Aboriginal tourism providers are optimistic about a new state government approach to selling indigenous culture and attractions.
Damein Bell, chief executive for the Heywood-based Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Cor-poration, said the release of the strategy was particularly timely to support the efforts to gain World Heritage status for the Budj Bim landscape around Mount Eccles, Lake Condah and Tyrendarra.
The Budj Bim landscape covers an extensive aquaculture system developed by the Gunditjmara people to harvest eels and has already been granted National Heritage status.
Mr Bell said he hoped other south-west Aboriginal tourism experiences such as Tower Hill and the Grampians would also benefit from the new tourism strategy.
“I hope it leads to more investment that brings Aboriginal tourism and broader tourism together,” he said.
Mr Bell said he was also excited about the plan’s focus to lift the profile of Aboriginal cultural offerings in Melbourne and regional Victoria so tourists were aware they did not have to go to outback Australia to experience a vibrant Aboriginal arts culture.
The Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) called on the state government “to attach funding to the strategy to ensure real results are achieved”.
VTIC chief executive Dianne Smith said there had been limited government support for indigenous tourism and the strategy was “long-awaited.”
State tourism minister Louise Asher said the 10-year strategy aimed to grow Victoria’s share of Australia’s Aboriginal tourism market that presently attracted 703,000 visitors annually.
The strategy seeks to showcase the quality, diversity and accessibility of the state’s Aboriginal tourism product to a global audience.
Ms Asher said the strategy, which has been developed following consultation with the state’s Aboriginal tourism industry and key stakeholders, advocated a collaborative approach that maximised opportunities for local tourism operators and offers products that appeal to international and domestic visitors.
“The strategy contains actions to realise the potential of Victoria’s distinctive suite of Aboriginal cultural experiences, which include Worn Gundidj Visitor Centre at Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, the Aboriginal Heritage Walk at Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, and the recently opened First Peoples exhibition at Melbourne Museum.”