Plan to boost tourism could open up Arnhem Land access
ARNHEM LAND’s Yolngu people may soon allow tourists to visit their traditional homelands for the first time as part of a new tourism plan in the Northern Territory.
Visitors are currently prohibited from accessing the remote region, located in the north east corner of the NT, without a permit.
A small number of cultural tours already exist in Arnhem Land, including the Arnhem Weavers program in the homeland of Mapuru.
A new plan to boost cultural tourism in the region and increase understanding of the 40,000 year old Yolngu cultural system, was unveiled by the Lirrwi Tourism Corporation at the annual Garma Festival on Sunday.
It was revealed that more than 20 Yolngu homelands have put their hands up to be a part of the initiative to increase tourism in the nationally and internationally significant area.
The outline of the plan included gender specific programs, where the men learn to fish with spears and the women are taught about local bush foods, crafts and medicines, under the guidance of Yolngu experts.
Lirrwi Tourism Corporation chairman Djawa “Timmy” Burarrwanga, said the organisation has “a vision to develop as many as 50 new indigenous-owned businesses that will employ up to 1,000 Yolngu people in Arnhem Land [by] 2032”.
Mr Burarrwanga said he had been showing ‘Balanda people’ — the local term for outsiders — which included corporate visitors, to his homeland of Bawaka for years.
“They say it’s a life-changing experience,” he said.
Mr Burarrwanga said locals would also benefit from allowing outsiders to visit their homelands.
“It’s not easy for the homelands to have access to medical services because the areas are so remote,” he said.
“This is a way for our people to gain independence and retain Yolngu life and culture.”
Lirrwi Tourism stated in its report on the plan that it intended to work closely with homelands to tailor programs that would work for the individual Yolngu families involved.
Australian Tourist Commission former managing director John Morse, who advised on the new tourism plan, said it was “not about mass tourism”. “
“This is not about coach-loads of people gawking at communities … this is about Yolngu driving the future for themselves,” he said.
Yolŋu Tourism Masterplan
a new way forward for Arnhem Land
From the Lirrwi Tourism website. Download the full version of the Masterplan by clicking here.
The Yolŋu people have taken a bold decision to create a new economy across Arnhem Land though an ambitious and long-term plan to develop cultural tourism, to create employment, economic prosperity, and to stay connected to country and culture.
John Morse AM has been engaged by Lirrwi Tourism to provide long term advice on the development the masterplan and Tourism in Arnhem Land. John has spent over 35 years in tourism at regional state and international. He was Managing Director of Tourism Australia until 2001, where he was recognised internationally for his work in promoting australia through the 2000 Sydney Olympics. and has sinced worked with Aboriginal communities across Australia including Kakadu National Park, Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park and Victoria. John is no stranger to Arnhem Land and has had a long connection with Yolŋu people. he has been instrumental in creating Partnerships with the corporate sector, and forging a long term strategy for tourism in Arnhem Land .
The development of the Tourism Masterplan has been under consideration for a number of years. Many small businesses have already commenced operation, however the objective is to create up to 50 sustainable new enterprises over the next decade or so, to deliver high quality, low impact cultural tourism to a global audience. Arnhem Land will be known throughout Australia and internationally as the place of choice to have an extraordinary experience connecting with the world’s oldest, continuous living culture.
The Yolŋu people understand the opportunity and the challenges, and are driven by a passion to share their rich culture, and create a platform for future generations to operate successful businesses. They also recognise the importance of genuine partnerships, with mutual commitment and mutual benefit. This recognition is very much within the context of achieving Yolŋu empowerment and providing strong leadership.
The Masterplan is a new way forward, ambitious and yet achievable, with appropriate support from the private and public sectors. The plan identifies the opportunity, explains the vision of the Yolŋu people and provides a relevant case study It identifies a new model for destination development and provides a scope outline, and draft budgets for three years. Most importantly it seeks support from a wide range of corporate, government and philanthropic organisations to participate in this exciting new opportunity.
A better social and economic future for all Yolŋu people through sharing our culture with visitors to our country: Arnhem Land – Yolŋu Land.
- Create one of the world’s most exciting Indigenous cultural tourism destinations by welcoming visitors to Arnhem Land through well-managed low-impact tourism.
- Develop up to 50 new businesses, employing up to 1,000 Yolŋu people in Arnhem Land by 2032.
- Increase current visitor nights to 3,000 and revenue to $1 million by 2017 and thereafter achieve an annual increase of 10 per cent per annum in visitor nights and 5 per cent increase in visitor spend up until 2032. This will mean that by 2032, a sustainable target of 14,000 visitor nights per annum with a total spend of around $10 million will have been achieved.
- Establish Lirrwi Yolŋu Tourism Aboriginal Corporation as the organisation that leads development of Indigenous tourism in Arnhem Land.
Our Strategic Direction
The Tourism Masterplan covers seven key strategic areas:
- Building strong foundations
- Partnerships for success
- Community consultation
- Homelands destination development
- Tour development
- Training and learning
- Promoting Arnhem Land
Each of these strategic areas has a powerful common denominator. They have all been developed the Yolŋu way, with Yolŋu thinking and Yolŋu values at the front and centre of each strategy. This Yolŋu leadership and approach is strengthened considerably by the support and guidance of a large number of non-Indigenous individuals and organisations, who have given freely of their time, their wisdom and their knowledge.
Arnhem Land unquestionably has the potential to deliver an exciting new dimension for Australian tourism in the next 10 to 20 years (and beyond) and has many natural and cultural values that will resonate with people searching for more meaningful travel experiences. Australia is in some need of new tourism destinations and experiences that will generate international and domestic visitor interest and excitement, in the same way that the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru did back in the 1980s and ’90s.
The Tourism Masterplan will eventually encompass the whole of Arnhem Land and ideally link with Kakadu National Park and Nitmiluk National Park. The aim is to create a destination that provides extraordinary and diverse Aboriginal experiences and to develop global recognition of and desire to visit and experience the world’s oldest continuous living culture.