Lirrwi Launches New Tours in Arnhem Land

Lirrwi Tourism will introduce two new tours of Yolŋu homelands this spring, inviting visitors to experience Indigenous traditions and culture as part of a long-term vision for tourism in Arnhem Land.

From September, small groups will be able to travel through remote Arnhem Land and stay with Yolŋu families in their ancestral lands, providing an intimate encounter with the world’s oldest continuous living culture.

Guests will be able to learn first-hand about the customs, skills and ceremonies of the Yolŋu people, while at the same time taking part in practices like fishing, food gathering and crafts. The tours are operated and guided by Yolŋu, providing direct income for communities and a path to future economic independence.

Two new itineraries are available, each catering for between eight and 14 people:

  • Homeland Adventure, Yolŋu Dhukarr – A journey among three different Yolŋu homelands, travelling by air-conditioned 4WD from Nhulunbuy through north-east Arnhem Land. Guests will stay in simple lodge accommodation or camp under the stars, and will be able to learn first-hand about aspects of  Yolŋu life including language, story-telling, art, dance and bush foods. Six nights/seven days. First departure: September 1, 2014.
     

  • Women's Tours, Gay’Wu – An opportunity to experience Arnhem Land from the perspective of Yolŋu women, for whom the land is a mother who nurtures and heals. Travelling in similar style to the Homeland Adventure, this tour provides a chance to spend time with  Yolŋu women and learn about aspects of their lives including philosophy, kinship, weaving, painting, astrology, mud baths, ceremonies, cooking and medicine. Six nights/seven days. First departure: September 29, 2014.

    Both tours cost $3000* per person including all meals, transport, activities, accommodation, equipment, guides and permits. Cost excludes airfares and any pre/post accommodation required in Nhulunbuy. Further departure dates will be announced soon.

    The new tours are the first major public initiatives launched by Lirrwi Tourism, an Aboriginal corporation which has until now operated a successful program of tours for corporate groups, schools, expedition cruise passengers and other private bookings.

    The introduction of tours for the wider public coincides with the launch of Lirrwi Tourism’s new brand identity and the completion of the Yolŋu Tourism Masterplan which aims to create dozens of Indigenous- owned tourism businesses across Arnhem Land over coming decades. 

A New Face for Indigenous Tourism in Arnhem Land

The Yolŋu people of Australia’s Northern Territory have unveiled a new brand identity and a blueprint for their economic future as part of a long-term vision for tourism in Arnhem Land.

Under the umbrella of the Lirrwi Yolŋu Tourism Aboriginal Corporation, more than 20 different Yolŋu communities have united behind a plan to create a thriving tourism industry that will foster economic independence, strengthen cultural traditions and help boost Australia’s tourism profile internationally.

At the 2014 Garma Festival in Arnhem Land, Lirrwi Tourism Chairman Djawa ‘Timmy’ Burarrwanga today unveiled a new corporate brand under which Yolŋu communities will develop dozens of Indigenous- owned tourism businesses over coming decades.

Conceived by Yolŋu artists and community leaders, the brand is founded in traditional symbolism and invites visitors to experience ‘Adventures in Culture’. Its launch marks the completion of a detailed blueprint for tourism development in Arnhem Land, the Yolŋu Tourism Masterplan.

“We have a vision to develop as many as 50 new Indigenous-owned businesses that will employ up to 1000 Yolŋu people in Arnhem Land by 2032,” Mr Burarrwanga said. “Our communities have come together around a plan that will create our own income and help share our culture and traditions with visitors from across Australia and around the world.”

Mr Burarrwanga said the completion of the Yolŋu Cultural Tourism Masterplan was an important landmark in the creation of a new tourism economy. Its unique model is a first for Australia and combines Indigenous ownership and empowerment with expert guidance from leaders in business and government.

“In the two years since we announced the Masterplan we have achieved many things and welcomed hundreds of visitors to Arnhem Land,” Mr Burarrwanga said. “With the completion of the Masterplan and the launch of our new brand, we are now on a path to creating a whole new tourism destination for Australia.”

Lirrwi Tourism’s new brand identity is showcased on a new website, www.lirrwitourism.com.au, which acts as a gateway to tourism in Arnhem Land and its Yolŋu communities.

