Tourism is more than an economy
Tourism is a process of re-creation, a process of spending time building or re-building relationships with ourselves, our family and friends and the loved ones we travel with. The real secret though is that it’s really a process of relationship building with the places we visit – the landscapes we move through.
That relationship with the country is at the heart of how Indigenous Australians understand this landscape and it’s at the heart of how we relate to this country. Our nation’s tourism strategies have always centred on experiences and attractions linked to the land and sea and the underlying culture of this country. It is why we know that all Tourism in this country, is at its heart, Indigenous Tourism.
And so it should be. Every beach, desert or forest vista, the very biodiversity, and ecological wonders that we appreciate and share as a tourism experience, is the direct product of Aboriginal management. As the world’s oldest continuous culture, our people have lived through time measured on a geological scale. We have nurtured the land, carved story in it, sung and danced and cared for every inch of its vast landscape over the life of our 100,000 year culture. We proudly live with the responsibility of being the world’s first and best sustainable, experiential travellers – and we want others to enjoy it too. It is our responsibility as custodians of this landscape to help everyone - all visitors - to come into proper relationship with this land. As I am sure you’ve experienced yourself, it’s only when that happens that the true act of relaxing, re-building and re-creating can begin.
Our culture is still alive, this land is still alive, and it is still loved as unceded Aboriginal land – and we want to share it with you. Which is why THRIVE 2030 is an important first step in that journey. It is a first step because it necessarily focuses on urgent economic initiatives to help us all respond to the challenges in the post pandemic environment – but it cannot stop there.
A future strategy must centre Indigenous landscape, Indigenous voice and Indigenous leadership. Not because it will close a gap but because it is the best way to build a relationship to the landscape and generate a successful, authentically Australian, tourism economy.
These are not my words but the words of generations of responsibility before me and I pay my respect to the elders (past and present) of the lands on which THRIVE 2030 was conceived, the lands from which contributions to this strategy have emerged, and the land on which you are engaging with Austrade now. I honour their stories about this land, its attractions and wonders and truths, and acknowledge that all of us are only here today because of the sacrifice and curatorial responsibility they carried and continue to carry for these places. Wherever you travel and visit in this country, that place is held in Aboriginal responsibility and that land was never ceded.
I also want to acknowledge any Aboriginal brothers and sisters and elders who pick this up because we shared our stories to build this idea and we share responsibility across the entire nation. This needs to be the start of a conversation about reimagining tourism in this country and we all need to be at the centre of that. Marrungbu.