Today the UC Sport Studies tour went to Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. The group got straight into some traditional dancing, and signing, even joining in (video and picture below) along with explanations about the dancing and traditions behind the dances.
We then got to throw boomerangs and spears, with woomeras, after some expert guidance. It proved quite challenging, with no-one able to catch their boomerang but one student able to spear a hail bail (posing as a Kangaroo). No one quite mastered the biomechanics of either action (link to boomerang biomechanics PDF) but there is plenty of scope to investigate these actions further.
The group was then shown traditional weapons as well as seasonal foods and medicines from the rain forest. Some of the foods are toxic, such as the black bean, and require days of treatment and preparation before they can be ground into a flour like substance for making breads. The group also got to smell the pungent odour of the cheese fruit with it’s promising medicinal powers over diseases including cancers.
Shortly before lunch the group learnt more about the local beliefs on creation and the traditions that remain today, including some face and body painting. Lunch was a feast (highly recommend Tjapukai visit that includes the banquet). The last session included a talk about the didgeridoo, how to make, play and decorate. Jermaine, our guide, showed off his playing skills to images of his tribe’s beautiful country, taking in an area from Cairns to Port Douglas, out to the reefs and up on to the Tablelands (link to Australian Aboriginal Tribes map).
We finished the visit with a question and answer session which raised a number of areas. We discussed issues such as:
- Traditional activities and games (and the generally active lifestyle in providing food through hunting and gathering)
- Success and issues related to Aboriginal players in professional sports, predominantly Rugby League and AFL
- Health issues in modern day Aboriginal life and the Close the Gap campaign including the long-standing effect of European arrival and events such as the Stolen Generation
It was an informative day, and a trip to the park is highly recommended in Cairns.