Indigenous Tourism

Skyrail News: February 2012

As recently as 30 years ago, the tourism industry was a vastly different place with far less indigenous Australians looking for careers outside of their communities let alone in tourism. International travellers began to come to our region in increasing numbers however few businesses recognised that these visitors wanted to meet indigenous people and learn about their customs and culture. Today it is widely accepted that as well as experiencing Australia's unique flora and fauna, the ancient history and traditions of Indigenous people also carries a lot of appeal.

Late last year, the Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) recently held a forum in Brisbane for government departments, job agencies and employers whose vision it is to increase indigenous employment in tourism by sharing a range of practical skills, experiences and ideas.

Attendees at the QTIC forum heard from a broad spectrum of speakers, each with their own views and stories to tell. Jeremy Richards, Interpretive Ranger at Skyrail Rainforest Cableway described his career in tourism from beginning as a cableway operator, to his present role in the Environmental department. A valued member of the team, Jeremy is one of a long line of Indigenous family members employed at Skyrail who recognises the importance of carrying on this legacy by sharing our region with people who travel to Cairns from all parts of the world. 

David Hudson, General Manager, Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Cultural Park was also a key speaker at the forum. A strong believer in ownership and accountability, he advocates that Indigenous Australians need to be in charge of their own destiny. Mr Hudson grew up in the seventies when the majority of indigenous teenagers left school in year 10 and followed their fathers and grandfathers to work on railways, in construction or on cane fields. Now he is keen to promote the vast array of employment opportunities in the tourism industry and actively encourages school attendance and education particularly within Indigenous communities. 

Penny Cleland, Staff Development at the CaPTA Group speaking at the forum says there are practical steps which can be taken to increase diversity in tourism: 

  • Work with the region’s senior schools and offer work experience, attend careers days and speak about the opportunities within the industry. Attend expos and career events like FOGS which target the indigenous population. Offer traineeships that allow people to learn on the job so that you can support and mentor trainees through the learning experience.  
  • Get to know your community and connect with indigenous communities. Send emails and notices of positions available to indigenous community groups and let them know who you are and what the opportunities are, the support that is available and your commitment to increasing indigenous employment.  
  • Consider an Indigenous Employment Strategy and implement this throughout the organisation gaining the support of all employees and management.  

If you want to be employed in the tourism industry, be prepared for hard work and dedication. Education is important throughout any career with more businesses facilitating courses both internally and externally in order for employees to reach their full potential. Skyrail, The CaPTA Group and Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park being several good examples of employers who regard training and development as a top priority and actively encourage Indigenous Australians into the workplace.

The tourism business to a large extent underpins the economy in Cairns and the Far North so investing in future employees is essential for ongoing success, even during the slower times of late. Until such time as the tourism tide turns once again, it is important to recognise that the industry has a lot to gain from multicultural employment and should therefore be proactive in embracing it across all facets of the industry.

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