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Maarli Swan Tours to blaze a trail with First Nations-led Derbarl Yerrigan cruises

Brendan Foster -

Noongar and Yamatji man Des Headland has launched First Nations-run cruises along the Derbarl Yerrigan (Swan River).

The former Fremantle Docker recently set up the trail blazing Aboriginal-owned family business, Maarli Swan Tours, and is planning a series of cultural tours from Fremantle to the Swan Valley.

He said a family member or Traditional Owner would be on board the cruise to educate passengers about the significance of the Derbarl Yerrigan to First Nations people. To the Noongar Traditional Owners, the Derbal Yerrigan has been an integral part of the Aboriginal spirit and culture for more than 45,000 years.

"The Derbarl and the Beeliar Wetlands are important for the dreaming of our ancestors," Mr Headland told National Indigenous Times.

"The cultural tours will look at all the cultural heritage sites along the Derbarl. The river's significance all the way through is huge for us, particularly our family."

Mr Headland, who played 166 games for the Dockers and Brisbane, said his family had a deep connection to the Derbarl Yerrigan.

"What engaged my dad and sister to set this business up was my grandfather was born on the banks of the Derbarl River in Bassendean," he said.

"We have that connection to country and we will talk about that history and that part of the region as we are doing the tours along that."

Mr Headland said the first cultural cruise will set sail from Barrack Street to Optus Stadium before the Dockers' first home game on Saturday, March 25.

He said Maarli Swan Tours was planning to run cruises before every Eagles and Dockers home game.

"Every round we will have a past West Coast or Fremantle player on the boat that will mix with the supporters along the way," he said.

"For the first part of the year, it will be all the footy stuff, then we will build from there."

He said there are several other tours and events in the pipeline that will take in the sacred sites of the Derbarl Yerrigan.

"We are planning to engage the cultural tourism businesses that are out there, and look at getting the Education Department involved to see how we can get the school kids on the tours. And if we do wine tours we will add that cultural element as well."

Tickets for cruises can be found here and here.

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