WWF-Australia & Kimberley Land Council
Australia’s Kimberley Coast has become a global tourism hot-spot, yet many local Aboriginal communities in the area face high levels of poverty, are disconnected from the tourism industry, and receive few, if any, benefits from the industry.
The Kimberley Coast, located in the northernmost section of Western Australia, is roughly twice the size of England
Tourism has the potential to bring significant advantages to the local communities, however, if not managed sustainably, it can also have a very negative impact. Meaningful Aboriginal participation in the tourism industry is key.
AAT Kings and TreadRight, in cooperation with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia and the Kimberley Land Council, worked to develop community-based tourism initiatives in Australia’s Kimberley Coast.
The aim was to develop Indigenous owned and managed businesses in the Kimberley region while ensuring protection of the environment, seeking to foster Indigenous participation in Kimberley tourism and contribute to long-term goals for sustainable tourism that respects the cultural and natural assets of the region.
Among the outcomes of the three year project was the establishment of indigenous cultural awareness tourism programs by the Bardi Jawi people.
A full day cultural awareness experience was developed involving Bardi Jawi rangers and cultural elders engaging with tourism operators. The Bardi Jawi people showcase to visitors the Bardi Jawi seafaring culture and history, and also explain their current roles as land managers, looking after country.
Increasing knowledge of the tourism industry for the Indigenous community has been key to the program’s success. This has been done through Indigenous tourism knowledge exchanges and tourism training. Building these skills support Aboriginal groups to better manage the existing tourism in the region and develop solutions for greater economic involvement in the industry.
The program provides ongoing assistance to the Bardi Jawi rangers to review and improve the group’s cultural awareness products, as well as to add value to their product through producing brochures and other learning tools.
In 2011, the program was awarded the Western Australia Coastal Award for Excellence in recognition of an exceptional contribution to protecting the environment. The Bardi Jawi model has become an example for other Aboriginal groups wishing to develop their own cultural awareness product through the project.