Tourists are spreading their wings.
Where once the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef were enough to tick off Australia, now industry experts say that foreign visitors are increasingly looking inland to areas like the Northern Tablelands – and looking, particularly, to the land’s Aboriginal heritage.
It’s prompted a new course at the TAFEs in Glen Innes, Inverell and Armidale.
The aim is to offer Aboriginal students the skills to tap this growing market as guides or entrepreneurs.
Northern Tablelands MP, Adam Marshall, (who is the state’s minister for TAFE) said: “Aboriginal students and business owners have a unique opportunity to build a thriving cultural tourism industry in northern NSW and beyond.
“Students will be equipped with the skills, knowledge and cultural protocols to begin their careers in tourism, lead their own groups and tours, or even establish new businesses in Aboriginal cultural tourism.”
The course has been developed by TAFE NSW in consultation with local Aboriginal Lands Councils and cultural tourism operators.
It’s being given face-to-face in all three centres, but with an element of remote teaching through the new “Connected Learning Centres”.
Tamworth cultural consultant, Len Waters, who runs Aboriginal Cultural Tours in Northern NSW, was instrumental in the design of the course and identifying the most suitable units of study.
“Many of our community are not suited to or competitive in the local tourism labour market. This course will bring new opportunities to our people who want to showcase our culture and generate employment in a growing industry,” Mr Waters said.
“My own emphasis is to generate cultural tourism hubs throughout NSW and connect more students to employers and tourism operators.”
Armidale Local Aboriginal Council chief executive, Tom Briggs, told Mr Marshall the Cultural Tourism course would help in provide expert advice and support to his Local Aboriginal Land Council members.
He said: “There are many spectacular tourism sites and traditional walking trails across the Northern Tablelands that we as Aboriginals want to explore and make available for our Members and the broader community.”
According to Mr Marshall’s office, one of the students, Clive Ahoy, welcomed the course as a vital and valuable tool to help his career.
“I became a tour guide Discovery Ranger with NSW National Parks about 20 years ago,” he said.
The Cultural Tourism course and Aboriginal Languages through TAFE will skill me up for tourism industry. I will be able to do tours with my own business.”
According to Destination NSW, “In the year ending September 2016, visitors to New South Wales who engaged in an Aboriginal experiences spent a total of $1.141 billion during their time in the State.
“A total of 394,000 domestic and international visitors participated in an Aboriginal cultural tourism experience in New South Wales an increase of 50 per cent on the previous year.”