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Dancers unite with family of traditional land owners

By Mark Beale

THERE was an honourable ending to the Airlie Beach Chamber of Commerce networking night at the Whitsunday Arts and Culture Centre (WACC) earlier this month when performance group Aboriginal Dreamtime Australia passed down a ‘message stick’ to direct descendants of the Ngaro people (traditional custodians of the Whitsundays) Esther and Leo Gabey.

The Mackay-based performers entertained audiences for over an hour with an interactive, exciting and emotional show highlighted by the passing down of the ‘message stick’ before making this extra symbolic gesture.

Co-managers and performers Shannon Ruska and Kayleen O’Chin said presenting the ‘message stick’ to Esther and Leo Gabey was an important ritual to ensure their future performances at the centre.

“The message stick is like a passport to travel – by passing on the stick we have acknowledged the original land owners of the Whitsundays so we can continue to perform here respectfully,” Shannon Ruska said.

WACC representative Heidi Ward said she felt privileged to host such a sacred moment.

“[It was] fantastic and really emotional [and] we are now going to further engage with the tribe to bring [the] real culture of Airlie Beach forward,” she said.

From this week onwards, the WACC will host a show called ‘Whispers of the Dreamtime’ featuring the Mackay-based performance group each Friday at 7pm.

Ms Ward encouraged everyone to come along and embrace the unique show.

“We really want to bring entertainment and culture to town while offering more land-based activities,” she said.

The ‘Whispers of the Dreamtime’ is a show created by Mr Ruska and Ms O’Chin.

The story is about the close bond between a grandfather and grandson as he learns about traditional Aboriginal culture.

Selected audience members are invited to participate in a bush tucker tasting, smoking ceremony, face painting and more.

For more information or to book, visit

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