and run during the festival as well.
Keen for more culture? Can’t make it to the festival events? Nyanda Cultural Tours host a guided journey of the Nudgee Waterholes, which were spiritually significant to the Jagera People.
Yarrabah Band Festival
When: 15 June 2019
Where: Yarrabah, Tropical North Queensland
What: The population of Yarrabah, a small town south of Cairns swells when musicians take to the stage at the Yarrabah Band Festival. The lineup for 2018 was headlined by Paul Kelly and Torres Strait hip-hop legend Mau Power (who performed at the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony) and the 2019 performers announcement is hotly anticipated.
The festival encourages local acts to take to stage with Faith Richards having performed since 2016 when she was just 13. Not your average music festival, Yarrabah Band Festival runs as part of the wider Queensland Music Festival program, providing the stage for the entire community share rich cultural history through music and performances. Jump on a bus service direct from Cairns (and return) and make sure you check out the Yarrabah Arts Centre, open from 12-5pm, while you’re in town.
Keen for more culture? While you’re in Tropical North Queensland learn about the Kuku Yalanji tribe’s connection to the Daintree with Walkabout Cultural Tours or book the one-day Adventure North Australia tour for a guided 4WD journey to Cooktown and a scenic return flight.
Cairns Indigenous Arts Fair
When: 12-14 July 2019
Where: Cairns, Tropical North Queensland
What: In 2019 the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair will celebrate its 10th anniversary. Aiming to bring visual and performance artists of Torres Strait and Aboriginal heritage to wider audience acclaim, the festival is a striking example of the power of storytelling in all forms.
Fashion takes a forward foot with runway walks over both the Friday and Saturday nights, with models and performers from across the remotest communities of Tropical North Queensland and the Torres Strait.
In 2018, 14 Indigenous art centres from across the islands, Wet Tropics and the Gulf of Carpentaria submitted works in the main exhibition, along with a plethora of individual artists. The works vary from weaving, painting and installation pieces which all tell the unique relationship to country, and it’s serious stuff. The fair is used by Australian and international institutions for curating their collections and significant commissions have materialised from the CIAF, allowing artists to share their culture with the world.
Keen for more culture? If you taste buds are feeling a little left out after the sensual feast of CIAF book a dinner and show experience at Flames of the Forest in Port Douglas. Or book a table at Ochre Restaurant in Cairns for gourmet meals with a bush-foods twist.
Gulf Country Frontier Days Festival
When: 15-18 August 2019
Where: Gregory, Tropical North Queensland
What: Country and Western meets the world’s oldest surviving culture in this festival, overflowing with country music, dancing and rodeo riding. By day, all eyes are on the ring for the National Indigenous Rodeo Championships and by night, First Nations performers and musicians take to the stage.
Run as an Indigenous enterprise by Goodidja Productions, communities of the lower Gulf region are joined by artists from New Zealand, Canada and America. This is a true celebration of the diversity of culture with the Kabarrijbi Wangkijbi Spectacular – The Coming Together of Nations, taking centre stage.
Keen for more culture? Follow the Bama Way with this itinerary from Cairns. Or if you’re based near the capital, here’s how you can discover the Indigenous culture of Brisbane and the Gold Coast in five days.
Plan ahead for these events in 2020
Keep the Flame of Culture Burning
A carved fire torch signifying peace, unity and the flame of culture guides the way for this roving festival that takes in five communities within the Northern Peninsula Regional Council area in Cape York. This free event showcases traditional dances, emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait artists, carvings and food during the six days.
Winds of Zenadth Cultural Festival
Through traditional song, art and dance this festival showcases the culture and heritage of the Torres Strait. Running since 1987, it was during this biennial festival in 1992 that the Torres Strait Island flag was first flown on Thursday Island.
Cape York Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival
Celebrating and continuing Aboriginal culture in Cape York, the biennial Laura Dance Festival showcases the songs, dances and ceremonies of the First Nations people. Held in a sacred site and surrounded by some of the oldest rock art in the world, the spirit of this festival stretches back 40,000 years.
Looking to connect to country further? We’ve covered 50 ways to experience Indigenous culture throughout Queensland.