Australia for Kids: Living Between the Rainforest and the Reef

Welcome to Tropical North Queensland, Australia — where the rainforest meets the reef. In this Go With Nugget for Kids podcast episode, we’re headed to a small town nestled in the Atherton Tablelands, in the heart of Tropical North Queensland. With the help of nine-year-old Yindali, we will learn about some of Australia’s Aboriginal people and their traditions, explore the rainforest and its creatures, and find out how we can help take care of the Great Barrier Reef.

32 min
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AUSTRALIA GEOGRAPHY: WHERE IN THE WORLD IS TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND?

Tropical North Queensland is the northern part of the Australian state of Queensland, in northeastern Australia. Queensland has a population of 5 million people and is the second largest state — with over 700,000 square miles (1.854 million square km) of land, that’s 2.5 times the size of Texas! Queensland is surrounded by three other Australian states: Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales. To the east is the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean and to the north is the Torres Strait. This part of Australia is famous for the Great Barrier Reef, lush green rainforests and stunning national parks. Yindali lives in Herberton, a small town nestled in the Atherton Tablelands in the heart of Queensland.

AUSTRALIA FOR KIDS: AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL CULTURE

Yindali is part of the Kuku Yalanji people, who originate from the rainforest regions of North Queensland. Their ancestors settled in this part of Australia over 50,000 years ago. When they landed in tropical Australia, they discovered some of the oldest rainforests in the world. These rainforests stretch all the way to the sea. The Kuku Yalanji culture is built around a deep respect for nature, the land and knowledge of its cycles. This knowledge has been passed down through the generations — from the ancestors, elders, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters.

Australia for Kids: Daintree Rainforest

Eastern Kuku Yalanji country.
Photo: Ranjana Armstrong

Yindali and her siblings have traditional Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal language names. These names are also called their totems. Yindali is the language’s word for forest kingfisher bird, Jarlun means ocean, and Jukarwarra means whirlwind. Australian Aboriginal spirituality has totems, which are inherited from members of the family and clan. A totem is a natural object, animal or plant, and connect people through their physical and kin relatedness. Totems are still important today in Aboriginal culture and are used as a way of continuing and maintaining connections with the land, the Dreamtime and their ancestors. 

Australia for Kids: RainForeStation Nature Park

Jukarwarra (6), Yindali (9) and Jarlun (8).
Photo: Andrea Gower.

Australia for Kids: Traditional Instruments

Jukarwarra, Jarlun and Yindali.
Photo: Andrea Gower

AUSTRALIA FOR KIDS: AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL ART, DANCE AND MUSIC

Aboriginal people often passed on their knowledge through paintings, and the town of LauraQuinkan Country, where Yindali’s ancestors are from, is famous for Aboriginal rock art galleries. These paintings were made on sandstone using charcoal or ochre.

Australia for Kids: Aboriginal Rock Art
Australia for Kids: Aboriginal rock art
Australia for Kids: Aboriginal rock art

Rock art in LauraQuinkan Country.
Photos: Andrea Gower

In the podcast episode, Yindali talks about how to make ochre paint. Watch the video below to see Yindali painting with ochre.

Video: Andrea Gower

Dance and music are another way that Yindali’s ancestors passed on their knowledge. The Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival is a wonderful chance to see and hear traditional dances and music. 

Australia for Kids: Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival
Australia for Kids: Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival
Australia for Kids: Aboriginal Dancers

Traditional dance at the Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival. Yindali, Jukarwarra and cousins Violet and Ilyaree with their family, the Mayi Wunba dancers of Kuranda Country.
Photos: Andrea Gower

Yindali also takes part in some of the traditional Aboriginal dances, wearing a grass skirt and painting herself with ochre and telling the stories of her people and culture.

Australia for Kids: Traditional dance

Yindali performing a traditional dance. Jukarwarra (6), Yindali (9) and Jarlun (8).
Photo: Andrea Gower

Australia for Kids: Clapsticks

Yindali with clapsticks, a traditional Aboriginal instrument made of wood.
Photo:
 Andrea Gower

The dances tell stories of hunting, gathering and even animals. Here is a video of Yindali doing a gathering dance.

Video: Andrea Gower

Here is a video of Yindali’s younger brother Jukarwarra and the Gooliwana Bana dancers doing the cassowary dance.

