Australian state launches scheme to boost aboriginal tourism

SYDNEY, April 4 (Xinhua) — The Australia state of Western Australian (WA) launched a scheme on Tuesday to promote aboriginal cultural tourism there.

The Tjina: Western Australian Aboriginal Tourism Action Plan, includes a fund valued at 20 million Australian dollars (about 15.48 million U.S. dollars) to support Aboriginal people wanting to work in that sector and to bolster the untapped tourism potential of the scenically spectacular areas of the state such as the Dampier Peninsular in the Kimberly region.

The plan was developed by Tourism Western Australia and other government agencies with the Western Australian Indigenous Tourism Operators Council (WAITOC) and the Aboriginal tourism industry.

“There is incredible demand for Aboriginal experiences – the Tjina Plan will make sure people will get to have that experience they are looking for while they are travelling around WA,” said WA Tourism Minister David Templeman in launching the plan.

Research from Tourism WA shows more than 80 percent of visitors to WA want an Aboriginal experience, however, only about 17 percent have been able to do so up to now.

WAITOC earlier this year has helped secure a federal government commitment for a 40-million-Australian dollar (30.9-million-U.S. dollar) grant package as part of the Indigenous Tourism Fund.

WAITOC CEO Robert Taylor said the financial support presented a “welcome opportunity at a time of unprecedented uncertainty in the tourism sector”.

“Aboriginal tourism opportunities in Western Australia have grown significantly over the past six years and it’s critical we find ways to keep them buoyant and expanding throughout the effects of this pandemic period,” Taylor said.

About 3 percent of Australia’s population has aboriginal heritage, who have been living on the continent for over 50,000 years. Australia’s aboriginal culture is defined by its connection to family, community and country.

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I spent the past year taking Aboriginal tours – here’s what I learned

As a non-Indigenous Australian with much to learn about our nation’s First People, I saw the past year (with the country’s international travel ban) as an opportunity to support the travel industry while learning from its leaders. 

Indigenous tourism rebooted

While the promotion of Indigenous tourism hasn’t always done the best job of showcasing an authentic version of Aboriginal culture, the industry has come a long way since it began to take off in the 1990s.

Uluru Kata Tjuta national park, Australia
  Twinkling canopy Uluru at night © swissmediavision/Getty Images

From discovering the Dreaming stories connected to the twinkling canopy above Uluru in the Northern Territory to bedding down at an award-winning Aboriginal-run ecolodge on Western Australia’s Dampier Peninsula, there are now hundreds of incredible Aboriginal-owned, run and supported tourism experiences available in every corner of the country, including more than 185 in Tourism Australia’s Discover Aboriginal Experiences collective alone.

A not-for-profit launched nationally in 2020 with a vision to enable prosperity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through tourism, booking platform Welcome to Country has made it even easier to plan memorable – and sustainable – Indigenous tourism activities.

Jarramali Rock Art Tours-look out credit TTNQ.jpg
Jarramali Rock Art Tours-look out © Tourism and Events Queensland

Connecting with Country

On the New South Wales South Coast, Brinja-Yuin woman Trisha Ellis reveals why the ancient shell midden that covers Bingi Bingi Point isn’t just an indicator that this place was once the region’s most popular seafood restaurant. It’s also an early example of sustainable farming.

“When Yuin people came back to the coast after the cold season, they’d choose two or three shellfish species to eat, and leave the rest alone,” says Trisha, who offers walking tours and cultural awareness training through her business Minga Aboriginal Experiences. “When the next lot came along, they’d look at the midden to see what people had been eating, and choose a different species to eat so the others could regenerate. Instead of trying to control the environment like European farmers, we let nature do the work for us.”

