The Yolngu people of Arnhem Land are embarking on a plan to create thriving Indigenous-owned tourism businesses across Australia’s Top End, boosted today with the announcement of a Federal Government grant of $825,000.
The Yolngu Cultural Tourism Masterplan is the first of its kind in Australia and aims to develop new tourism opportunities for businesses owned and operated by Indigenous people. Launched by the Minister for Tourism, the Hon Martin Ferguson, and the Chairman of the Lirrwi Yolngu Tourism Aboriginal Corporation, Djawa Murrmurrnga (Timmy) Burarrwanga, the Masterplan strives to create sustainable employment and lasting economic benefits for Yolngu people throughout Arnhem Land.
Mr Burarrwanga, a Gumatj man from Yirrkala in North East Arnhem Land, who established Lirrwi Tourism and created a long-term vision based on Aboriginal leadership has developed the Masterplan.
“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 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 said the Masterplan was a new model for Indigenous economic development, based on the principles of Aboriginal leadership, empowerment, continuity, respect for culture and responsibility. It would draw from the experience of the most qualified people in Australia to help build sustainable businesses.
An Expert Panel of high-profile people is being formed to provide direction and advice to the development of the Masterplan. This will be led by Yolngu Elder from Elcho Island, Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM, along with Tourism Australia Chairman Geoff Dixon, tourism industry leader Bill Wright, Head of Tourism Division at the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (RET) Jane Madden, and prominent Melbourne academic and cultural advisor Andrea Hull AO.
“The enthusiasm and support for the Masterplan indicates a very strong will by the Government and the corporate sector to listen to the voices of Aboriginal people and help make a significant difference to their economic and cultural future,” Mr Morse said. “This potentially has significant implications for Aboriginal people across Australia who see tourism as a new way forward.”
“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.
“Arnhem Land will never be a mass tourism destination, but it will be important in building Australia’s image around the world and creating a new future for the Yolngu people.”