Updated: Sep 15
UNAAWA and DFAT hosted the first SDG Lunchtime series event on February 22nd to explore how Indigenous & Eco-Tourism can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the areas of economic growth, reducing inequality, and life on land.
The event was moderated by UNAAWA Vice-President Dr Sandy Chong and guests were made up of a diverse range of stakeholders from the business sector, local government, tourism agencies and media professionals. Speakers included Robert Taylor, CEO of WAITOC; Olman Walley, Boorloo Aboriginal Cultural Experience; and Gwyn Dolphin, Head of Destination Marketing at The Brand Agency.
The WA Deputy Director of DFAT, Dr Kate O’Shaughnessy, opened the roundtable session with Australia’s commitment to the SDGs and acknowledged the importance of the Australian-Indigenous connection to the land, its history and cultural conservation. The President of the UNAAWA, Dr Steve Lennon, highlighted the importance of working alongside the SDGs and forming partnerships to ensure that no one is left behind.
It was acknowledged that Indigenous & Eco-tourism is an undersold sector in Western Australia. 80% of visitors to WA have expressed an interest in Aboriginal tourism and between 2016 to 2017 the sector has contributed more than $43 million to the State’s GDP. Encouraging the growth of this industry therefore holds the opportunity to not only strengthen a community that has historically been marginalized in Australia, but also of creating jobs and promoting entrepreneurship which will directly benefit the community and economy. The question is, how can businesses build on this unique opportunity to achieve economic empowerment while conserving nature in a sustainable way.
High costs of labour, geographic distance, and visa class limitations may pose challenges on the sector. There is also a lack of awareness within Australia’s mainstream market about what Indigenous & Eco-Tourism is and what it has to offer. Improving its visibility in both international and domestic markets is therefore key to the sector’s growth. Better training for SMEs in this sector is also needed as three quarters of the companies are not export-ready.
Cultural exchange within the industry have demonstrated positive outcomes while both film and social media play an interesting role in generating mass interest in a short span of time.
Within the timeframe that the event ran, the first event for 2019 was a success. Guests collectively had a clearer understanding of the SDGs, and how they can contribute through connecting and partnering up with businesses and communities, and how Australians can drive the demand of this market by advocating it overseas. The event welcomed independent thought, ideas and experience. It also provided an environment where specialists within their field could share and learn.
Overall, the event brought together education and inspiration throughout an incredible line up, which collectively encouraged Indigenous empowerment within Western Australia.