21 November 2023

Premier flying into to open Lockhart River festival grounds ahead of gathering

| Matt Nicholls
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Having thrilled crowds at this year’s Laura Quinkan Dance Festival, the youths of Lockhart River are keen to perform on home turf this week.

WAYNE Butcher doesn’t like using the word legacy when it comes to his time in local government, but there is no doubt that Thursday’s opening of the cultural festival grounds in Lockhart River will be a legacy of the long-serving mayor.

Such is the importance of the occasion that the Premier is flying in for the opening.

“It’s been 10 years in the making,” Cr Butcher told Cape York Weekly.

“The festival grounds were first mentioned to me as a priority by a few of our Elders … sadly most have passed on now.

“It was their idea to get a cultural festival back in Lockhart.”

This year marks 50 years since Lockhart River staged a massive dancing festival that involved communities from across the Cape and even a Groote Eylandt troupe.

“I think it was organised by the World Council of Churches at the time and it eventually evolved into what we now call the Laura Dance Festival,” Cr Butcher said.

The ribbon will be cut on Thursday, followed by the performance of local dancers.

On Friday and Saturday, visiting dance teams from Bamaga, Yarrabah and Pormpuraaw will take part in the Paytham Malkari Dance Festival.

The new festival grounds are located on the foreshore of Lockhart River.

“I’m not a fan of the word legacy but I wanted this because it came from an idea and there was a practical outcome,” the mayor said.

“Two things bring this community together – sport and culture – and we just had the opening of the new footy ground, so this is next in line.

“Lockhart is known for its strong dancing culture and we are just capitalising on our strengths.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was eager to see the new festival grounds.

“I am very much looking forward to visiting Lockhart River with Cynthia Lui and Ministerial Champion Mark Bailey and seeing how one of the most beautiful parts of Queensland is progressing,” she said.

“Our government has worked closely with the Lockhart River Aboriginal Shire Council to make improvements to the region, which proudly include the cultural precinct development, the Lockhart River staff housing project and other critical infrastructure.

“We will always work with our local governments, to ensure every Queenslander’s life is the best it can be, no matter where they live.”

Cr Butcher thanked the state government for its funding contributions to the new festival grounds and camp grounds, which were funded under the Works For Queensland program.

Lockhart River mayor Wayne Butcher says the new cultural festival grounds were built at the request of Elders.

“Mark Bailey and (Departmental Champion) Warwick Agnew have been very supportive of our community,” he said.

“We wouldn’t have had the means to build it without that funding support.”

Visitors are welcome to venture into Lockhart River for the festival, Cr Butcher said.

“We are slowly building the capacity for tourists because of the demand,” he said.

“The camping ground was built so we could accommodate them and that will be up and running properly next year.”

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