Cairns Cultural Experience

Last month, team members from KAEFER Integrated Services East Coast Operations and selected clients were privileged to take part in an “On Country” Cultural Experience near Cairns, Queensland. This was hosted by the Mandingalbay (mun-din-gul-pie) Yidinji people, who are the Traditional Owners of the forested “country” in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, on the cusp of the Great Barrier Reef.

The day began with a 10-minute boat ride across from Cairns, where fellow Indigenous Rangers and sisters Jo and Brenda Mundraby interpreted the landscape, pointing out a Yulu (giant stingray), as well as the snout, eyes, front legs and tail of “Crocodile Mountain”.

Attendees were provided valuable insights during the tour, including the area’s cultural significance to Mandingalbay Yidinji peoples. The Mundraby sisters also explained their journey as a small Aboriginal business promoting social and economic opportunities through their ranger program. Team members also had the opportunity to experience dishes provided by OCHRE restaurant, which showcased Australian and local Mandigalbay native bush foods.

The authentic Indigenous Experience was rounded out by a three-hour “Hands on Country Eco Tour” and a two-hour “Deadly After Dark Sunset Cruise”, where upon arrival, two Welcomes to Country were performed. Jo and Brenda completed the first Welcome to Country, with traditional face painting as a sign of welcome and connection (conducted on only the women in line with cultural customs). This was followed by a bus ride to the Indigenous Ranger Base located at the beginning of the Mayi Bugan Rainforest Trail. Here, the second Welcome to Country was performed in the local language along with a traditional Smoking Ceremony, presented by Mandingalbay Yidinji Elder Victor Bulmer.

According to Elder Victor Bulmer, Mandingalbay Yidinji culture survived “against all odds” thanks to Jabulum Mandingalpai, “the Boss of the nation who never moved from his sacred area and fought to stay”.

Jo and Brenda Mundraby then guided members through the “Hands on Country Eco Tour”, which allowed the opportunity to discover bush medicines, as well as being shown ancient Aboriginal traditions, customs and artefacts. These same traditions have been used by countless generations, with this knowledge continuing to be passed on to future generations. As the sisters explained: “there was never a day when you would miss out on a feed”.

Jo, Brenda and Leeann Mundraby shared their touching family history and connections, while discussing the importance for them as Aboriginal female leaders to step in and educate people – both within and beyond their community. Mandingalbay Yidinji Elders Victor Bulmer and Dale Mundraby also shared their experiences and stories, pride in their achievements and optimism for the future with strong female leaders like Jo, Brenda and Leeann.

In alignment with our “Innovate” Reconciliation Action Plan, this experience represents an important opportunity for KAEFER as an organisation to continue to improve cultural awareness, promote respect for First Nations traditions and develop strategies towards reconciliation efforts between First Nations and non-First Nations communities.

Thank you to Jo Mundraby, Brenda Mundraby, Leeann Mundraby, Dale Mundraby, Vincent Bulmer and Marcus Brady, from Mandingalbay (mun-din-gul-pie) for guiding us throughout the excursion.

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