In a visual feast of colour, culture and movement, people from across the world came to a new Indigenous-focused rodeo in Burketown in the Gulf Country in August.

Photos Stephen Mowbray

A celebration of cultures from Native Americans to Aboriginals from the Top End, the Gulf Country Frontier Days Festival included dance, music and lots of wild rodeo action.

Top musicians such as Kasey Chambers, Troy Cassar-Daley and Shane Howard entertained the crowd over three nights, and different cultural groups, including Torres Strait Islanders and Navajo Indians, performed dances and welcoming ceremonies.

Bringing together disparate communities in remote areas is not without its challenges, and a week before the event the venue was changed from Doomadgee to Burketown. This may have affected participation numbers and the festival drew an estimated crowd of 500. The pool of rough riders was boosted by some past and present Australian Professional Rodeo Association champions who had been at the giant Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo the weekend before. 

In the arena, Doomadgee cowboy Moses Foster won the saddle bronc ride, Rae-Etta Harrison claimed a double winning the barrel race and breakaway roping titles, and Jeremy Booth took home the bull ride buckle. 

The organisers hope that next year the event will host the inaugural Australian Indigenous Rodeo Championships, and after that a world championship. 

“It’s such a good vision for the region,” says professional equestrian photographer Stephen Mowbray, who was there for OUTBACK magazine. “If it can be pulled off, it will be something quite extraordinary – a remote event that will bring together the local community and the Gulf region with other first peoples from all around the world.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #115

Outback Magazine: October/November 2017