Cairns Engineers a Connection to Country


The Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia – Queensland Annual Conference (IPWEAQ) was
one of the first conferences held in the Cairns Convention Centre since reopening in May after a full
refurbishment. IPWEAQ is the peak body representing those who engineer solutions for Queensland
communities. Who better to review the rejuvenated space than 430 engineers, technical officers,
supervisors, fleet managers and operational managers.

With the $176 million Cairns Convention Centre project now focusing on the extension, and still
underway on the exterior of the building, the refreshed internal areas were a delight for conference
organisers. New roof sheeting, air conditioning and lighting complemented the refurbished public spaces,
setting the scene perfectly for an event to inform, connect, represent and lead.

“It is state-of-the-art, contemporary and genuinely beautiful. The bright colours and stunning carpets suit
the tropical oasis that is Cairns,” offered conference organiser, Monica Robertson. 

“Cairns Convention Centre includes new audio-visual options as standard, which are usually an additional
cost, something extremely appreciated as a not-for-profit. For example, the lecterns have a screen
on the platform itself (rather than a foldback monitor on the ground), which adds an extra level of
professionalism to a conference. The venue offered above and beyond service to match their fantastic

At least 90 more conferences will be staged at the Cairns Convention Centre before the expansion
opens in 2023. All benefitting from the new look and feel of the existing refurbished footprint, and
unperturbed by the expansion stage already underway. It will deliver an additional 10,500 square metres
that will include a large undercover, tropically planted entry forecourt, an expanded main entry lobby, a
410-seat plenary lecture space, three 120-seat meeting rooms, exhibition space for up to 30 display
booths, a 500-seat rooftop banquet space and sky terrace with spectacular views over Trinity Inlet.


The IPWEAQ delegates enjoyed the refreshed Centre, and were treated throughout the three-day
conference. MC’ed by Stephen Yarwood, one of Australia’s best-known and respected contemporary
urban planners, the program featured three technical tours of Cairns including visiting the brand new
$28 million Esplanade Dining Precinct. Delegates viewed contemporary awnings for better weather
protection, an extended dining area, inviting vertical gardens and grassed mounds, and pedestrian-only
access to improve connectivity to the existing sprawling waterfront lawns of the Esplanade. 


Rainforestation Nature Park hosted the annual social function “Tropical Night”, on day two. Under the
canopy of the World Heritage listed, Wet Tropics Rainforest, delegates were welcomed by the Pamagirri
Dancers Cultural Performance, dined on roving canapés and food stations, and mingled with the likes of
dingoes, kangaroos, snakes and koalas with wildlife interactions a part of the event package. A twilight
ride aboard a World War II-era six-wheel-drive, amphibious military truck, affectionally known as an Army
Duck surprised delegates whilst they explored the venue.

In the days prior, local Aboriginal artwork was displayed in the Cairns Convention Centre, culminating in
an auction at Rainforestation. Each year, IPWEAQ conducts a raffle or auction for their President’s Charity.
Although a registered charity and not-for-profit themselves, the IPWEAQ President nominates a charity
for members to support during their term. From 2019-2021, President Craig Murrell, selected Rural Aid,
and during his presidency, they raised over $18,000.

The featured artist was Louis Enoch, his Aboriginal name is Gappirri and means stingray. He comes from
many different tribes in and around Cairns. Djabuguy and Yidinji are his mother’s tribes and Nughi and
Kaanjtju tribes belongs to his father’s side. Louis also acknowledges his grandparent’s tribes Jiddabul,
Birri-Gubba, and Mulurridji.

His artwork is heavily influenced by his aunty and the Djabuguy tribe, featuring native animals such as the
crocodile, platypus, snake, eel, lizard and barramundi. 

Rainforestation Nature Park Event Sales Manager, Kate Moore was impressed by the connection
delegates had to Louis’ work. “The artist profile was provided with each piece. Interestingly the printed
profiles themselves became so popular with the delegates that I had trouble keeping up with copies on
the night.”

Kate continued, “The delegates were so pleased to have the artist profile provided, and conveyed they
felt more connected to the artwork and appreciated a local artist being featured in our venue.” Several
large purchases were made on the night from the Indigenous Art Gallery on site, more than any other
event so far.

A last-minute challenge for the Rainforestation team meant precision event timing was essential. The
venue was advised that the Kuranda Range Road, the direct route for the group back to Cairns, would be
closed from 10pm that evening for line marking – the same time that the event concluded. All guests (and
even some staff) were promptly whisked down the Range in time.

Cairns & Great Barrier Reef is the natural place to meet; seamlessly combining brand new spaces,
and ancient cultures. Organisers and delegates are invited to embrace the spirit of this place,
where stories are shared, and memories are created. 


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