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In-demand First Nations tourism sector gets $6million federal boost

David Prestipino -

More than 100 First Nations tourism businesses will share in $6 million of new federal government funding to support the growing sector.

With international visitor numbers rising post-pandemic, the investment is timely for First Nations tourism operators and positions them to benefit from the ongoing recovery of Australia's tourism industry and increased interested in Indigenous experiences.

First Nations tourism businesses and community organisations will use the funding to further the unique, immersive experiences increasingly in demand from visitors, with grants up to $50,000 for tourism operators and up to $100,000 for community organisations.

The First Nations tourism grants contribute to the government's THRIVE 2030 strategy to revitilise Australia's visitor economy recovery and sustainable growth, and included a focus on diversifying tourism experiences and creating job opportunities Indigenous Australians.

Last week Indigenous tourism leaders in WA urged for more support for the sector after the recent referendum result.

WA Indigenous Tourism Operators CEO Robert Taylor said its 150-plus operators were feeling dispondent and considering closing their businesses.

Mr Taylor, a Nanda man from the Yamatji Nation in WA, said he still very much believed tourists valued Indigenous-led experiences, which often 'closed the gap' for tourists.

"Let's use this moment not as a setback but as a catalyst to unite and refocus our energies," he said.

While 80 per cent of international visitors cite Indigenous tourism as an essential 'must-do' on their itinerary down under, the Indigenous tourism sector's success is also underpinned by the level of intrastate and interstate visitor numbers.

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney said it was important First Nations tourism operators who highlighted Australia's unique visitor experiences were supported.

"Right across Australia, there are so many opportunities to experience First Nations culture with hundreds of fantastic Indigenous tourism enterprises offering unique ways to see our country, through the lens of Indigenous people," she said.

Tourism minister Don Farrell said the grants provided an excellent opportunity to expand the supply of authentic cultural experiences by First Nations businesses and organisations.

"Visitors, both domestic and international, are increasingly looking for unique, rich and immersive experiences, and this funding will ensure our First Nations businesses can grow their high-quality offerings," he said.

"First Nations tourism experiences are an incredibly important part of the Australian tourism industry, sharing the oldest living culture with visitors from across the world."

Some of the grant recipients include:

Brewarrina Aboriginal Corporation, NSW - to build an extension to the current museum tourism services and improve hospitality services, including accommodation.

Watjan Tours, Daly River, NT - to purchase a multipurpose excavator to maintain key roads and campsites after the wet season, offering travellers greater access.

Wijingarra Tours, North-West Kimberley, WA - proceeding with the installation of a solar power generator, allowing staff to remain on-site during the peak tourism season.

Ang-Gnarra Aboriginal Corporation of Laura, Cape York, QLD - to build a new arts and craft gallery, renovate its studio and purchase a commercial coffee machine.

Something Wild Australia, Adelaide, SA - to begin Indigenous food and beverage masterclasses at the Adelaide Central Market.

Judumul Aboriginal Corporation, Cooglardie, WA - to support the development of a showcase of Coolgardie both within a gallery environment and with guided tours lead by local Elders.

Ayeye Atyenhe Art, Alice Springs, NT - to purchase a vehicle, purchase materials for their workshops and develop a marketing campaign.

Castlereagh Connect, Coonabarabran, NSW - offers unique dining experiences and events on-Country. The funding will go towards a new vehicle with mobile catering facilities.

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