Arnhem Land Forges New Era in Aboriginal Tourism

The plan launched by the Minister for Tourism, the Hon Martin Ferguson, and the Chairman of the Lirrwi Yolngu Tourism Aboriginal Corporation, Djawa Murrmurrnga (Timmy) Burarrwanga, aims to create sustainable employment and lasting economic benefits for Yolngu people throughout Arnhem Land.

“We have been sharing our culture with visitors for many years, but we now want to move to the next stage and create a new economy based on cultural tourism in Arnhem Land,” Mr Burarrwanga said. “We want to introduce people from Australia and all over the world to our country, our dance, our music, our ceremonies, our art and our unique way of life.”

“During the next 20 years we will see the creation of many new small businesses which our children will inherit,” he said. “This will help us stay connected to our homelands and our culture, creating employment for hundreds of Yolngu people while providing life-changing experiences for our visitors.”

The Masterplan has been developed with the support of a former Managing Director of the Australian Tourist Commission (now Tourism Australia), Mr John Morse AM, who has been visiting Arnhem Land for many years.

“The Yolngu people have an extraordinary vision and want to share their knowledge, culture and homelands with the outside world,” Mr Morse said. “The potential is very exciting and stands to benefit not just the Yolngu people but also the wider Australian tourism industry.”

Mr Morse has been engaged by Lirrwi Tourism to manage the Masterplan and said the fundamentals were already in place, with excellent air connections, a strong and well-respected tourism organisation and a unique long-term strategy to develop tourism.

“Arnhem Land is a place of great natural beauty, with islands, beaches, river systems and a unique way of life that can’t be found in other parts of the world,” Mr Morse said. “Imagine a network of small cultural tourism camps dotted across Arnhem Land and it’s very easy to see how exciting this concept is.”

Mr Morse said the Masterplan was in part inspired by successful African safari camps managed by Indigenous communities in Botswana. It would benefit from strong interest in Indigenous culture in several of Australia’s traditional tourism markets like Germany and the United States, as well as in emerging markets in Asia and the large Australian domestic market.

The full Yolngu Cultural Tourism Masterplan proposal can be downloaded from the following link:

Photograph credit: Wayne Quilliam Photography/Yothu Yindi Foundation. Yolngu people preparing for traditional ceremonies at the 2011 Garma Festival in Arnhem Land.

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