New tourism plan to open up remote indigenous areas in the Northern Territory
A new tourism plan in Australia's Northern Territory is looking to not only open up remote indigenous areas to tourists, but also aims to encourage economic independence.
Arnhem Land, the traditional place of residence for Yolngu families, has largely been closed to tourists without a permit in recent decades. The only outsiders who currently gain a glimpse into the local community are those who do so through the few cultural tours available, such as the Arnhem Weavers scheme. This all occurs even though Arnhem Land is actually one of the biggest and most remote Aboriginal reserves in the world, bordered by the Gulf of Carpentaria and spanning Kakadu National Park (pictured below).
However, not-for-profit organisation Lirrwi Tourism has outlined a new ethical tourism plan that will boost cultural tourism in the area, that seems to have the backing of the local Indigenous community. Over 20 Yolngu homelands have showed an interest, probably because the scheme places a particular focus on communities being able to stay where they are so that they eventually become economically independent. If successful, trips will be split into male and female-centric visits, where Yolngu experts will teach men how to make, and fish with, spears, while women will learn further about bush foods, local crafts and medicines.
Lirrwi Tourism Chairman Djawa Burarrwanga explains "we have a vision to develop as many as 50 new Indigenous-owned businesses that will employ up to 1,000 Yolngu people in Arnhem Land by 2032."
Through further transparency, the homelands will be able to have access to medical services, develop cultural understanding, and have a chance to promote its art and music scene, which boasts performers such as Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu and the Chooky Dancers.
Commenting on the program to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Tourism Australia Managing Director John O’Sullivan explained “Australia has the oldest living culture of anywhere in the world and our Indigenous tourism operators are the critical connection to sharing the story of our cultural heritage with international visitors during their travels in our country.
"Initiatives such as those by Lirriwi Tourism and our own already successful Indigenous Tourism Champions Program provide a platform promoting what is unique and special about our country, whilst also providing significant social and economic benefits to Indigenous communities."
All of this comes as part of the wider Yolngu Tourism Masterplan, which combines land ownership of indigenous groups with guidance from business and government leaders. This revolutionary concept looks at Aboriginal groups working with global corporations to further develop their understanding of using the resources they have and translating it into capital. Looking to create high-value destinations that not only promote Australia but also help to develop national identity, this scheme is only the beginning.
The Yolngu tribes have been amicable enough in the past to give outsiders a glimpse into their everyday lives. The annual Garma Festival has been taking place in the north-east for the past 16 years, with a four-day program of events and discussions on to highlight what is affecting the Aboriginal community.
Every year sees over 800 tents set up camp in the Gulkula area, as visitors enjoy traditional bunggal dances, manikay songs, storytelling and educational seminars.
This year, in particular, there was a focus on 'responsibility, reform, recognition', in conjunction with the opening of a new Garma Knowledge Centre. And with the likes of the former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Federal Labor opposition leader Bill Shorten being present at the event, awareness and closing in the gaps has never been more important.
Increased tourism in the region will help to increase Western understanding of a complex cultural system that has existed for the past 40,000 years. This mostly pristine area of Australia is primarily home to this population, which speaks in various Yolngu languages and has managed to maintain a traditional method of life for itself.
However, critics suggest that the scheme is just a means to increase sector revenues, fearing increased visitor numbers will only end up disrupting the wider environment.
Debate around this issue is sure to continue, but with Lirrwi hoping to start operating tours later this year, it seems as though there is not much time for multiple perspectives to be heard. It seems as though, for now, the world of the Yolngu is about to be unveiled to those curious to find a new unspoiled patch of land.
For more information go to www.lirrwitourism.com.au
Click here to read the original article on the World Travel & Tourism Council website.
29th January 2015 - NEW COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP TO DEVELOP SMALL GROUP TOURISM IN OLKOLA NATIONAL PARK
18th November 2014 - CONSERVATIONISTS CALL FOR ACTION IN KAKADU
28th March 2012 - INAUGURAL INDIGENOUS TOURISM CONFERENCE STARTS
22nd March 2012 - NEW NATIONAL PARK FOR NORTHERN TERRITORY
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