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More unique Indigenous tourism offerings on the horizon

David Prestipino -

With tens of thousands of years of rich Indigenous history and culture to discover, local tourists have been urged to leave their passports gathering dust and appreciate the expansive cultural tourism experiences on offer in our backyard.

From dot-painting against a backdrop of remote cliffs in the Red Centre to candid conversations with artists in the Pilbara region, a new injection of federal tourism funding is set to enhance the unique Indigenous tourism experiences littered across the country.

More than 100 First Nations organisations were the recipients last week of a $6m funding injection the Albanese governments hopes will elevate their unique tourism offerings and leverage renewed interest in First Nations tourism here and abroad.

International visitor numbers post-pandemic have risen, and 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.

The investment is timely for the 100-plus operators across Australia, with international interest evident by a recent survey where 80 per cent cited an Indigenous tourism experience as a 'must-do' on their itinerary down under.

The government hopes operators will use the funding to enhance their product offering, such as Alice Springs-based Ayeye Atyenhe Art, which last year launched a personalised artwork offering for visitors.

The truly unique offering sees participating project artists at Ayeye such as Marie Ryder and Kevin Bird (pictured) create paintings based on a person's story using traditional and contemporary methods.

The personalised artwork was an exciting first for the Indigenous artists and art collectors alike, with pieces customised to the person's preferred size and colour for example, and complement traditional Aboriginal artwork they also sell.

"Each of us has many stories to tell. Stories of success. Stories of disappointment. Stories of love and stories of loss. Tell me your story, allow me to sketch and paint it," said Ms Ryder, an Arrernte artist.

The unique personalised art project at Ayeye Atyenhe, which translates to 'my story' in East Arrernte language, is an example of what the government hopes the funding will create.

Federal Tourism minister Don Farrell said the grants gave Indigenous tourism businesses and organisations an opportunity to expand their offering of authentic cultural experiences.

"Visitors, both domestic and international, are increasingly looking for unique, rich and immersive experiences," he said.

"This funding will ensure our First Nations businesses can grow their high-quality tourism offerings and experiences, which are an incredibly important part of the Australian tourism industry, sharing the oldest living culture with visitors from across the world."

Indigenous Australians minister Linda Burney said First Nations tourism operators gave international and domestic visitors an insight and experience of one of the world's oldest living continuous cultures.

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

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