Australia’s Federal Government has placed its weight and its money (or the taxpayers’ money, to be precise) behind the development of new Aboriginal tourism experiences which should appeal to visitors to Australia.
At Dreamworld on the Gold Coast yesterday morning, Federal Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson announced indigenous tourism grants, including one to help develop the Yolngu Cultural Tourism Masterplan for Arnhem Land and another to help fund the creation of an indigenous tourism experience at Dreamworld.
A showcase of Aboriginal culture and Australian wildlife will be set up on the Gold Coast through a AUD1 million Strategic Tourism Investment Grant (STIG).
Ferguson announced STIG funding for four indigenous tourism projects through the four-year, AUD40 million T-QUAL Grants program.
Gold Coast theme park Dreamworld received a AUD1 million grant to help convert its existing Wildlife Experience into the new Australian Aboriginal Wildlife Experience.
“The STIG funding will support the first of three stages of development that will help visitors engage with the new uniquely Australian experience,” Ferguson said.
“It follows a previous T-QUAL Grant for Dreamworld to conduct a feasibility study and detailed business plan for the project.
“The theme park’s owners have worked closely with local traditional owners who consulted inbound tourism operators, particularly from Asia, to ensure the new attraction meets visitor expectations.
“The development of quality indigenous tourism experiences, such as that being built here in Dreamworld will help ensure Australia’s ongoing competitiveness as a tourism destination.
“As well as showcasing local indigenous culture, indigenous tourism products, even more importantly, provide real job opportunities for local Indigenous Australians and will have flow on benefits for the whole community.”
The Gold Coast attracted over 3.3 million domestic and 740,000 international overnight visitors in the year ending March 2012. The visitors spent about AUD3.6 billion in the region.
Meanwhile, a new study funded through a AUD78,000 STIG will investigate opportunities for indigenous cultural practice and performance. Ferguson announced STIG funding for four indigenous tourism projects through the four-year, AUD40 million T-QUAL Grants program.
The Centre for Tourism, Leisure and Work, at Southern Cross University, received a grant to study investment potential in indigenous experiences.
The project will focus on the feasibility of two key products: ‘Songlines: Indigenous Musical Journeys’ to link festivals and performers into the world music movement; and Nomads Palace to create a travelling performance space for indigenous music and culture.
“This project will enable Australia to more effectively target the international market segment that is interested in world music and bring indigenous music and culture to Australia’s cities and towns,” Ferguson said.
“The STIG funding will allow the centre to investigate the feasibility of creating a network linking festivals with indigenous performers and the world music scene.
“The study will focus on the feasibility of creating a mobile performance space to travel across the country showcasing Indigenous stories, art, dance and song at major festivals and events to broaden the geographic reach of performances.”
Chief executive of the Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) John Lee said the funding would drive tourism demand.
“Aboriginal culture is one of Australia’s key points of difference as a tourism destination,” Lee said, “and one which has not been fully realised.
“The grants announced today will help with the development of unique experiences which will open indigenous culture up to a broader audience.
“The Yolngu people’s proposed plan for Arnhem Land will create economic activity for the region and provide sustainable job opportunities for locals.
“Having a masterplan will ensure there is a variety of authentic activities and experiences on offer, helping to reinforce the Yolngu’s connections with their country and allowing them to build local, indigenous-owned tourism businesses.
“The grant allocated to Dreamworld will give visitors the chance to learn about different indigenous cultures through the interpretive experiences this attraction will deliver.
“Developing indigenous experiences in metropolitan areas provides an opportunity for the majority of international visitors to Australia who do not venture outside the cities.
“It will create interest in those cultures, giving audiences a taste of the ancient rituals which are central to Aboriginal cultures and encouraging future dispersal to regional areas for a truly immersive indigenous experience.”
Edited by Peter Needham