Indigenous Tourism - 24/05/2021

24 May 2021


I rise to speak on the member for Leichhardt's motion on Indigenous tourism. The loss of First Nations cultures around this country is one of our country's greatest tragedies. The world's oldest continuing cultures have been attacked and denied by the colonisation of this continent for too long, and this denial and destruction continue to this day. That is why it is so important that we commit to the Uluru statement and its principles of voice, treaty and truth, and I was proud that the Labor Party reiterated its commitment to seeing this established in full, including a voice to parliament enshrined in the Constitution, on the fourth anniversary of the statement recently.

We are also seeing a revival of First Nations cultures around Australia. Here in the ACT, for example, the revival of Ngunawal language, the language of the traditional owners of the land on which we currently stand, is but one incredible example. Supported by AIATSIS, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Ngunawal families are contributing to the revival of their culture not only for their own benefit but for the benefit of all Australians. Businesses like Thunderstone here in Canberra, owned by Ngunawal elder Tyrone Bell, are pushing the resurgence of Ngunawal language and building successful businesses on the back of this resurgence. Thunderstone provides cultural tours and other education on Ngunawal culture.

There is a keen interest in the community to understand First Nations cultures and to understand the land we live on through a different lens. This desire is strong across the country and among foreign tourists, who seek out First Nations tourism experiences to better understand the oldest continuing culture in the world, so it is good that the federal government is finally providing support for First Nations tourism businesses. While this country should spend considerably more on preserving and celebrating First Nations cultures, further revival of culture may be a positive by-product. I say 'finally' because this fund was a commitment from the 2019 election; however, it has taken the Morrison government 643 days, from the announcement to the opening of the fund. And no funding has been announced, so we can presume that no First Nations businesses have actually benefited from the fund to date. Labor often calls out the Morrison government for not consulting widely enough, but in the case of this fund it seems the government took the opposite approach, consulting for 21 months. More likely is that this fund was put on the backburner by the Liberal-Nationals.

Finally, this isn't new money; instead, this money was reallocated from the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, which has been used repeatedly to announce and re-announce funding. But I commend the Morrison government and the member for Leichhardt for getting around to prioritising First Nations tourism businesses with these reallocated funds.

The pandemic has decimated our tourism sector. While Australians are now travelling domestically, the reality is that domestic tourists don't spend anywhere near as much as international tourists once did. Despite calls from tourism operators, travel agents and other tourism businesses for support, the Morrison government has abandoned the tourism sector during the pandemic. Without a vaccinated population, the sector is at constant risk of lockdown and further cancellations. The end of JobKeeper has put even more pressure on tourism businesses. Tourism supports spruiked by the Morrison government are actually just subsidies for the major airlines and not real support for tourism operators on the ground.

In the member for Leichhardt's part of the world, my colleague Queensland Senator Nita Green has been pushing hard for support for the tourism sector. Consulting with major tourist attractions such as Skyrail in Cairns, Senator Green has highlighted the difficulties that businesses in the tourism sector have faced during the pandemic. It costs a lot of money to operate facilities such as Skyrail, and without support the sector is on the brink. With the government's budget signalling the borders will be shut until at least mid-2022, there is no relief in sight for our tourism operators. We saw again today the Prime Minister failed to give a date in question time of when the full Australian population could expect to have an opportunity to be vaccinated.

I commend this motion and the government for supporting Indigenous tourism businesses and their important role, but I do call on the government to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full and give our First Nations Australians the voice they deserve in this parliament.