Brinja-Yuin guide Trisha Ellis demonstrates a weaving technique. Image credit Sarah Reid.jpg
Brinja-Yuin guide Trisha Ellis demonstrates a weaving technique © Sarah Reid

On a two-hour walk on a section of the Bingi Dreaming Track – an ancient wayfaring pathway linking significant Yuin sites – Trisha reveals the myriad ways her ancestors have lived in harmony with this wild stretch of the Eurobodalla Coast, where sapphire blue seas pound deserted golden beaches, for more than 20,000 years. From the bright magenta fruiting bodies of the pigface plant that taste like a pleasantly salty kiwifruit, to the controlled burns that ensured a plentiful supply of wildlife to hunt around the calendar, there’s so much to know.

At the other end of Australia’s east coast, on the doorstep of the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest in Far North Queensland, Kuku Yalanji man Aaron Port, a guide with Walkabout Cultural Adventures, schools me in the art of using a traditional spear to catch my own mud crab – the ultimate bush tucker feast – or would have been, if the crab we found was large enough to sustainably harvest. But I soon learn that our tropical surroundings are bursting with snacks so tasty, it’s a challenge to abide by the Aboriginal custom of taking only what I need from nature.

Vince Harrigan welcomes guests to Balnggarrawarra Country.
Vince Harrigan welcomes guests to Balnggarrawarra Country © Sarah Reid

Further north, near Cooktown, Balnggarrawarra man Vince Harrigan, a guide with Culture Connect, led me on a bushwalk to a series of beautifully persevered ancient rock art galleries few non-Indigenous people have ever clapped eyes on. Before we enter the site, Vince calls out to his ancestor spirits in language to announce our arrival – a tradition highlighting the deep connection Indigenous Australians have with their Elders that transcends the physical realm.

See Australia differently

Back home in northern New South Wales, Arakwal-Bundjalung woman Delta Kay recently launched a series of cultural and bush tucker walks. Despite being familiar with local Aboriginal culture and history, I was gobsmacked to learn during Delta’s Byron Bay walking tour that the Bundjalung word for my hometown is not Cavanbah, as it has always been known by non-Indigenous locals, but Gabanbaa, the proper pronunciation having long-been lost in translation. From Delta’s moving Welcome to Country to the evocative Dreaming stories she shares, this walking tour grounds me to this land in a way that Byron’s gamut of wellness gurus could only hope to master.

The art of using a traditional spear to fish © Walkabout Cultural Adventures

I’m currently in the midst of planning an adventure to Queensland’s northern tip to get a taste of Torres Strait Islander culture, and having just finished reading renowned Aboriginal author Bruce Pascoe’s latest book, Loving Country: A Guide to Sacred Australia, an Aboriginal-guided tour of the 40,000-year-old fish traps of Brewarrina in central-northern New South Wales is now high on my list.

At times Aboriginal guides are unable to go into more depth about particular Dreaming stories or significant sites for cultural reasons. And with English a second, third or even fourth language for some guides, particularly in remote areas, communication can sometimes be a challenge. But this is all part of the Indigenous Australian cultural experience. I’ve also been lucky to participate in some transformative non-Indigenous Australian tourism experiences in my time, but there’s something incredibly special about exploring Australia with a Traditional Custodian that every traveler should experience at least once. Now, more than ever, the takeaways are invaluable.

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Aboriginal singers the Deadly Nannas perform

Singing group the Deadly Nannas are now teaching the Ngarrindjeri language and culture through song.

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Advocates say criminalising coercive control could have ‘unintended consequences’ for Aboriginal women

Making coercive control a crime could have ‘unintended consequences’ for Aboriginal women unless other change happens first, a women’s violence service says.

Aboriginal women risk being disbelieved or even swept up in the criminal justice system under a proposed domestic violence law gaining national support, advocates representing Indigenous victims say.

Criminalising coercive control – controlling and intimidating behaviour in a relationship – is on the agenda across Australia, including in NSW where a parliamentary committee is looking at the proposal.

But Aboriginal women’s legal service Wirringa Baiya says a new crime could have unintended consequences, and other changes need to happen first.

Indigenous women going to police face “judgmental and stereotypical attitudes”, says Wirringa Baiya’s co-ordinator, Bundjalung woman Christine Robinson.

