I have a favour to ask. I’d like to make a call to action – for all Australians. I have a simple task I urge you to consider. That is, to travel the land down under.
Often we are too quick to fly abroad for our vacations, whether it be; to relax, to indulge or be conversant with a new culture. A new culture that intrigues, inspires and invokes connection at the sight of adversity – when all along we’ve had those same cultural intricacies under our noses this whole time.
I genuinely believe there is a disconnect between Australian traveler and indigenous land. Not enough of us see the value in traveling locally. “Too expensive, not exotic enough, not my idea of a holiday” – the excuses are endless – but what I can’t understand is why these excuses exist at all. Australia is a remarkable country – see it.
The problem lies, in my opinion in an overly marketed ideal of where Australians should travel. Living in Sydney it appears Byron Bay is where you’ve either just been or where you’re just about to go. This is mass tourism at it’s core – and not only does it exhaust small businesses, more pressingly, it limits the exposure on our experiences… because… and I hate to tell you…they are the exact same as everyone else’s.
When we plan our holidays domestically, we tend to not think about indigenous connections, because a) most people have never had one and b) it’s not on our radar to want or need this connection because they’re just like me, right? Marketing plays a large part, education second.
This is important because, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples comprise only about 3% of Australia’s total population, non-Indigenous Australians can live their lives with little cultural interaction.
Source: The Conversation
It needn’t be that the stereotypical Indigenous connection come from a face-painted tribal dancing and didgeridoo playing, there is much more to explore. We’ve been ignorant to believe our first nations people were much more than simple hunter gather. They were fishermen (and women!!), they were farmers, engineers and traders all upstanding with the laws of indigenous elders jurisdiction.
Australia’s original inhabitants are carving out a unique niche in the tourism industry, but it’s up to us to go and see it, rather than lean on our foreign tourists to see it for us.
In an Australian industry struggling for a marketing identity, surely indigenous Australia is seen as a strong point. There is much to see in Arnhem Land, the Kimberley and Central Australia with many diverse perspectives.
Each one of these language groups is almost a different culture, in a sense. You drive 400 kilometres in Europe and you go through ten languages – here, you do that in the desert. Each with their own beliefs and ideas on how the place was created. There’s an amazing sense of sustainability where people have lived here for so long and not destroyed anything.
The obvious positive outcome that Indigenous tourism can offer is opportunities to cultivate reconciliation. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people use tourism to bridge the cultural divide and create better futures by sharing culture, knowledge and history.
There is a long history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement with travel and tourism. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been traveling between each others nations for millennia, sharing culture and ceremonies. Side note: Ever wondered why your emcee acknowledges indigenous land before your interstate meeting – that’s why! To acknowledge the nation whose land you have entered on your travels.
But hey, if you’ve already booked your travels for 2019 internationally, these are some pretty amazing things to know about our Indigenous folk:
- Before colonisation it was said that there were 250 Aboriginal languages spoken across Australia.
- Indigenous Australian culture has been recorded the longest culture surviving the world (how remarkable is that!!). There are traces that Aboriginal people inhabited the land 120 000 years back and cleared the land using fire.
- Aboriginals do not have their own written language. Hence the most important stories regarding the people’s culture are based on symbols or traditional icons and artwork, which work hand on hand with song or dance, recounted stories, to effectively pass valuable information and keep their culture. Permission to share these stories is paramount.
So, if you’re looking to book a meaningful experience, look out to see if your tour operator is ROC certified. ROC certification stands for: Respecting Our Culture. You can book an abundance of ethical, sustainable and ROC certified experiences through EcoTourism. Then click on ‘Find an eco experience’ and away you go!
We have so much history to appreciate and learn from rather than just the last 200 years. All I can hope for is more education, more understanding and more appreciation to a culture older than any other in the world. How can we ignore how AMAZING that is – and it’s right here.
As much as I hate to quote Mr Rudd, I do tend to agree that “…there comes a time in the history of nations when their peoples must become fully reconciled to their past if they are to go forward with confidence to embrace their future.”
So get out there – see if for yourself. Don’t put it off, this country of ours is indeed magnificent. The more you connect with the land, the more we can move forward together and connect with our traditional custodians.
Enjoy and safe travel xo