At kickoff I want to say that I absolutely did not author this blogpost in order to denigrate Tjapukai park or to tell people they should not visit there. I have been there many times myself and very much enjoyed it. I only want to make visitors knowledgable of the fact that sometimes not all you see is what it appears to be.
My post is founded on the studies”Tourists and Aboriginal people” by Ryan/Huyton and “Tourism impacts on an Australian indigenous community: a Djabugay case study” by Dyer/Aberdeen/Schuler. I read both for my university course. In fact it is one of Cairns most popular tourist attractions . Along with the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest it is why tourists visit Cairns.
The studies are quite large and have a lot of content, that’s why in this blog I will only concentrate on elements that I consider to be really important.
In the first situation, Tjapukai Cultural Park seems to be a perfect tourism organisation: It says it is the only true representation of the Djabugay group, and that it is owned and run by them, thus giving a true authentic experience and having only advantages for them. Well, this is not 100% the case.
* The Djabugay people own less than 50% of the park
* There is no official commitee of Djabugay people that authorises what goes on there. They are not allowed to open any other tourism attraction representing their culture.
* There are a lot of employees that are not Djabugay and there are no Djabugay people in key positions.
* Djabugay community has not much proft from the park as most money gets to the non-Djabugay managers, they only have just a lilliputian voting power.
* The cultural displays are amended according to what the tourists want. Thus, the owners amended the dances so now they are not what the elders were told by their elders. There are a lot of liberties taken. So the query is: Is it really demonstrating Djabugay culture?
* They play the didgeridoo in the park although this has never been played by Djabugay traditonally- again, how does this fit to “we show the culture of our ancestors”?
* Djabugay employees themselves say they don’t believe that they show is culturally significant.
* The art sold in the shop is not created by Djabugay people, but imported from other parts of the country.
As said above, I don’t want to forestall anybody from visiting the park. I just want people to keep in mind that what you see there is a show, and it does not show [traditional~contemporary} Indigenous life or experience.
I also believe that if you already know a lot about indigenous culture and history, you will learn nothing new as what you learn there is not much. Still, if you don’t know so much already, it is worth a visit, as the the Creation theatre and the History theatre are very good.
Bear in mind it is a show and not what it pretends to be. Consider it as entertainment rather than a reliable source for information.