A big shout out and congratulations to Don and Judy Freeman in Kuranda, QLD for winning the award for Outstanding Contribution to the Tourism Industry. An Outstanding Acheivement!
Born in the basement of a shopping centre in Kuranda in 1987, the Tjapukai story is nothing short of phenomenal. …a dream which combined a love of the theatre and a rich ancient culture. They, along with seven young men of the Tjapukai tribe produced a one hour play that harnessed the spirit of the “BAMA” and presented it with love humour and compassion. The show opened at a time when no one was sure what it would mean to present the Indigenous culture through tourism.
“We only knew what we didn’t want; to trivialise or exploit it. Yet using theatre as a medium, our partnership of black and white like minded people was successful in showcasing this culture to a global audience over a period of 20 years and to more than 2,000,000 visitors.”
In 1996, after nine years of successful operations, Don and Judy Freeman designed, produced and directed the relocation of Tjapukai to its current 25 acre site at Caravonica, and expanded its business activities to include interactive demonstrations and performances, a cultural village, restaurants, retail and much more. They combined holographic images and live actors in the Creation Theatre, which depicts the wondrous legends of how the world began They produced a provocative film “ The Story of Survival”; unafraid to confront the often bloody reality of the culture clash experienced by early black and white Australians.
In 2002 HRH Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip jetted into Cairns for a day and spent an hour with Don and Judy who hosted their visit to Tjapukai. They achieved world press making the cover of almost every Commonwealth daily in the world.
Since commencing operations, Tjapukai has injected in excess of $35 million to the local Aboriginal community in wages, royalties and through the purchase and commissioning of art and artifacts. Don and Judy have overseen the training and employment of hundreds of young Aboriginal people and helped them to achieve economic independence.
The Freemans have also overseen the continued expansion of the attraction’s activities, including the recent addition of a live ‘dinner show’, Tjapukai by Night, to the business.
Under their directorship Tjapukai won over 27 awards and today, after 25 years of operation, is recognised as the national ambassador for Australia’s Aboriginal cultural tourism.
The company flourished in every year that they were at the helm. The Freemans sold their interest in 2009 to IBA who are currently the sole owners.