Aboriginal cultural tourism boom signals new era of reconciliation

Trisha Ellis has spent her lifetime learning and teaching her Brinja-Yuin culture. 

After a childhood “hanging around the elders all the time”, she has been a TAFE teacher for more than 35 years and worked with her siblings to revitalise the Dhurga language.

She formed Minga Aboriginal Cultural Services in 2017, offering guided walks and culture camps on her ancestral country on the NSW far south coast.

Ms Ellis shares her rich knowledge of local plants and bush medicines and how to make rope and weave baskets from lomandra grass.

Woman standing on a grassy headland holding a strand of lomandra grass and sucking the end.
Trisha Ellis shares her traditional cultural knowledge of native plants.(Supplied: David Rogers Photography)

Ms Ellis has led groups from all corners of the world but is noticing a growing interest in Aboriginal culture among domestic travellers and locals.

She is one of 13 Indigenous tourism operators on the NSW south coast who are being mentored to develop their businesses as part of an initiative from the NSW government’s Business Connect program and the Department of Primary Industries.

On a wider scale, new not-for-profit Welcome to Country launched its online retail site in 2019, promoting more than 220 Aboriginal tourism experiences across Australia, from Aboriginal astronomy in Western Australia to cultural stand-up paddleboard tours on the NSW Mid North Coast.

The national platform fills a gap for international visitors who have found it hard to find and book Aboriginal experiences when they visit Australia.

Standing on the water’s edge at Mystery Bay near Narooma, Sharon Mason points out the shells of abalone, pipis and periwinkles — foods that sustained her saltwater people for millennia and are still eaten today.

Wide shot of woman in traditional Indigenous dress standing on beach talking to a tourist couple
Sharon Mason is being mentored to establish a cultural
Read the rest