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.”