Dreamtime by Rhonda Appo
Apologies for not posting, it has been a crazy month for Indigenous tourism in Queensland. That means, it has been a busy month of travel for me with barely a moment to tap my keyboard!
I was lucky enough to attend the Australian Indigenous Tourism Conference in Lorne from 30 October to 1 November. The Australian Indigenous Tourism Conference is hosted by the Western Australian Indigenous Tourism Operators Council. This year’s theme was ‘Entrepreneurship – from little things big things grow’. There could not be a more accurate reflection of my time at this conference.
The speakers were a strong mix of operators. It was of course amazing to hear from our very own Jacob Cassady who spoke about diversifying land from a cattle station to an incredible experience that tells the story of how people lived on the land for thousands of years and countless generations. Another fascinating presentation was from Morris Goding about accessibility and universal design for Indigenous tourism. A sector so focused on our natural landscapes often presents challenges in creating an accessible opportunity. As we continue to grow the sector, as the population ages and as we see a growth in entire family travel from China we are going to need to pay more attention to the design and structure of the experiences we offer. A valuable learning here.
But for me these sessions were just the start. The most important connections occurred outside of the theatre sessions. It was the sharing of stories and the side conversations that added the most value to this event for me. I’m always astounded by the lengths that we go to make a connection, to find the link in our stories. There has to be something in this! We are all tied in some way, there is no ego, no competition, just a real journey in finding where we link up and where the common threads are. This adds a real strength to our community. The sense of belonging, warmth and being wanted allows you to feel at home in any conversation, builds networks and relationships that go beyond a single chat and create pathways to a stronger outcome for us all. You don’t get networking like this everywhere, it really makes a difference!
Once you have found your link new friends open up with some incredible stories. One the most memorable moments for me in Lorne was when I sat with a gentleman from the most western tip of Australia, we were just sitting in a cultural centre having a chat He looked up on the wall and saw a shield from his country. To me this was not unlike any other shield, there were to the naked eye no distinctive marks that led me to know where it was from. So I had to ask, how do you know? He pulled the shield off the wall and pointed to the markings and etchings on the wood. To me I could still not tell the difference. Then he pointed it out. The etchings in the shield were a map of his country. Marked perfectly, a birds-eye view of the most westerly point and the rivers that flow through his land. This wasn’t just a shield this was a perfectly carved map of his country. He then shared stories of his country and the life of his ancestors. Memories like this can’t be brought. A chance meeting at a conference that led to such insight.
Our stories really do set us apart!