I watched as he set off to climb to the top of Uluru. He wasn’t oblivious to the objections of the Mutitjulu community who were the traditional owners of the land, he just simply didn’t care.
In a country with such a fascinating, complex and sometimes difficult history, I’ve always wanted to learn more about Aboriginal culture and the Indigenous people of mainland Australia and the Torres Strait Islanders.
Learning from a book is one thing, but spending time with a local and understand their perspective is far more valuable.
Home stays in Cambodia or staying in the hills of Peru may seem the more likely places for ‘cultral immersion’, but here in Port Douglas, I had the opportunity to do just that. Two years on from watching a man climbing over to what many of us is just a big desert rock, I was able to learn first hand about the native people of one of my favourite regions of Australia, Port Douglas, home of the Kuku Yalanji.
Hit play to see a glimpse of what is waiting to be discovered in Port Douglas. Shot on assignment with Lonely Planet and Three UK.
Welcome to Port Douglas
As I ambled around the small streets of Port Douglas, slowly settling into the slower pace of life in this tropical paradise, It wasn’t the fiery sky catching the last of the sunlight that caught my eye.
The art galleries, dotted between high-end restaurants and quaint cafes, offer up the first (and for many that visit this region the last) insight into the Aboriginal culture. If you have images in your mind of simply decorated Boomerangs then throw that aside, some of these pieces fill whole walls and retail for thousands of dollars. The details and passion that go into one of these pieces of wall art are outstanding, even more so once you have learnt the story behind them.
Later, when I would meet Binna and learn about his Port Douglas, I’d think back to these modern and contemporary canvases. “We are proud of our past” he would say, “But this artwork is about now, it’s about me, my stories”.
As I got chatting to one gallery owner who shared some of the stories behind each piece adorning the walls I realised although the style may be different, one thing had stayed the same. This vast, beautiful land that we now know as Australia has been inspiring art and stories for so long it almost seems inconceivable. From the Dreamtime to the present, each one unique and intriguing in their own way.
If you don’t know much about the cruel history and treatment that occurred on these shores over the past century I urge you to do further reading, to understand what has been and to know why climbing ‘just a big desert rock’ really shouldn’t be on your to-do list.
But that’s not what this story is about. My journey through Port Douglas is about the now, the future, the people I’ve met here and the stories they have shared. The atrocities of the past can’t be covered or discussed in a simple blog post.