That means it’s hard for them to persuade officers they’ve been the victims of violence, even though Aboriginal women are the group most at risk of domestic violence.

Tracey Turner, a Bundjalung woman employed by South West Sydney Legal Centre who specialises in working with Aboriginal women affected by domestic and family violence and going through court, says many of her clients wish they’d never called police.

“They’re judged very quickly,” she says.

Wirringa Baiya is concerned Indigenous women reporting coercive control won’t be believed.

“If an Aboriginal woman is … trying to say there’s economic abuse going on, (her partner) may very well say ‘that’s just not true … in fact I’m the sensible, careful one’ and feed into those stereotypes that she’s the one that’s hopeless with money,” principal solicitor Rachael Martin says.

“It’s a common stereotype within the wider community (about) Aboriginal people.”

According to South West Sydney Legal Centre CEO Yvette Vignando: “In situations of coercive control, usually the male has the ability to manipulate people.

“There’s a much higher chance of the police being hoodwinked, for want of a better word, into believing the primary perpetrator is the woman. And when you add onto that the racial bias, there’s an even higher chance of that with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.”

In some cases, women who seek help are wrongly identified as the primary perpetrator and are then themselves subject to an AVO or even criminal charges.

Research by ANROWS CEO Heather Nancarrow shows this is more likely to happen to Indigenous women.

Frontline workers are worried a coercive control crime could lead to more misidentification, ironically harming those the law is designed to help.

“Sometimes (police will) turn up and by then she’s overwhelmed,” Ms Turner says.

“She might come across as angry but she’s not, she’s frustrated because she’s not being heard. A lot of my defendants are (actually) victims.”

The history of the Stolen Generations and ongoing high rates of child removal from Aboriginal parents, also play into the fear of authorities.

“We’ve definitely had clients who’ve not reported many years of violence because of the fear of children being removed,” Ms Martin says.

Threatening to have kids removed is also a form of coercive control partners inflict on Aboriginal women.

Non-Aboriginal partners will also keep Aboriginal women from their country or traditional practices and play down their children’s Aboriginality as a form of control, Ms Robinson says.

Another major fear is their Aboriginal partners will be imprisoned and mistreated or even die in custody.

Neither Wirringa Baiya nor South West Sydney Legal Centre opposes criminalisation of coercive control but both say other reforms have to happen first.

And they want decision-makers to spend more time listening to Aboriginal women as they design reforms.

“You need to go out into communities and speak to our elders, our aunts, our uncles, our sisters and brothers, because we are all affected by this,” Ms Turner says.

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Start-ups collaborate to launch Telehealth service for aboriginal communities

Start-up Practice Innovators Pty Ltd (PII Australia) has joined forces with health management platform Wanngi to launch a private telehealth service to serve Australia’s aboriginal communities.

The service, launched under PII’s GPNow brand, is designed to help communities make better lifestyle choices and improve their quality of life. These services will be delivered through Wanngi’s platform where users will be able to build personal health accounts that will have symptoms, chronic health conditions, medications and immunisations (including COVID-19) uploaded to one secure place.

“Nothing will ever replace face to face consultations with our medical professionals, however, program-based telehealth services such as SCIA (a service PII launched previously for Spinal Cord Injuries Australia) and now Aboriginal services provide a new way to reach out and improve service for community members,” Robert Hicken, Founder & CEO of PII Australia, said.

“One of the benefits of working with a locally-based partner such as Wanngi is the ability to quickly tailor the platform to meet our client’s specific needs.”

Introduced in 2017, Wanngi is a health management platform that creates a personal medical library for its users. The app enables them to store all their details in one secure HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) Compliant online location and export their history to enhance telehealth sessions.

“Our mission at Wanngi is bringing social change within the health industry by giving individuals the control of managing all of their health and fitness information all within one secure and private mobile platform,” Maree Beare, Founder and CEO of Wanngi, said.

