Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures make up the essence of Australia. With more than 260 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations, Indigenous peoples are said to have inhabited Australia for more than 60,000 years leaving a vast legacy full of untold stories and fascinating history.
Revolutionary new Australian Aboriginal tourism initiative Welcome to Country have recently launched an online marketplace to discover and book Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences across Australia. This comes at a pinnacle time for Australia’s tourism industry after billions of dollars in losses caused by the summer bushfires and COVID-19 travel restrictions. As Australia eases regional travel restrictions the Government is encouraging national travel, and so comes the opportunity to leverage tourism to increase the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander economy and create jobs.
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Tourism is one of the few industries in which jobs and economic outcomes could be achieved wherever Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are located, from cities to remote regions of Australia. If sustainable tourism is practised it has the potential to provide an economic boost for local tourism operators.Tourism is one of the few industries in which jobs and economic outcomes could be achieved wherever Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are located, from cities to remote regions of Australia. Click To Tweet
The idea for the Welcome to Country marketplace came from Roger Allen AM, a philanthropist with a passion for working with early-stage Indigenous businesses. Mr Allen said he was excited to see the realisation of a long-held ambition to make the range of Aboriginal tourism experiences more readily accessible to travellers from Australia and overseas, as well as residents keen to know more about their local history.
“My primary motivation over the past decade has been to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities gain self-sufficiency and self-determination by starting and growing their own businesses. Welcome to Country is that vehicle,” Mr Allen said. “Rather than focusing on a single business, I wanted to find a way to help many and grow the entire sector”.
Northern Territory Indigenous Tours Managing Director Tess Atie was one of the first operators to feature its Aboriginal tours on the marketplace. “We are excited to expand our business through Welcome to Country and to be working as part of a supportive community,” Ms Atie said.
The term ‘Welcome to Country’ itself is derived from an ancient Indigenous tradition that was practised when one Indigenous community sought permission to enter another clan’s traditional land. Today, Welcome to Country ceremonies have evolved as a way of acknowledging and paying respect to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owners of the land. The presence of the marketplace helps visitors recognise and acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Australia while becoming immersed in their rich culture. From one-day special interest cultural tours including basket weaving, painting and walks to longer journeys on Country, users can access experiences in New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia and virtually.
For a full list of travel experiences visit https://www.welcometocountry.com/
I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.