The Yolngu people of Arnhem Land are embarking on a bold plan to create thriving Indigenous-owned tourism businesses across Australia’s spectacular Top End, boosted with the announcement of a Federal Government grant of A$825,000.
The Yolngu Cultural Tourism Masterplan is the first of its kind in Australia and aims to develop new tourism opportunities for businesses owned and operated by Indigenous people. Launched by the Minister for Tourism, the Hon Martin Ferguson, and the Chairman of the Lirrwi Yolngu Tourism Aboriginal Corporation, Djawa Murrmurrnga (Timmy) Burarrwanga, the Masterplan aims to create sustainable employment and lasting economic benefits for Yolngu people throughout Arnhem Land.
It has been developed by Mr Burarrwanga, a Gumatj man from Yirrkala in North East Arnhem Land, who established Lirrwi Tourism and created a long-term vision based on Aboriginal leadership.
“We have been sharing our culture with visitors for many years, but we now want to move to the next stage and create a new economy based on cultural tourism in Arnhem Land,” Mr Burarrwanga said. “We want to introduce people from Australia and all over the world to our country, our dance, our music, our ceremonies, our art and our unique way of life.”
“During the next 20 years we will see the creation of many new small businesses which our children will inherit,” he said. “This will help us stay connected to our homelands and our culture, creating employment for hundreds of Yolngu people while providing life-changing experiences for our visitors.”
The Masterplan has been developed with the support of a former Managing Director of the Australian Tourist Commission (now Tourism Australia), Mr John Morse AM, who has been visiting Arnhem Land for many years.
“The Yolngu people have an extraordinary vision and want to share their knowledge, culture and homelands with the outside world,” Mr Morse said. “The potential is very exciting and stands to benefit not just the Yolngu people but also the wider Australian tourism industry.”
Mr Morse said the Masterplan was a new model for Indigenous economic development, based on the principles of Aboriginal leadership, empowerment, continuity, respect for culture and responsibility. It would draw from the experience of the most qualified people in Australia to help build sustainable businesses.