“Time is your enemy with sufferers of chronic illness and delivering of update to date health records in a telehealth appointment can save lives,” Beare added. “We are pleased to be working with the GPNow. Our companies work with similar philosophies and it’s an ideal collaboration coming together as a team to create patient-centric solutions which open up care for the most vulnerable.”

Initially working in conjunction with the Project Telehealth Champion, GPNow and Wanngi are aiming to develop the service a culturally sensitive, pragmatic manner to achieve long-term sustainable healthcare outcomes for aboriginal communities, and to “close the gap” between healthcare for aboriginal and non-aboriginal Australians.

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Protestors in Perth call for change three decades after report into Aboriginal deaths in custody

Attendees called on governments to do more.

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Director appointed for National Aboriginal Art Gallery

A Senior Director to lead the delivery of the National Aboriginal Art Gallery has been appointed, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Chansey Paech announced today.

Tracy Puklowski will take up the role on 24 May 2021.

A media release by Mr Paech says Ms Puklowski will be responsible for leading a project team of five officers with various skills across curation, engagement and project management.

She will also provide input into the design of the art gallery; develop content and programming; and engage with stakeholders in Alice Springs, and nationally, to ensure the ongoing success of the gallery, says the release.

Ms Puklowski has extensive knowledge about the arts, museum and culture sectors, demonstrated throughout her career which includes senior roles at museums, libraries and archives across New Zealand and in Australia. 

Most recently, Ms Puklowski has served as the General Manager of Creative Arts and Cultural Services at the City of Launceston, a major portfolio including directing the Queen Victoria Museum and Gallery and developing a ground-breaking cultural strategy for the City of Launceston.

Ms Puklowksi holds a Master of Arts with Honours in Art History, which included studies in Australian Art, and postgraduate qualifications in Museum Studies. In 2009, she was accepted into the highly competitive Museum Leadership Institute program run by the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles.

In a quote attributed to her, Ms Puklowski says: “The events of 2020 reminded us all of the power of art to bring communities together and provide space for healing.

“I commend the Northern Territory Government for having a vision that puts Indigenous art and knowledge at the heart of Mparntwe, and indeed the country.

“The role of arts and culture in promoting better social, cultural, economic and community outcomes, and as a force for truth telling and healing, is something very close to my heart. The opportunity to drive this project is an honour and a privilege.”


Photo at top: screen capture from the NT Government’s promotional video for the gallery project.

Related reading

Government is recruiting for the national Aboriginal art gallery

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Investigation underway into the partial destruction of Aboriginal cultural site

The ancient stone formation in Western Victoria was used to celebrate the life cycle of eels, and is believed to be at least 1500 years old. Sian Johnson reports.

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Neighbours star Meyne Wyatt addresses crowd at Sydney rally demanding justice for Aboriginal people

Former Neighbours star Meyne Wyatt has addressed large crowds at a protest demanding justice for Aboriginal people who have died in custody.

The national day of action comes days before April 15 – which marks 30 years since a Royal Commission handed down more than 330 recommendations into Aboriginal deaths in custody.

“Recommendation after recommendation being ignored completely,” Mr Wyatt chanted at large crowds outside Sydney’s Town Hall on Saturday afternoon.

“You sick of hearing about racism? I’m sick of f**king talking about it,” he yelled.

It comes as actors in the long-running soap Neighbours came forward with allegations of racism on the set of the iconic Australian show.

Aboriginal actor Shareena Clanton was the first actor to make detailed allegations of racism on the series earlier this week.

Production company Fremantle issued a statement in response to the claims.

Thousands of people across Australia attended protests demanding justice for Aboriginal people who have died in custody today.
Camera IconThousands of people across Australia attended protests demanding justice for Aboriginal people who have died in custody today. Credit: David Geraghty/News Corp Australia

“Neighbours strives to be a platform for diversity and inclusion on-screen and off-screen. Our quest is always to continue to grow and develop in this area and we acknowledge that this is an evolving process,” a spokesperson said.