The Yolŋu Tourism Masterplan has been developed with the help of former Australian Tourist Commission (Tourism Australia) Managing Director John Morse, who said Arnhem Land had the potential to become Australia’s next great tourism icon.

“Arnhem Land is one of the most extraordinary places in Australia - a land with a deep spiritual significance where you can make a personal connection with the world’s oldest continuous culture,” Mr Morse said. “It will never be a mass tourism destination, but it has the potential to be a very high-value destination that helps define Australia internationally and contribute a great deal to our national identity.”

Until now Lirrwi Tourism has operated a small but successful program of tours and cultural awareness programs for corporate groups, schools, expedition cruise passengers and other small groups.

Visitors have been able to camp with Yolŋu families in their homelands and take part in traditional activities like hunting, food gathering, weaving, crafts and dance. Cultural awareness programs have allowed visitors to learn first-hand about aspects of Yolŋu life including language, story-telling, weaving, bush foods, fishing and kinship systems.

The visits have included groups from some of Australia’s biggest corporations, including the Commonwealth Bank, Telstra and Rio Tinto, as well as some of the country’s top private schools.

With the launch of the new brand identity, Lirrwi is now preparing to operate regular tours for the wider public, including tours to multiple homelands and specialist tours for women. These will operate in the fourth quarter of 2014, with further details available on the new Lirrwi website.

Under the Masterplan, Lirrwi Tourism is aiming to increase visitor nights to 3000 per year by 2017 and further to 14,000 visitor nights by 2032.

Mr Burarrwanga said tourism would become a vital contributor to economic independence for Yolŋu people in Arnhem Land.

“Our vision will allow Yolŋu people to take charge of their own economy and create a better future for our children,” Mr Burarrwanga said. “It will allow us to remain in our own country, strengthen our traditions and play an important part in creating awareness and understanding among non-Indigenous Australians.” 

Brand Development Yolŋu Style

Lirrwi Tourism’s new brand identity emerged from a campfire in a creative process like no other, a reinvention of brand marketing from a Yolŋu perspective.

The result is a corporate identity with a deep cultural significance and symbolism – thousands of years of thinking and tradition distilled into a contemporary brand for an international audience.

The brand’s development was guided by Sydney marketing agency Adventure Junky, a partner of the Yolŋu Tourism Masterplan with past experience in Indigenous branding projects.

Directors and co-founders Nigel Malone and Fuchsia Sims began with a series of workshops involving Yolŋu community leaders and artists in Arnhem Land, at times joined from outside by tourism leaders and other supporters of the Masterplan.

Starting in familiar territory with butcher’s paper and whiteboards, the pair observed as the community groups developed their own understanding of brand identity and began laying down its values from within existing Yolŋu concepts and traditions.

“It was an incredible experience, a real privilege to be included in,” Malone said. “One moment I was listening to intense discussion on what made Yolŋu culture unique, and the next I had a yidaki (didgeridoo) being played against my heart as a way of conveying things that couldn’t be explained in words.”

After establishing a set of guiding principles and defining the brand personality and attributes, the group then enlisted the help of six Yolŋu artists from the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre in Yirrkala who were asked to create visual representations from a traditional perspective.

“It was a very complicated process,” Malone said. “The challenge was to come up with a single illustration to encapsulate a whole world of meaning and symbolism, but without betraying any cultural sensitivities.”

“The artists kept coming back to the symbolism of a campfire, which is beautifully simple in its appeal to the outsider but also at the heart of quite complex concepts in Yolŋu tradition,” he said. “The campfire also relates to the name Lirrwi, which means ‘charcoal’ but also has other layers of meaning to Yolŋu.”

A final choice was painted by Yirritja woman Nongirrnga Marawili from Baniyala, an important artist whose works on bark and Larrakitj (hollow logs) are held in major galleries including the National Gallery of Victoria, the Art Gallery of NSW and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Her campfire design was then re-interpreted by a commercial designer to create a stylised logo that can be used in Lirrwi stationery, signage, uniforms, merchandise, websites and on vehicles.

As an umbrella brand, Lirrwi Tourism’s identity will be joined in the future by a wider family of brands representing individual Yolŋu homelands and tourism businesses. Together they will all draw from a common origin and an overarching set of principles now established by Yolŋu people. 