Video: Andrea Gower

The didgeridoo is a traditional Aboriginal wind instrument made from wood. You hear it in most traditional Aboriginal songs. The first didgeridoos were made from eucalyptus branches that had been hollowed out by termites.

THE SOUND OF A DIDGERIDOO

Australia for Kids: The Didgeridoo

Yindali’s brother Jukarwarra playing the didgeridoo.
Photo: Andrea Gower

AUSTRALIA FOR KIDS: ABORIGINAL LANGUAGE

There are anywhere from 290 to 363 different Aboriginal languages in Australia and its surrounding islands. Yindali knows the Djabugay language of her ancestors. Here are a few important words that you can practice at home or in school.

RAINBOW SERPENT:

Gudju Gudju

STORYWATER:

Bulurru

HOW ARE YOU?:

Jirri Nyurra

I AM GOOD:

Nyurra Gurri

HOME:

Bulmba

GOODBYE, SEE YOU IN A WHILE:   

Garru

AUSTRALIA FOR KIDS: VOLCANIC LAKES IN THE ATHERTON TABLELANDS

Tropical Northern Queensland is one of the most exciting and diverse regions of Australia, and the Atherton Tablelands is at the very heart of it. Yindali loves to go exploring in nature with her family. You’ll find breathtaking waterfalls, scenic views, crystal clear lakes and lush rainforests. There are many different sights to see in the Tablelands, such as Millaa Millaa Falls, Malanda Falls, Mt Hypipamee, Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham. Yindali loves to swim under the waterfalls.

Australia for Kids: Millaa Millaa Falls

Yindali swimming at Millaa Millaa Falls.
Photo: Andrea Gower.

Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham are clear blue volcanic lakes surrounded by lush rainforest and are part of the Crater Lakes National Park. A very, very long time ago, this part of Australia was home to a lot of volcanic activity. This type of volcanic lake is called a maar, which is a low volcanic crater formed by huge explosions from groundwater coming into contact with hot lava or magma. Over thousands of years, the crater has filled with water from the ground and rain, forming a freshwater lake that you can even swim in.

Australia for Kids: Lake Eacham

Yindali with her uncle Brendan swimming in Lake Eacham.
Photo: Andrea Gower

Australia for Kids: Lake Eacham

Clear waters of Lake Eacham.
Photo: Andrea Gower.

AUSTRALIA FOR KIDS: EXPLORING THE RAINFOREST

Not too far from Crater Lakes National Park is Curtain Fig Tree National Park, the home of a 500-year-old strangler fig tree. The tree is nearly 165 feet (50 m) tall, which is about as tall as a 16-story building. The tree started as a seed landing on a branch of another tree and began growing. Over time, the roots started growing down to the forest floor, and the tree underneath died and fell over into another tree. The strangler fig tree continued to grow along that fallen tree. And as the roots stretched and grew, they started to look like a curtain. The curtain fig tree is now so wide that it would probably take 40 kids holding hands to circle the entire tree! Check out this video of the curtain fig tree. 

Australia for Kids: Strangler Fig

A strangler fig tree up close.
Photo:
Ranjana Armstrong

This part of North Queensland is also home to the oldest rainforest in the world, the Daintree Rainforest. It is estimated to be 180 million years old, which is tens of millions of years older than the Amazon Rainforest!

Australia for Kids: Rainforest

Tropical North Queensland is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world.
Photo:
Ranjana Armstrong

Australia for Kids: Rainforest Trees

The Daintree Rainforest has one of the largest plant diversity in the world.
Photo:
Ranjana Armstrong

The Daintree Rainforest is home to thousands of species of birds and wildlife. Yindali and her family have spent a lot of time exploring the rainforest and its animals, including kingfisher birds, bush turkeys, tree frogs, tree kangaroos and cassowaries.

Australia for Kids: Tree Fern

Tree ferns.
Photo:
Ranjana Armstrong

Australia for Kids: A Boyd's Dragon

A Boyd’s forest dragon.
Photo:
Ranjana Armstrong

Nature trail through the Daintree National Park.
Photo:
Ranjana Armstrong

Australia for Kids: Tree Frog

A tree frog at night.
Photo: Ranjana Armstrong

Australia for Kids: Crocodile

Crocodile hiding in the mangroves of the Daintree River.
Photo:
Ranjana Armstrong

AUSTRALIA FOR KIDS: AUSTRALIAN ANIMALS

One of the most unique animals that lives in the rainforest in Tropical North Queensland is the cassowary, a large flightless bird with black feathers, a blue neck,  a sharp beak and a hard blade on its head. They are the third tallest bird after the ostrich and emu. Cassowaries are very important to the rainforest as they help distribute the larger seeds from trees around the rainforest that would otherwise only grow close to the parent tree. They are often called “the world’s most dangerous bird”. In the podcast episode, Yindali gives us some tips on what to do if you see a cassowary in the wild.

