Central Coast Indigenous Tours a path to reconciliation

Researcher Marnie Graham and Indigenous tourism operator Tim SelwynResearcher Marnie Graham and Indigenous tourism operator Tim Selwyn

In NAIDOC week and following on from Reconciliation Week, opportunities for non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians to engage and connect in meaningful ways are extremely important from the reconciliation perspective.

Dr Marnie Graham is a Post-doctoral Research Fellow from Stockholm University who collaborates with Indigenous tourism operators in Sydney and the Central Coast to look specifically at the role that Indigenous tourism plays in the reconciliation process.

For some non-Indigenous Australians, an Indigenous-led tour represents the first time they have interacted with Indigenous peoples in a meaningful way, learning about Country, culture and our shared histories.

“Some of the preliminary research findings show that Indigenous tour operators play a substantial role in facilitating non-Indigenous Australians in taking those ‘first steps’ towards reconciliation. We need to support Indigenous tour operators in this important role. Indigenous tourism is one of the ways forward on the reconciliation journey” said Marnie.

On the Central Coast, Marnie collaborates with Tim Selwyn, owner and operator of Girri Girra Aboriginal Experiences. Tim offers residents and visitors to the Central Coast the opportunity to attend guided tours to Bouddi National Park and to Wollombi, incorporating Mount Yengo. Tim said: “The Central Coast is a special place, but a lot of local people and visitors don’t know about our Indigenous history and our continual presence here. My role is to share culture, and I invite people to reconnect with Country from an Indigenous perspective, and with some of the old stories that the old people have passed down.

Collaborating with Marnie on her research is important to me because I see that tours like mine play a huge role in connecting us together through sharing and love”. Marnie explores Indigenous tourism’s role in reconciliation from the perspectives of both Indigenous tour operators and the tourists who go on Indigenous tours. “We are seeing that people can be really transformed by going on an Indigenous tour on Country. That is an amazing outcome from just a two to three-hour tour”. Her research will also cover Sweden and South Africa, where Indigenous tours are also emerging as important spaces for reconciliation.

Of Tim and Girri Girra, Marnie says, “I grew up here on the Central Coast and unfortunately I didn’t learn anything about the Indigenous culture and people here. I’m so excited to work with Tim and to connect with the Central Coast in a new way. I’ve learnt so much”.

In addition to on-Country tours, Tim also conducts educational visits to schools and early childhood centres, corporate workshops, performs smoking ceremonies, and creates Indigenous woodwork art. He also collaborates with Aunty Leanne King, who runs Wollombi Aboriginal Cultural Experiences, offering three-day/two-night Cultural Immersion camps and  Women’s camps at Wollombi.

Ssource: Media release Girri Girra Aboriginal Experiences & Dr Marnie Graham Stockholm University

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