Dwambawa Marawili joins Advisory Panel

Acclaimed artist and respected Madarrpa clan leader Dwambawa Marawili AM has joined the Masterplan’s Advisory Panel, providing invaluable guidance as we develop Arnhem Land tourism businesses. He joins some of Australia’s most respected leaders on the panel, an important part of the Masterplan’s support for Indigenous ownership.

Djambawa is best known as one of the country’s most celebrated Indigenous artists, whose works hang in all State galleries as well as the National Ma ritime Museum, Sydney Opera House and many other public and private collections in Australia and overseas. He is also a prominent figure in the land rights movement and was instrumental in the push for sea rights.  Djambawa co-ordinated the Federal Court sea claim in 2004 which led to the High Court’s 2008 Blue Mud Bay determination that Yolŋu own the land between high and low water marks, and he has participated in other landmarks including the production of the Barunga Statement, the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody and the formation of ATSIC.

Djambawa has been a Director and Chairperson of the Association of Northern and Kimberley Aboriginal Artists since 1997 and was Chairperson of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre from 1994 to 2000. He was granted a two year Fellowship from the Australia Council in 2003 and in 2004 was appointed to the Australia Council ATSIA Board. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for services to the arts in 2010 and has been at various times a member of the Northern Land Council and an administrator of several Yolŋu organizations.

Arnhem Land to Forge New Era in Aboriginal Tourism

The Yolŋu people of Arnhem Land are embarking on a bold plan to create thriving Indigenous-owned tourism businesses across Australia’s spectacular Top End, boosted today with the announcement of a Federal Government grant of $825,000.

The Lirrwi Yolŋu 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 Yolŋu Tourism Aboriginal Corporation, Djawa Murrmurrnga (Timmy) Burarrwanga, the Masterplan aims to create sustainable employment and lasting economic benefits for Yolŋu people throughout Arnhem Land.

It has been developed by Mr Burarrwanga, a Gumatj man from Yirrkala in North East Arnhem Land, who established LirrwiTourism 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  Yolŋu people while providing life-changing experiences for our visitors.”

The Masterplanhas 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 Yolŋu 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 Yolŋu 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. 

An Expert Panel of high-profile people is being formed to provide direction and advice to the development of the Masterplan. This will be led by Yolŋu Elder from Elcho Island, Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM, along with former Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon, tourism industry leader Bill Wright, Head of Tourism Division at the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (RET) Jane Madden,and prominent Melbourne academic and cultural advisor Andrea Hull AO.

In addition to the grant announced today by the Minister under the TQual Strategic Investments Grants initiative, Lirrwi is also seeking support from the private sector. Six corporate partners have already committed to the plan and 10 more are sought. 

“The enthusiasm and support for the Masterplan indicates a very strong will by the Government and the corporate sector to listen to the voices of Aboriginal people and help make a significant difference to their economic and cultural future,” Mr Morse said.  “This potentially has significant implications for Aboriginal people across Australia who see tourism as a new way forward.”

Mr Morse has been engaged by Lirrwi Tourism to manage the Masterplan and said the fundamentals were already in place, with excellent air connections, a strong and well-respected tourism organisation and a unique long-term strategy to develop tourism.

“Arnhem Land is a place of great natural beauty, with islands, beaches, river systems and a unique way of life that can’t be found in other parts of the world,” Mr Morse said. “Imagine a network of small cultural tourism camps dotted across Arnhem Land and it’s very easy to see how exciting this concept is.”

Mr Morse said the Masterplan was in part inspired by successful African safari camps managed by Indigenous communities in Botswana.  It would benefit from strong interest in Indigenous culture in several of Australia’s traditional tourism markets like Germany and the United States, as well as in emerging markets in Asia and the large Australian domestic market.

“Australians have a strong desire to learn about and connect with Aboriginal culture,” Mr Morse said. “A survey in 2010 revealed that 94 per cent of Australians believe their children should learn about Aboriginal culture and considered this an important part of reconciliation.”

“Arnhem Land will never be a mass tourism destination, but it will be important in building Australia’s image around the world and creating a new future for the Yolŋu  people.”

Click here to view the Lirrwi Yolŋu Tourism Masterplan 

 

For media enquiries please contact Jon Murrie from MG Media Communications (02) 9904 0011