My experience in both tourism, events and indigenous tourism thoroughly encompasses my longevity in the tourism and event industry, coupled with my passion for indigenous tourism. I look forward to being able to shape Aboriginal tourism start-ups to reach their full business potential.
Indigenous Experience in the Tourism & Events Industry
My involvement with Indigenous Australians began in 2008 when I joined Indigenous Community Volunteers, (ICV) a national organisation placing skilled people with training opportunities in remote Aboriginal communities. Through ICV, I was assigned to a posting in Kowanyama in Cape York, the Traditional Owners being the Kunjen Clan, where I was based for three weeks. My volunteering role was to set up an annual event from an administrative and logistical perspective. I was welcomed by the community and was involved in many social events. It was an experience I still treasure.
Between 2009 and 2017, I was not afforded the time or the opportunity to interact with Indigenous organisations due to my event roles at Dreamworld, Moreton Hire and NAB to name a few, and the 70+ hour weeks that kept me busy. It was not until 2017 and the creation of my own business, Go Fish Australia that I could dictate my own time and concentrate on what mattered most to my business, which was to identify, support and mentor Indigenous organisations across Queensland and the Northern Territory, with a view to supporting new fishing product.
In 2017 I was fortunate to spend much time in The Gulf of Carpentaria (with TTNQ) looking at fishing product and I spent two days with the Gangalidda people of Burketown. They revealed several tourism ideas that they had just started to put into practice. I learnt a lot from them and I am still in contact with them today. The Gangalidda then introduced me to Polly Cooktown at Marpoon in the Cape, where her concept was to start a tourism business involving turtle, bush tucker and language. We spent the day together and began the process of finding grants, support and creating a business plan over the subsequent months. This was on a pro-bono basis.
Within the Go Fish strategy prior to 2017, I made sure there was an Indigenous fishing element in each of the Go Fish packages. When creating a 3-day fishing package in Cairns and the Gold Coast involving a tour and accommodation, it was then I met Juan Walker from Walkabout Tours in Cairns, providing tours of Kuku Yalanji country. I then met Luther Cora, a Yugambeh man from the Gold Coast and spoke about an Indigenous experience regarding fishing and bush tucker. Both appeared in my packages, and I continue to forge strong relationships with them to this day.
In 2018 I attended the inaugural Indigenous Tourism Forum on the Gold Coast where I met Cameron Costello, Elder of the Quandamooka and QAYAC Chairman. I volunteered to be part of the new Indigenous framework committee however Cameron advised he would offer this to Indigenous people first and let me know when there would be an opportunity to become involved.
In December 2018, I decided to investigate helicopter fishing south of Cairns, a first for Queensland, and set my sights on the iconic fishing destination of K’gari. After the initial paperwork was submitted to the DES in March 2018, I began the process of finding out how to involve the Butchulla people as it was important to not only include them as an incredibly special part of any itinerary on K’gari, but to be transparent and inclusive out of respect for the traditional owners of K’Gari. Today, I have been written into a million-dollar grant to assist the Butchulla People to develop three new tourism ventures on the Island. Since tourism was first introduced to Fraser Island over 50 years ago, no other organisation had ever approached the Butchulla people to participate or indeed, to consult with them from the outset. I found this incredibly disrespectful and was privileged to be the first.
In July 2019, I was fortunate to spend a week with the Yolngu people of East Arnhem Land at a homeland called Nyinyikay. I sat with the women and learnt how to weave. I fished with the men, found bush tucker with the women, and sat in an outdoor “classroom” each day to learn about the Yolngu way, the family structure, the language, the earth, moon and stars. I bloody loved it! With sensitivity to their culture, the decisions of the wider family in the Homelands and the trade-ready tourism project we are working on together, this collaboration must be handled differently to the Butchulla people but is nevertheless just as exciting.
After my time with the Yolngu, I approached Elder, Marcus Lacey, and suggested a 3-day fishing itinerary which Go Fish could promote internationally. Subsequently, I have had meetings with Marcus and his family’s representative in Sydney, Robyn Heras, who was adopted by the Nyinyikay Yolgnu over 30 years ago. We are still working together to create something very special for the fishing market and I am guiding and mentoring them to get this product trade-ready yet ensuring they have ownership of each element.
The Yolngu are a very ancient and important clan in Australia, and it is paramount that all major decisions are given to the Elders and followed without question by myself. My goal is to mentor and develop the new tourism product from conception through to a trade-ready product, but also cognisant that they have complete ownership of any tourism project and will be consistently mentored to self-manage once in trade.
Through my business, Go Fish Australia, in 2021 I have successfully launched a new Indigenous fishing experience on North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah) through an Indigenous start-up organisation, Pulan Fisheries and Cultural Tours. I purposefully looked for a product that needed a head-start and took the concept from the Quandamooka Traditional Owner and transformed that concept into a trade-ready, tourism product. Go Fish now buys in to that product and is a support both from a tourism and promotional capacity but also, assists in finding grants and funds to expand the business. This product has since been featured in the Financial Review, Qantas Magazine and many other publications.
It should be noted that until 2021, I have continued to work on these tourism projects on a free of charge basis. Why? Because I am passionate about preserving Indigenous culture and incorporating it into a tourism framework that has not been approached in this way before. An ongoing revenue stream for Indigenous people is also of great importance in everything I touch as is evident in my own staff.
I am actively and consistently uncovering new Indigenous product, specifically relating to the fishing market and I am guiding and mentoring Indigenous clans, mobs, PBC’s and organisations to have a tourism trade-ready product, yet ensuring they have ownership of each element.