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.

From the 1 February 2018, Council will issue 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
  • The busking activity is a Category A activity:
    • Category A includes all busking activities except for the Category B activities listed below
  • The busking activity is to be carried out at a designated location within the Cairns CBD (link to CBD map)

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
  • The busking activity is a Category B activity:
    • Includes the use of dangerous materials or instruments (read more at What is a dangerous material or implement?)
    • Balance, juggling or circle acts
    • Pavement art performances
    • Involves use of percussion or noisy instruments
  • The busking activity will take place outside the designated area within the Cairns CBD

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

Does it cost to get a busking permit?

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

How do I apply for a busking permit?

Fill in a Busking Permit Application Form ( DOC, 0.43 MB ) and submit it, in person, to Council at the Cairns Regional Council Esplanade Office 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.

The Esplanade office is at 52-54 The Esplanade.

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, 0.44 MB ) before completing their application.

What to bring

You will need photo identification that has your signature, a recent photograph and your date of birth, such as a drivers licence, passport, or student ID card. If your documents are not in English, such as an overseas drivers licence, you must also bring a full English translation of the document.

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.

Do I need to audition?

Buskers applying for an Initial Permit do not need to audition. However you must have a performance-ready repertoire sufficient for a 50-minute set, without undue repetition.

Buskers applying for a Standard Permit will need to audition. A date and time for your audition will be set once Council receives your application for a busking permit.

I currently hold a busking permit that was issued prior to 1 Feb 2018 and it has expired, what do I do?

As of the 1st of February all buskers will start on an Initial 4 week permit, to bring everyone into line with the new regulations under Council’s Busking Best Practise Management Policy.  You will need to apply for this permit – see How do I apply for a busking permit?

Providing you adhere to the conditions attached to your permit over the 4 week period, you will have the opportunity to apply for a Standard 12 month permit.

Standard Permits will be issued for repeat applications or for busking in circumstances that are not authorised by an initial permit such as Category B Busking. See What is busking? for Category B busking activities.

The 12 month permit will replace the current 3 month repeat permit, making it much easier and less time consuming for Buskers wanting to perform in Cairns on a permanent basis. All buskers applying for a 12 month permit will be required to audition, and the date and time of this will be communicated upon application for a Standard permit.

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.

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, 4.72 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.

Last updated: 25 January 2018