I attended a very interesting meeting at the Tamworth golf club last week. It was “An introduction to Aboriginal Tourism” and all the speakers were right on top of their game. The welcome to country was given by Daisy Cutmore the deputy chairperson of the Tamworth LALC. I went to school with Daisy and she is still as gorgeous & cheeky as she was over 40 years ago. Shane Dredge from NATOC acted as MC & explained what help was available for startups in this space and Lucy White the general manager of Destination country & outback added a wider tourism perspective.
Other speakers of note were Anne Dennis the chairperson of the NSW Aboriginal land council who is not only a very inspiring woman with all her experience on different govt. boards but an amusing & engaging speaker as well. I had never met her before, though we both call Walgett home but was very impressed with her honesty & her determination to do the best for her mob. There was also an Elder from the New England area who spoke very movingly at the end of the conference about the past & changes wrought on his people in the last 250 years or so. He used the term ‘invaders’ rather than ‘colonizers’ which I don’t agree with but his message was heartfelt & emotive.
The reason I don’t like the use of ‘invasion’ is I have 3 convict ancestors on my father’s side & probably more on my mother’s I don’t know about as they aren’t on Ancestry.com. Daniel Cubitt arrived on the “Neptune” 1790. Thomas Currey/Curry came on the “Elizabeth” in 1816 & Alexander Cunningham on the “Eliza” in 1822. Thomas Curry chose not to reform & died in chains at Port Macquarie so hardly an ‘invader’ – I think ‘recidivist’ would be a better description. The difference between these white men & the black men of the same era is the convicts & their descendants’ situation in life improved on arrival in Australia whereas the native quality of life tanked.
The British dumped their unwanted criminals in Australia and I don’t think they really cared if the colony survived or not. There was nothing of value here at the time apart from some quaint flora & fauna – which included the Indigenous people. Aboriginal people were decimated by the European diseases & endured a catastrophic loss of population needed to sustain their culture & communities. Frontier violence contributed to this decline as did widespread loss of hunting/farming land. The misguided ideas of ‘converting’ & ‘protecting’ Aboriginal people while well-meaning only further contributed to what the radical left call ‘genocide’- again a misnomer used to incite not inform . But such is our history & its really only in the last 60 years have state & federal Govts have begun to address the racial inequalities in Australia.
We cant change the past but we can influence the future by supporting Aboriginal businesses. Don’t buy bush foods, cosmetics or art from inauthentic sources. “A recent report into fake Aboriginal art found 80 per cent of Indigenous-style souvenirs sold in Australia were imitation products” it says in an article by Oliver Gordon in today’s ABC newsfeed – ‘Red centre sand exfoliant’ by non-Indigenous beauty brand removed after criticism‘ – NT Indigenous Business Network CEO Jerome Cubillo said it was disappointing to see poor practice by a non-Indigenous business in the emerging bush wellness industry. Some of the speakers at Tamworth addressed this issue but the idea of “bush wellness” industry based on natural products from a group of Australians with the lowest life expectancy in the country is somewhat ironic I think ….
Another excellent experience recently was a drive / walk through a couple of our southern neighbours’ paddocks with the owner’s family. The paleo river sandhills & Big Warrambool runs Nth/Sth over about 8 rural properties each with its own camps, significant places & special trees. Its so exciting to see how much the younger generation know & how much respect they have for Aboriginal culture here. I see a bright future for tourism & farmer/Indig partnerships in this area as Aussies are really starting to appreciate our heritage & actually ‘get’ the culture. The main obstacle here re land owner’s cooperation is the uncertainty surrounding leasehold land & native title claims. The Kamilaroi/ Euahlayi land claim over all this area in the year 2000 resulted in a win for the NFF (National Farmers Federation) re freehold title but leasehold land remains a grey area. I brought this up at Tamworth but I don’t think the CEOs & GMs & chairpersons of NATOC & NSWLALC, DNSW and DCNO really got it – MOST OF OUR REMAINING CMTs ARE ON FARMS – FARMERS ARE NOT GOING TO GIVE PUBLIC ACCESS UNLESS THEY ARE PROTECTED FROM LANDCLAIMS…….. Please consider.