Originating from the rainforests of Far North Queensland, the Kuku Yalanji people have been living in harmony with the environment for over 50,000 years. While their borders extend from Port Douglas in the south, to Cooktown in the north and Chillagoe in the west, the Kuku Yalanji began concentrating around the Mossman River area from WWII onwards.
An integral part of the belief system of the Kuku Yalanji, also known as “rainforest people”, revolves around nature and the knowledge of its intimate cycles. This information has remained alive and well within the Kuku Yalanji, with present custodians passing on the knowledge of their forefathers, which their forefathers passed on before them (and so on).
Since 1986, Kuku Yalanji guides have been demonstrating this knowledge, along with their history, stories and culture in and around Mossman Gorge (their traditional homeland). And in May this year, the Indigenous Land Corporation and Mossman Gorge Aboriginal Community combined to open an eco-tourism centre at the gorge.
This centre includes a café and an indigenous art gallery, and is the starting point for guided walks in the area, all of which are run by the Kuku Yalanji. The gallery features local works of the Kuku Yalanji, while the café offers locally sourced food infused with bush tucker. There’s also an eco-friendly bus service which transports visitors to and from the gorge.
The Mossman Gorge walks include demonstrations of traditional plants use, identifying the local bush tucker, and learning about dreamtime legends and the history of cave paintings. Visitors will also experience an enchanting narrative describing the relationship between the Kuku Yalanji and the rainforest environment.
In the past year, the Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime (KYD), the body under which their tours operate, has been working through the “Respect Our Culture” (ROC) Accreditation Program with Aboriginal Tourism Australia. This process is establishing KYD as a mainstream tourism operator, which certifies local employment, maintains strict socio-environmental concerns, and ensures the traditions of the Kuku Yalanji are upheld.
Members of the Kuku Yalanji are often invited to Thala Beach Lodge to share their knowledge of the environment and traditional customs with guests. For more information on the Kuku Yalanji, visit the Mossman Gorge Centre.