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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 15:37 GMT
Prince Philip's spear 'gaffe'
The prince is known for his gaffes while on Royal visits
The prince talks to Aboriginal performers in Cairns
The Duke of Edinburgh is reported to have startled Australian Aborigines by asking "Do you still throw spears at each other?"

Prince Philip's bizarre question was apparently posed to Aboriginal cultural park owner William Brim during a Royal visit to Cairns in Queensland.

I found it amusing, but I was rather surprised

William Brim, Aboriginal entrepreneur

"No, we don't do that any more," replied Mr Brim, 42, a successful Aboriginal entrepreneur.

But Buckingham Palace, which is said to be angry that a light-hearted statement has been taken out of context, has a different version of events.

The BBC's royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell said it claims the prince asked two men if the tribes had fought each other in the past.

When they replied yes, he asked "Do they still fight each other?

This was greeted with laughter.

Prince Philip is accompanying the Queen on a Royal tour of Australia to help mark her Golden Jubilee year.

The Aboriginal park owner was apparently unfazed by Prince Philip's question.

Click here for a round-up of the prince's other high profile gaffes.

"I don't mind, it was quite funny. I found it amusing, but I was rather surprised," he said.

Prince Philip has previously provoked controversy - during a Royal visit to China in 1986 he described Peking as "ghastly" and told British students: "If you stay here much longer you'll all be slitty-eyed."

During their visit to Mr Brim's Queensland park, the royal couple watched a performance by the Tjapukai dance troop - nine Aboriginal male dancers wearing loin cloths and body paint.

Aborigine man
The royal guests watched a display by Aboriginal dancers

Troop leader Warren Clements told his audience: "This opportunity to showcase our culture to the world will perhaps influence at least some people to rethink their attitude to indigenous culture. He said he wanted to show that "we are not a curiosity but a relevant and integral part of 21st-century Australia".

He added: "We here, represent a new spirit of freedom - freedom from dependence on government handouts, freedom from a century of oppression, freedom from the cycle of poverty."

Royal tour

Earlier, the royal visitors toured Kuranda rainforest by train and cable car.

The Queen launched two new aircraft at the Cairns Base of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

She praised the organisation's work in a radio broadcast to the Cairns School of Distance Education, whose 500 pupils are scattered across the Outback.

Members of the school's band, which practices over the radio, welcomed the Queen and Duke with their rendition of God Save the Queen.

After the performance, Prince Philip asked the young musicians: "You were playing those instruments, weren't you? There are no tape recorders under your seats?"

The BBC's Nick Witchell
"The problem is the Duke's style"
See also:

01 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Picture gallery: Royal visit to Queensland
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