Words: Tracey Diddams

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for Indigenous tourism. Cultural obligations, responsibilities, protocols, values, traditions and levels of desired involvement will vary.

With greater conversations, education delivered in schools and commitments to ‘Closing the Gap’, we are seeing an increase in visitors wanting to learn more about the world’s oldest living cultures. The desire to connect with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is evident, with Tourism Australia reporting a participation growth in Aboriginal tourism experiences of 40% over the past 10 years. This now equates to around 1.5 million visitors annually engaging in an ‘Aboriginal tourism experience.’ Of all the 317,653 tourism businesses across Australia, only 500 of them are recognised as Indigenous owned tourism businesses.

Visitor surveys across each State and Territory have also demonstrated clear demand from visitors with over 80% keen to engage with an Aboriginal Tourism experience. This demand is not being met however, with less than 20% actually participating in such an experience during their travel. Many destinations are also realizing that the culture of a place is what truly defines our identity and makes us unique.

And support is growing:

  • The Indigenous Tourism Fund currently offered by the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) has $12 million available to grow, invest and develop Indigenous and community owned tourism businesses. Further funding is available for nation-wide mentoring programs and State-based strategic projects boosting Indigenous tourism.
  • Aboriginal Tourism Strategies and Action Plans can be found across the jurisdictions, with substantial funding commitments made to support the empowerment of Aboriginal people and communities in sharing culture.
  • The formation of several Aboriginal Tourism Operator Groups representing Indigenous tourism operators and affiliated partners supporting growth in Aboriginal tourism. A National Indigenous Tourism Advisory Group has also recently been formed.

To leverage from this support, TRC is currently working with a range of Aboriginal tourism business owners, Land Councils, Aboriginal Corporations, Regional Economic Development bodies and Local Governments across Australia on understanding existing Aboriginal tourism products and experiences, learning about aspirations, working through capabilities and identifying gaps and opportunities. A gap we have identified is the capacity to develop business plans to drive aspirations forward, monitor and measure success and attract investment. We work side-by-side with each of our clients on their individual business planning journey, resulting in a plan that is desired, driven and owned by them.

We respect that tourism also comes in all shapes and forms, with varying cultural knowledge, passions, obligations and levels of involvement. Fundamentally it comes down to the ability to mentor and pass culture onto future generations, reconciliation through education and tourism as a mechanism to generate economic, cultural and community benefits.

Interested in learning more?

The below resources provide further details about the type of support currently on offer across Australia. TRC can also provide advice on available opportunities and help you along your Aboriginal tourism journey, whether it is starting out or expanding. For more details on how we can tailor an approach to suit you and to view some of our past projects, see our TRC Indigenous Tourism Profile.

Indigenous tourism needs to be done from an Indigenist perspective – desired, driven and owned by Indigenous people.

State and Territory Government Aboriginal Tourism Resources

Jina: Western Australian Aboriginal Tourism Action Plan 2021-2025

The South Australian Tourism Commission Aboriginal Tourism Action Plan 2025

The Northern Territory Aboriginal Tourism Strategy 2020-2030

Queensland First Nations Tourism Plan 2020-2025

NSW Aboriginal Tourism Action Plan 2017 – 2020

Victorian Aboriginal Economic Strategy 2013-2023 (incorporating tourism)

Tourism Australia – Discover Aboriginal Experiences

Aboriginal Tourism Organisations

Western Australian Indigenous Tourism Operators Council (WAITOC)

NT Aboriginal Tourism Committee

NSW Aboriginal Tourism Operators Council (NATOC)