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The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AUSTRALIA -

Walk­a­bout Cul­tural Ad­ven­tures of­fers small­group, half-day tours for $165 a per­son or full-day tours for $209 a per­son, with pick-up from Port Dou­glas, Moss­man and Dain­tree Vil­lage. More: walk­a­bout ad­ven­tures.com.au. Ngadiku Dream­time Walks at Moss­man Gorge de­part daily; $68 for adults and $35 for chil­dren 5-15 years; moss­man­gorge.com.au. Meet­ings with indige­nous artists at Canopy Art Cen­tre in Cairns are avail­able on re­quest; canop­y­art­cen­tre.com. Gorge, where we take a Ngadiku Dream­time Walk with indige­nous guide Aaron Min­niecon.

Af­ter a tra­di­tional wel­come-to-coun­try smok­ing cer­e­mony, we fol­low the old hunt­ing and gath­er­ing trail. Min­niecon points out mossy red cedars used to carve dugout ca­noes and clubs and shields used in war­fare. As we pass sa­cred ar­eas, he calls to his an­ces­tors to let them know we are friends. He shows us grind­ing stones be­side the path that his an­ces­tors used to crack nuts, and ochre, a nat­u­ral earth pig­ment that comes in 18 colours rang­ing from yel­low to brown and used as face paint for spe­cial oc­ca­sions.

Art is in­te­gral to indige­nous cul­ture, and trop­i­cal north Queens­land is dot­ted with cul­tural cen­tres and gal­leries where artists come to­gether to work and show­case their of­fer­ings. Many also dis­play their work at the Cairns Indige­nous Art Fair, held each July.

At Canopy Art Cen­tre in Cairns we meet Glen Mackie, who retells the myths and leg­ends of Yam Is­land in the Tor­res Strait, where he was born and raised, through vinyl cut prints. He says the is­land is known for war­fare, dugong and tur­tle hunt­ing and col­lect­ing shells.

“My grand­fa­ther taught me the carv­ing design,” Mackie says. “He used to draw the de­signs in the sand when I was in pri­mary school, and in high school he showed me how to carve on wood. Ev­ery design means some­thing. This means croc­o­dile, this is shark,” he con­tin­ues, point­ing to his works. “I use [those] de­signs be­cause they’re my par­ents’ totems. I also make my own de­signs.”

Mackie moved to the main­land 15 years ago. “My Dad has a cray­fish fac­tory and store, but it wasn’t for me,” he says. “I’m the only artist from Yam Is­land and I saw it as my duty to ed­u­cate peo­ple and tell them the story of where I’m from.”

His works are now ex­hib­ited at the Na­tional Gallery of Aus­tralia, Na­tional Mu­seum of Aus­tralia and Queens­land Art Gallery in Bris­bane and his mu­rals sell for up to $16,000, but he says he doesn’t care about the money.

“I’d rather ed­u­cate peo­ple about my cul­ture.” .

An­gela Saurine was a guest of Tourism and Events Queens­land.

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