Connect to country at these Indigenous events in 2020
The thump of stomping feet vibrates the ground. Dust explodes in tiny clouds above their ankles as dancers tell a history over 50,000 thousand years in the making.
In Queensland, Indigenous people have been passing down stories since before the reef was born.
And 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 oldest civilisations on earth.
Make 2020 the year to experience a Welcome to Country that will leave a lasting impression with these Indigenous events.
Stretching from the Quandamooka Coast to Cairns, Cape York and Torres Strait, each has a different story to tell.
Laura Quinkan Dance Festival
When: 3-5 July 2020
Where: Laura, Cape York, Tropical North Queensland
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 50,000 years.
Laura is the central meeting place for people of the Cape. During the festival about 20 different communities located across Cape York come together to celebrate culture and language, and connection to land through dance.
Keen for more culture? Kick off your journey with a road trip from Cairns to Laura.
Cairns Indigenous Arts Fair
When: 10-12 July 2019
Where: Cairns, Tropical North Queensland
From the reef to the ranges and the rainforest, it’s the colours of Queensland that shine through the art of the Bama people.
Now in its 11th year, Cairns Indigenous Art Fair is one of Australia’s finest art fairs. It celebrates the reimagining of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Straight cultures people through art in all forms – fashion, performance art, weaves, painting and more.
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? Check out these Aboriginal art galleries in Cairns. If your 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.
Keep the Flame of Culture Burning
When: July 2020
Where: Cape York, Tropical North Queensland
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 four day festival, which travels between Injinoo, Umagico, Seisia, New Mapoon before finishing in Bamaga.
Up here, culture means connection, family and unity. Traditional dancing and customs are like an encyclopedia into the history.
Keep The Flame of Culture Burning aims to do just that – preserve the ancient cultures and ways of living at the top of Australia.
When: 27 – 31 August 2020
Where: Minjerribah (North Stradbroke), Redlands and Brisbane.
While just a short ferry ride from Brisbane city, a love for country runs deep amongst the Nughi, Nunukul and Gorenpul clans, known collectively as the Quandamooka People of South East Queensland.
The Quandamooka people celebrate their connection to the land around the Redlands and Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island), their living history, stories, arts and culture with a series of events running across the Quandamooka Festival.
Experience the spine-tingling Welcome to Country. Expand your understanding further and take to the 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.
Throughout the festival there’ll be whale watching, cultural tours, Kunjiel (corroborees), art exhibitions and music. There’s opportunity to join eco boat tours, fibre art and weaving workshops, bush tucker dining, arts and cultural talks by specialists. Plus, new events featuring international acts and First Nations dancers and performances.
Keen for more culture? Nyanda Cultural Tours host a guided journey of the Nudgee Waterholes, which were spiritually significant to the Jagera People. During whale watching season, choose to travel with Yalingbila Tours, a sightseeing boat tour run by local Aboriginal guides.
Yarrabah Music and Cultural Festival
When: 3 October 2020
Where: Yarrabah, Tropical North Queensland
Music has been the way the local Gunggandji people have passed down stories for thousands of years – and this is your chance to feel the energy of a community uniting in celebration.
The population of Yarrabah, a small town just south of Cairns, swells when musicians take to the stage at the Yarrabah Music & Cultural Festival.
At this free all ages event you’ll be able to sing along with great artists you know, and dance to some local up-and-comers you don’t (but will fall for). 2019’s festival even saw music legend Paul Kelly take the stage!
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.
Winds of Zenadth Cultural Festival
When: September 2020
Where: Thursday Island
Every two years, the communities of the Torres Strait descend on Thursday Island in a celebration to showcase their individual customs and cultures.
Located in the far reaches of Queensland’s north and the gateway to the Torres Strait, this tiny island (we’re talking about 3 sq km – with just two sleepy main streets and a handful of hotels) offers a big opportunity to learn about the foundations of the Kaurareg people.
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.
Keen for more culture? Discover more about the art and culture of the Torres Strait.
Gulf Country Frontier Days Festival
When: 24-27 September 2020
Where: Gregory, Tropical North Queensland
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. 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.