Thousands gathered at meeting points in Alice Springs, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne on Saturday afternoon.

About 1000 people listened to speeches at Parliament House on Spring Street in Melbourne, where federal Indigenous Greens Party senator Lydia Thorpe addressed the crowd.

“You say justice, we say murder,” she chanted to crowds before they then marched through the streets towards Flinders Street Station.

An Aboriginal flag flown at half mast in memory of Prince Phillip at Parliament House in Melbourne was condemned by some people in the large crowd and on social media.

One Twitter user quipped: “The Aboriginal flag being flown at half mast for Prince Philip while Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and allies rally to end Black deaths in custody is all you need to know about this country.”

The nationwide protests on Saturday followed the deaths of five Aboriginal people in custody since March this year.

Australians also took the streets then where Wurundjeri leaders led protests and mourned for Aboriginal lives lost in police custody.

The traditional custodians of the land also expressed solidarity with the US Black Lives Matter movement and the family of George Floyd, who suffocated on a Minneapolis street under the knee of a police officer.

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Name of new Civic Precinct celebrates Aboriginal heritage


The City of Greater Geelong’s new Civic Precinct, including
City offices and surrounding community space, will be known as ‘Wurriki Nyal’ (WUU-ruh-kih
nee-YAHL), Wadawurrung words meaning ‘speak and talk together’.

Developer partner Quintessential Equity also announced the
name of the precinct’s proposed second building would be ‘Ngytan Koriayo’ (nee-YAHT-ern
kohr-ri-AY-yoh), which means ‘look over the water, see all around Corio Bay’,
highlighting the building’s views for visitors and staff. The commercial building
will be funded and owned by Quintessential Equity.

The names come from Wadawurrung language, the original
language of the lands, waters, seas and skies that now include the City of Greater
Geelong, paying tribute to the rich Aboriginal culture and history of the
region. The City and Quintessential Equity have worked closely with Wadawurrung
Traditional Owners in being granted this special use of Wadawurrung language.

Wadawurrung woman, Corrina Eccles, said the level of
collaboration between Traditional Owners and the precinct’s project team was

This is the first
time in the Geelong region that a major project has had such a depth of
collaborative engagement with our People into construction, design, story,
place and language.

Greater Geelong Mayor Stephanie Asher said the name of the new
precinct emphasised the importance of community dialogue and engagement in
civic life.

‘Wurriki Nyal’ is a name that celebrates Greater Geelong’s
strong Aboriginal heritage and symbolises our hopes for the future. It is a wonderfully fitting name and a reminder that lively,
respectful community discourse is at the heart of everything we do as a

We hope the community will embrace the new name and the
celebration of community spirit and togetherness it represents.

Equity Executive Chairman Shane Quinn said the organisation was proud of the
project’s close collaboration with Traditional Owners.

We are
delighted to have worked with Wadawurrung Traditional Owners to ensure that
their legacy lives on and endures through this precinct. There’s
knowledge built up over thousands of years which we hope will be reflected in
this project – from its name, the design and what it represents.

At every
possible stage this project celebrates all things local, and we hope the naming
of the precinct will act as a reminder to the community to take a moment to
honour Aboriginal peoples’ ongoing connection to the land.

Wadawurrung People built structured circles, sometimes
referred to as yarning circles, on country as places of ceremonial business,
gathering and celebration. In acknowledgement of this tradition, the precinct
will incorporate a yarning circle at the heart of its new public space, with
the Wadawurrung name ‘Gayoopanyoon Goopma’ (gye-OO-pahn-yoon GOOP-mah), meaning

The City and Quintessential Equity also released an educational
video featuring artwork by Wadawurrung man, Billy-Jay O’Toole, and animated by
local Geelong studio Pillowfort Creative. The video explores the meaning and
significance of each name and outlines their pronunciation and can be viewed at (direct
link here).

The City’s offices and the
precinct’s new community space are expected to be completed by mid 2022.

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