Inaugural Indigenous Tourism Forum

Fifty people gathered on Monday at the Dreamtime Cultural Centre for our inaugural CQ Indigenous Tourism Forum, thanks to collaboration between Capricorn Enterprise, The Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning (DSDMIP), the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships (DATSIP), Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ) and the Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC).

Our collective goal is to explore opportunities for expanded and new Indigenous Tourism experiences by linking our tourism operators with our local Indigenous peoples, to hopefully develop new tourism experiences for the Capricorn region and Southern Great Barrier Reef destination.

Darumbal Elder Uncle George James provided a heartfelt Welcome to Country, explaining that the Nola James Room in which we held the forum, is named after his Aunty!

Kathryn Morton, Experience Development Specialist from TEQ provided an overview of Indigenous Tourism in Queensland over the decades and the opportunities ahead.

2020 has been declared by the Premier as the Year of Indigenous Tourism in Queensland and with our regional forum organised some months ago, the timing has been fortuitous!

Two very inspirational guest speakers provided presentations to our Indigenous Tourism forum and our industry now has networks beyond our local region to reach out for mentoring and advice.

Juan Walker – Walkabout Cultural Adventures (Tropical North Queensland). Juan started WCA about 10 years ago, after being employed as a guide/artist at Daintree Ecolodge. Since starting his business, he has built it up to be one of Queensland’s most successful Aboriginal tourism experiences. He is a 2019 TripAdvisor Hall of Fame recipient, a Best of Queensland Experience, and also one of only eight Queensland businesses featured in Tourism Australia’s Discover Aboriginal Experiences.

Lexene Busbridge – Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre (Gold Coast) . Jellurgal is owned by Kalwun Development Corporation, an Aboriginal corporation located on the Gold Coast. Jellurgal took over the lease on an old QPWS facility and have turned it into a visitor centre. which is a good example on how to transform a physical building into a bigger, more engaging experience for domestic and international visitors.

Lexi expressed that “we are focused on making a million impacts, not a million bucks” and Juan explained that whilst small business is really hard work, that hard work pays off if you are doing what you love and for Juan that is sharing his traditional culture with international and domestic visitors every single day.

When announcing that next year would be dedicated to First Nations experiences in Queensland, in front of over 920 tourism operators at the Queensland Tourism Awards on the Sunshine Coast held a few weeks ago, Minister Kate Jones said “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been proudly practicing and preserving their cultures by sharing it with the next generation for tens of thousands of years.”

Surrounded by a spectacular piece of David Hudson’s Indigenous artwork commissioned for Queensland Tourism Industry Council, First Nations Tourism was central to the evening’s proceedings. Making the announcement, Minister Jones stated, “The worlds longest living culture and it is here, uniquely to us in Queensland. And in 2020 we will be showcasing that to every single person that steps foot into our beautiful state”.

Chief Executive of QTIC, Daniel Gschwind said “we are incredibly excited to see First Nations Tourism recognised as the focus for the first time in 2020. As visitors seek more authentic and engaging experiences there is a so much opportunity to share the rich culture that we have across Queensland”.

“Tourism promotes opportunities not only for our people but also for our planet. We have a lot to learn from First Nations people and their connection to country and culture. Our tourism industry provides stewardship to the environment, protecting and guarding, and taking lead from those who have been doing it for generations.”

QTIC has released a draft of the First Nations Tourism Potential Plan (special acknowledgement to Rhonda Appo, QTIC Indigenous Program Manager) which will complement the Queensland Tourism Plan 2020 to 2035.  Our Capricorn Destination Tourism Plan 2020 to 2035 will have a strong focus on Experience Development, including Indigenous Tourism opportunities.  Private sector Product Development will be key to implementing these planning themes however, so if you know an Indigenous local who has a desire to share their culture but may not know where or how to start, please ask them to contact us and we can connect and support them in their journey!

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