Cairns Hockey – where the Reef meets the Rainforest

Local Knowledge

Every where you look across the Cairns region, the many shades of green, blue and gold are seen reflecting the Reef and Rainforest that surround us.It was a very easy choice to name the Cairns Hockey Turfs – Reef and Rainforest.

The Reef Turf is closest to the Reef and the Rainforest Turf is closest to the Rainforest. No-where in the world is there 2 World Heritage listed areas next to each other – and no where else in the world are these World Heritage listed areas aligned with an indigenous culture that can trace ancestors back 65,000 years.

We are truly blessed and that is why Cairns Hockey has chosen to align its branding with the Reef and the Rainforest.

As we host the Qld State Under 13 Girls Championships  we welcome our friends to the Reef and the Rainforest Turfs. We hope you have a wonderful time in Cairns

Cairns Hockey is proud of our connection with the Reef and the Rainforest

Indigenous people of Cairns

Yirrganydji culture and history

The land on which you will be standing was originally the home of the Yirrganydji people-an indigenous rainforest and coastal culture belonging to the Djabugay language group of Far North Queensland. Yirrganydji territory comprised the coastal strip of land between the areas now known as Cairns and Port Douglas, including Freshwater Creek and the Barron River.

In Yirrganydji Dreaming, the Rainbow Serpent is known as Gudjugudju. After shaping the landscape, Gudjugudju curled up and went to sleep at Wangal Djungay-the place where the fast-moving Dreamtime boomerang landed. This is the area now known as Double Island.

The Yirrganydji people had an intimate knowledge of their lands and waters, flora and fauna, seasons and weather. They were both a rainforest-dwelling and seafaring people, utilising the resources of both environments for their food, clothing and other needs.

The Yirrganydji lived in small groups comprising married couples, children and older relatives. By night, they would camp on the large sand dunes along the coast, lighting fires to ward off the mosquitoes and sandflies. In the wet summer season (Gurrabana Bana, meaning water) from November to April, they lived in semi-permanent shelters constructed from loya cane, palm fronds and paperbark.

Each year, the Yirrganydji would meet with the neighbouring tribes near the area now known as Palm Cove. Here they would come together to feast, trade, conduct initiation ceremonies, arrange marriages and settle old scores. They traded square-cut nautilus shell necklaces, dilly baskets, long, single-handed swords and large fighting shields.

A gatherer-hunter society

A gatherer-hunter society, the Yirrganydji foraged up and down the coast, following seasonal food sources. The creeks, rivers, coast and sea yielded barramundi, bream, jewfish, grunter, catfish, cod, eels, turtles, prawns, crayfish, oysters and periwinkles. They hunted animals such as wallabies, bandicoots, scrub pythons, sand goannas, blue-tongued lizards, flying foxes, cassowaries, brush turkeys and various other birds. Fruit and vegetables gathered included yams, figs, plums, quandongs, lilly-pilly and various nuts and berries. Honey from the sugar bag bee was a seasonal delicacy.

Towards the end of the dry winter season (Gurraminya Minya, meaning meat) from May to October, vegetation would be burnt off. This process would stimulate new growth, providing fresh pasture for the many animals on which the Yirrganydji depended.

Hunting and fishing were predominantly the domain of the Yirrganydji men, while the women concentrated on gathering, foraging, preparing food and caring for their children. The Yirrganydji women had a vast knowledge of different food sources. Certain edible nuts, for instance, were highly toxic in their raw state. They would be placed in a dilly basket and leached for several days in a slow-moving stream, removing the toxins and making them safe to eat.

Rainforest People


‘Welcome to Kuku Yalanji country. The area you are travelling through has great spiritual and cultural significance to our people’
(The above statement has been specifically been approved by local elders and was compiled by Mossman Gorge people for the Wet Tropics Management Authority)

Altogether, there are 18 Rainforest Aboriginal tribal groups in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. In this area, the Traditional Owners are the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people. Their country extends from near Cooktown to Port Douglas. For the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people many natural features of the landscape have spiritual significance including Wundu (Thornton Peak), Manjal Dimbi (Mount Demi), Wurrmbu (The Bluff) and Kulki (Cape Tribulation).

A rich array of plants and animals provided reliable food for the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people as they travelled seasonally throughout the area. The coastal lowlands were particularly productive and could sustain a relatively large population.

Understanding the weather cycles and the combination of vegetation types allows the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people to find a variety of food throughout the year—when jilngan (mat grass) is in flower, it is time to collect jarruka (orange-footed scrubfowl) eggs and when jun jun (blue ginger) is fruiting, it is time to catch diwan (Australian brush-turkey). Many tree-dwelling animals were also hunted including murral (tree-kangaroos), yawa (possums) and kambi (flying foxes).

The islands, beaches, creek mouths, backing dunes and lowland rainforest of the Daintree area also provided a major focus for camping and other uses for the Kuku Yalanji. Combined with the fringing reef and sea, a diverse range of resources were available to the Yalanji people on a systematic, seasonal and cultural basis.

Characteristic cultural features of the Daintree region include a complex network of Aboriginal walking tracks. These were based around two major tracks, one along the coast and one further inland which were joined by an intricate network of associated tracks which connected all destinations, places of cultural importance and resource use. Many of these were later developed into the roads and tracks used today.

Traditional Owners of the Great Barrier Reef

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the traditional owners of the Great Barrier Reef Region and have lived adjacent to the reef for more than 50,000 years. The Indigenous tribes have dream stories about the sea country portraying stories from their ancestors who lived on the coastal plains near the edge of the continental shelf. This area was covered by the last sea rise 15,000 years ago, forming the Great Barrier Reef. Different aspects of the marine environment are depicted in their storytelling, art spirituality, music and dance of the coastal Indigenous people.

Sacred places on the Great Barrier Reef and accounts of the past provide a connection to traditional clan areas and the heritage of the Great Barrier Reef. Indigenous people used to travel through the reef waters to collect resources and trade with other clan groups, sometimes island hopping, or travelling long distances in outrigger canoes using the wind and constellations as navigation. Fishing in the Great Barrier Reef has been practiced for thousands of years by indigenous groups living along the coast of the reef.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditional owners hold a vast knowledge of the marine environment, marine animals and reef habitats. So much so, that indigenous people have been influenced by their natural reef environment and marine animals in many ways. Dugong, turtle and fish are still a principal part of their diet and hold particular importance for feastings and ceremonies. In some communities, people fish and hunt to provide food for their families.
Marine animals are totems for some traditional owner groups. A bird, reptile or fish may be adopted as a family clan emblem. Images of sea creatures and other animals are carved in wood and engraved on combs and shells.

Turtle shells have been used for different purposes sometimes being made into fish hooks and used on ceremonial masks. Traditional dancing is an important social activity for both indigenous men and women, sometimes the dance will imitate marine creatures.
Indigenous groups are currently working with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in creating Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreements. The traditional owners are working together with marine management agencies to develop culturally appropriate strategies for the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef.

We hope you have a great time in Cairns and ensure where possible to look after the great gifts we have at our doorstep


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