Australia for Kids: Cassowary

Yindali and a cassowary.
Photo: Andrea Gower

Australia for Kids: Cassowary

Cassowary.
Photo: Pixabay

Cassowaries have unique calls, they make very low frequency rumbling sounds to alert others of their presence. Have a look at this video of a female cassowary at Mission Beach Cassowaries.

AUSTRALIA FOR KIDS: EXPLORING THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

Tropical North Queensland is also home to the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure on Earth. The Great Barrier Reef is made of hard and soft coral and is home to over 9,000 species of marine life, including colorful fish, reef sharks, rays, anemones, turtles and so much more.

Australia for Kids: Great Barrier Reef

A section of the Great Barrier Reef from the air.
Photo:
Ranjana Armstrong

Australia for Kids: The Edge of the Reef

The edge of the Great Barrier Reef.
Photo:
Ranjana Armstrong

Yindali and her family recently went to the Great Barrier Reef on a vacation. They took a 2-hour boat ride out to the reef, where they were able to see the coral from the underwater viewing deck of the boat. Once at the reef, they put on their wetsuits and snorkel gear, jumped in to go exploring!

Australia for Kids: Underwater Viewing Deck

Underwater viewing deck.
Photo: Andrea Gower

Australia for Kids: Ready to Snorkel

Jukarwarra, Yindali and Jarlun are ready to snorkel.
Photo: Andrea Gower

Australia for Kids: Snorkeling on the Reef

Circling and snorkeling above the reef.
Photo: Andrea Gower

Australia for Kids: Snorkeling

Yindali is all smiles after seeing loads of fish.
Photo: Andrea Gower

There is so much to see when snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef! Yindali spotted white-tip reef sharks, sea cucumbers, angelfish and clownfish. There are nearly 30 different species of clownfish (also called anemonefish), and they are native to the warmer waters of the Pacific Ocean and the Great Barrier Reef. They have a unique relationship with anemone where they help each other out, which is called symbiosis or a symbiotic relationship. The anemone protects the clownfish from predators and provides a safe nesting site. In return, the clownfish defends the anemone from its predators and parasites, and also provides nutrients for the anemone. It’s a perfect match!

Australia for Kids: Clownfish

The clownfish is also called an anemonefish.
Photo: Ranjana Armstrong

Australia for Kids: Stonefish

The perfectly camouflaged reef stonefish is the most venomous fish in the world.
Photo: Ranjana Armstrong

Australia for Kids: Coral Reef Fish

The Great Barrier Reef is teeming with colorful fish.
Photo: Ranjana Armstrong

Australia for Kids: Anemone and Clownfish

Anemonefish and sea anemones have a unique symbiotic relationship.
Photo: Ranjana Armstrong

AUSTRALIA FOR KIDS: PROTECTING THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

Even though the Great Barrier Reef is so big, it is extremely fragile. Through Cape Create, a LitterEd (litter education) recycled environmental art program, Yindali’s mom, Andrea, educates children and communities on how plastic and trash is dangerous and harmful to the fish and coral through the creation of recycled artwork.

Australia for Kids: Cape Create Crew

The Cape Create crew and some of their artwork and toys.
Photo:
 Andrea Gower

SPECIAL THANKS

This episode would not have been possible without Yindali and her family waking up bright and early to help us overcome huge time differences and for such wonderful insight into their beautiful life in Tropical North Queensland. We are extremely grateful to Andrea, Yindali’s mother, who gave us so much of her family’s time and gathered so many people together to give us this in-depth understanding of the Kuku Yalanji people’s culture and traditions. Thank you so much!

The theme song for Go With Nuggets for Kids is produced by Andrew & Polly from the musical kids podcast Ear Snacks.

Go With Nugget for Kids is a proud member of Kids Listen, an international organization of advocates for highquality audio content for children. If you love kids podcast, go check them out!

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