Champions of Indigenous tourism

John Collyer, CEO of the Worn Gundidj Aboriginal Cooperative.

Spotlight on a Champion: John Collyer, CEO of the Worn Gundidj Aboriginal Cooperative.

International travellers want to experience authentic, top quality Australian Indigenous culture first hand.

However the number and variety of tourism businesses and products available to choose from can make it difficult to identify such experiences.

The Indigenous Tourism Champions Program (ITCP) is an exciting new initiative providing select export-ready Indigenous tourism operators with the opportunity to be appropriately represented and profiled amongst global and in-bound tourism networks.

The joint initiative between IBA and Tourism Australia provides selected Champions with sales and marketing support and training, as well as mentoring in tourism best practice across service delivery, business operations, administration and promotion. The Champions have the opportunity to attend, and gain exposure through, trade shows, new product workshops and launches.

Thirteen Indigenous owned and operated tourism businesses have already completed the fi rst phase of the program, receiving mentoring and training to assist them in positioning their products and services at the forefront of the Indigenous tourism industry.

The ITCP will build confidence among the distribution network that sells Australian Indigenous cultural experiences, that small business operators and Indigenous tourism operators in particular, are reliable business partners with strong and unique industry knowledge.

The Chair of Tourism Australia’s Indigenous Tourism Industry Advisory Panel, Aden Ridgeway said: ‘The Indigenous Tourism Champions initiative will help to generate unprecedented exposure of our better established Indigenous tourism products, helping to enhance the profile of the entire sector’.

Champions who successfully meet the criteria of the program will be offered opportunities for more targeted business mentoring and financial assistance in the future, including the opportunity to showcase their products and services at domestic and international trade shows.

Spotlight on a Champion

The Worn Gundidj Aboriginal Cooperative (Worn Gundidj) was established with a charter to provide training and employment opportunities for local Indigenous people, and to develop business enterprises that benefit the community.

Worn Gundidj operate the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve (external website, new window), a popular tourist attraction located near Warnambool in regional Victoria.

Tower Hill  is one of 13 Indigenous tourism businesses selected to participate in the Indigenous Tourism Champions Program, a joint initiative between IBA and Tourism Australia.

Located near Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, Tower Hill sits within a vast volcano crater that is 11km in circumference and 3.2km wide. The unique 614 hectare property is made up of smaller volcanic cones rising from a lake bed inside a large crater rim, and offers a natural wildlife haven and fascinating ecological showcase for Aboriginal history. It is regarded as an international geological site of significance, and its ash layers and artefacts confirm Aboriginal residence in the area up to 30,000 years ago.

Visitors to the reserve can experience a range of activities including a uniquely Australian barbeque meal of native foods and spices, Indigenous cultural activities (involving traditional crafts and games, boomerang and spear throwing) and visits to bush food and bush medicine sites.

John Collyer, Chief Executive Officer of Worn Gundidj, attributes the appeal of Tower Hill to the extensive local knowledge and enthusiasm of its staff, all of whom have a personal interest in and connection to the area.

Worn Gundidj was recently awarded the Victorian Aboriginal Community Enterprise category of the 2010 Dardi Victorian Aboriginal Business Excellence Awards (external website, opens new window). The award acknowledged the significant training and employment opportunities that Worn Gundidj has created in the region, its promotion of Aboriginal culture both in Australia and abroad, and the success of Tower Hill.