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Aboriginal custodians start charging cruise tourists

August 22, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

To the concern of tour operators, an Aboriginal group in Western Australia’s far north has started charging cruise ship passengers to visit coastal spots like waterfalls and rock art caves.

The Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation (WGAC) is phasing in the fee, charging cruise and charter boat operators a one-off AUD 200 impost per berth during the current tourist season, a report on ABC News says.

The fee allows passengers multiple visits to the tourist sites. The charge is due to rise to AUD 152 per visitor (rather than per berth) by 2019, the report said, and it will be an added extra fee – charged on top of the existing fees cruise operators charge to travel to the sites.

The Wunambal Gaambera people, traditional owners of the land, say the money will be reinvested in activities like keeping cultural sites tidy and protected and conveying local people to remote sites to greet tourists.

Aboriginal art. Bradshaw Rock Paintings

“If you’re going to another people’s country, you got to pay, that’s the same with us,” WGAC chair Catherine Goonack told the broadcaster.

“It’s mainly to support our [Uunguu] rangers and help the traditional owners go out on country to protect areas … and to welcome tourists too, so they can see the rangers talk about the country and the area they’re in.”

As Kimberley cruises grow in popularity and their fame spreads globally, international tourists are prepared to pay thousands of dollars to view coastal art sites inaccessible by road.

“If it’s Aboriginal land, you need permission to be on Aboriginal land, it’s a simple as that,” Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion told the ABC.

“If cruise companies want to access this fantastic cultural opportunity that their tourists wish to see, then they have to come to some negotiated arrangement.”

Smaller cruise companies are concerned the move may lead to multiple fee systems being introduced, forcing companies and tourists to pay up to six native title groups along the Kimberley coast if they want to see the sites.

Written by Peter Needham

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