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Traditional Owners take pride in Tjapukai

February 20, 2018 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

As a stage technician for the world’s longest running stage show, William “Biri” Duffin takes great pride in being behind the scene of performances at Tjapukai, an Aboriginal cultural park in Cairns.

Showcasing the authentic culture of the Djabugay people, Tjapukai provides employment for the local Indigenous community with 26 Djabugay descendants working in the business.

Biri, whose name means fire in Djabugay language, is also Chairman of the Djabugay Aboriginal Corporations which includes the Buda:Dji Aboriginal Development Association.

“Buda:Dji has a cultural content agreement with Tjapukai to make sure Djabugay culture is presented correctly and work is created for our mob,” Biri said.

“Working at Tjapukai is not just about putting a lap lap on and dancing. There is so much to learn in a business like this.

“There are lots of opportunities here for people to gain work skills whether it’s sales, food and beverage or performance.”

Tjapukai, which hosted the Queen and Prince Philip in 2002, was founded in 1987 and is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s longest running stage show.

Many Djabugay children grew up imitating and learning the Djabugay language and traditional performance presented by the Tjapukai performers and went on to be employed by the business.

“When I was in high school I used to hang around the theatre on weekends and during school holidays as I was related to many of the performers,” Biri said.

“I knew the dance show and would get called to fill in if they needed an extra. It was good money for a teenager and the experience of performing in front of a large audience was new and fun.”

Tjapukai General Manager Bryce Madgwick said the business provided opportunities for economic growth for local Traditional Owners and other Indigenous people.

“Of our 63 staff, 73% are Indigenous and in 2016-17 Tjapukai injected more than $4.3 million into the local Aboriginal community through wages, royalties, and the commissioning and purchasing of art and artefacts,” he said.

Biri said the cultural park was more than just a business in the minds of the Djabugay people.

“Even when our performers are out the back waiting for a show they will be making traditional costumes or weaving, keeping our cultural knowledge strong,” he said.

“That’s our name out there on the front of the building and Djabugay people take pride in that.”


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