Busking FAQs

What is busking?

Busking is a person (or group of people) performing within a public place in exchange for a donation.

Council divides busking into 2 categories.

Category A busking covers activities such as playing a musical instrument, dancing, singing, puppetry, miming or other acts of a similar nature.

Category B busking covers:

The following examples are not considered busking and are therefore not allowed.

  • Begging;
  • Advertising or promotion of goods;
  • Salespersons of any kind soliciting money for any purpose;
  • Fundraising for events, even if they include a performance element;
  • Touting or spruiking;
  • Political rallying;
  • Religious spruiking;
  • Face or body painting;
  • Tarot card reading, palmistry and fortune telling;
  • Massage, chiropractic treatment or any other physical manipulation;
  • Artists displaying pre-fabricated artworks or goods or displaying pre-fabricated displays.

Do I need a permit to busk?

Yes. Council issues permits for busking on Council-controlled land, such as footpaths, the Esplanade and parks.

There are two types of Busking Permits – an Initial Permit and a Standard Permit.

Initial Permit

An Initial Permit is for four weeks (unless otherwise stated) and will be issued if the busker has not had a permit before.

Standard Permit

A Standard Permit is for 12 months (unless otherwise stated) and will be issued if the busker has previously had an initial permit and wishes to continue busking.

Read more at How do I apply for a Busking Permit?

How do I apply for a busking permit?

Fill in a Busking Permit Application Form ( DOC, 0.21 MB ) and submit it, in person, to the Cairns Regional Council Esplanade Office at 52-54 The Esplanade, between 9am and noon on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The Office is not open on weekends.

Busking Permit Application forms must be submitted in person and only within the times stated above.

You are required to audition prior to being issued a permit.

Council does not issue group permits; each member of the group must submit an individual application form.

Please note the application form for an Initial Permit and a Standard Permit is the same, and is required to be completed for each application.

Buskers are encourage to read the Best Practice Management Policy for Busking ( PDF, 0.42 MB ) before completing their application.

What to bring

You must bring with you identification that includes your name, a recent photograph and a residential address. If your documents are not in English, such as an overseas drivers licence, you must also bring a full English translation of the document. Acceptance of ID is at the discretion of the Council officer receiving your application.

If you are under 16, you will require signed consent from a parent or guardian.

If you are conducting a performance that includes dangerous materials or implements you must provide a Public Liability Insurance Certificate in the amount of $20 million.  (Read more at What is a dangerous material or implement? and What is Public Liability Insurance and do I need it? )

You may be required to audition (read more at Do I need to audition? ).

Fees

There is no fee to obtain a Busking Permit in Cairns.

Does it cost to get a busking permit?

No. There are no fees or charges associated with obtaining or holding a busking permit.

Do I need to audition?

Buskers applying for an Initial Permit are required to audition prior to the permit being issued.

You must have a performance-ready repertoire sufficient for a 50-minute set, without undue repetition. A date and time for your audition will be set once Council receives your application for a busking permit.

Permit renewals

Permit renewals do not require a repeat audition unless a busker's performance changes.

For example, a busker has a Standard Permit for singing with a backing tape. The busker wants to change their performance to include drums. As the performance has changed, the busker will need to audition to show they have a performance-ready repertoire.

Where can I busk?

Your busking permit allows you to busk at any of the CBD locations on the map below.

Please note there are a limited number of locations where noisy or dangerous acts are allowed.

If you wish to busk in an area not on the map, or outside the CBD, please specify the location on your busking application.

Download the map ( PDF, 0.64 MB )

Map showing pre-approved busking locations in the Cairns CBD

When can I busk?

Busking is permitted between 8am and 11.50pm, 7 days a week.

In order to provide fair and equitable access to busking sites, particularly popular sites, busking performances are limited to 50 minutes, with 10 minutes either side of the performance to set up and pack up.

Buskers can only busk once at any location but can busk at multiple locations on any one day (see Where can I busk? for pre-approved locations).

Set up time

Performance time

Set down time

7.50am

8-8.50am

8.50am

8.50am

9-9.50am

9.50am

9.50am

10-10.50am

10.50am

10.50am

11-11.50am

11.50am

11.50am

Noon-12.50pm

12.50pm

12.50pm

1-1.50pm

1.50pm

1.50pm

2-2.50pm

2.50pm

2.50pm

3-3.50pm

3.50pm

3.50pm

4-4.50pm

4.50pm

4.50pm

5-5.50pm

5.50pm

5.50pm

5-6.50pm

6.50pm

6.50pm

7-7.50pm

7.50pm

7.50pm

8-8.50pm

8.50pm

8.50pm

9-9.50pm

9.50pm

9.50pm

10-10.50pm

10.50pm

10.50pm

11-11.50pm

11.50pm

Can I busk at a shopping centre?

Council only manages busking on Council-controlled areas such as  footpaths, parks and The Esplanade.

If you wish to busk at a Shopping Centre you will need to get permission from Shopping Centre Management.

Can I sell CDs or other promotional items?

Yes, buskers can sell CDs of their own music. No other promotional material can be offered for sale.

Can I busk if I arrive after the start of the hour?

If the busking site is not being used, you may busk until 10 minutes before the hour (see busking schedule in When can I busk?).

I want to complain about a busker's behaviour. How do I report this?

You can report a problem Busker online. Please provide as much detail as possible about the busker and their behaviour so Council can take appropriate action.

If the situation is an emergency, for instance a busker poses and immediate threat to you, your business or members of the public 1300 69 22 47.

What is Public Liability Insurance and do I need it?

Public Liability Insurance is designed for professionals who interact with customers or members of the public. It protects against claims of personal injury or property damage that a third party suffers (or claims to have suffered) as a result of your business activities.

Category B busking performers (those involving dangerous materials or instruments) must obtain their own Public Liability Insurance of $20 million.

Dangerous materials and implements are materials and implements that may pose a risk, hazard or uncertain outcome for people or property.

Dangerous materials include flammable materials and chemicals, fire, fireworks, smoke, flairs, heated elements or anything giving off a level of heat or toxicity that poses a threat of harm or damage to members of the public and public property. Dangerous implements includes knives, spears, swords, spikes and sharp implements of any kind that pose a threat of harm to the general public.

You will need to provide a copy of your Public Liability Insurance Certificate with your permit application.

If your performance does not include the use dangerous materials or instruments, you do not need to obtain individual Public Liability Insurance.

What is a dangerous material or implement?

Dangerous materials and implements are materials and implements that may pose a risk, hazard or uncertain outcome for people or property.

Dangerous materials include flammable materials and chemicals, fire, fireworks, smoke, flairs, heated elements or anything giving off a level of heat or toxicity that poses a threat of harm or damage to members of the public and public property.

Dangerous implements includes knives, spears, swords, spikes and sharp implements of any kind that pose a threat of harm to the general public.

Buskers using dangerous materials or implements will need to apply for a Special Permit and may require their own Public Liability Insurance.

How much is the fine for busking without a permit or breaching permit conditions?

Council can issue an on-the-spot fines of $630 for busking without a permit or breaching busking permit conditions.

Council can also cancel an existing busking permit and/or refuse to renew a busking permit.

I am under 16 do I need adult supervision?

Buskers aged 16 years and under must be supervised by a parent or guardian at all times.

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Last updated: 25 January 2018