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New Red Centre Tour becomes biggest local Indigenous employer and trainer

Dianne Bortoletto -
nt

Hailing from Alice Springs, Aboriginal-owned and operated 100% Finke River Culture & Adventure has launched a new cultural immersion tour.

Lead guide and majority shareholder of 100% Finke River Culture & Adventure, Benjamin (Benji) Kenny, said he is proud to offer local Indigenous people sustainable and meaningful employment and training.

"I'm proud to say we are the largest employer of Indigenous men and women in the region, and we are continuing to grow, and people are taking notice of this," Mr Kenny said.

All of the company's tour guides are Aboriginal men and women from across the West MacDonnell Ranges who offer visitors insights into local culture, food and how local communities connect to Country in their unique ways.

Established in 2023, 100% Finke River Culture & Adventure started its recruitment drive in late 2022 to prepare for the new tourism venture.

"We wanted to be able to give everyone a chance at changing their life and getting fit in the process," Mr Kenny said.

"We worked hard with Charles Darwin University in giving our new employees the chance to start and finish their Certificate I in tour guiding.

"It was a huge success with 12 men going through, and most of these men are still employed with us for our 2024 season."

Mr Kenny said there are currently 20 men and women from across the Mparntwe (Alice Springs), Tjoritja (West MacDonnell Ranges), Angkerle Atwatye (Standley Chasm) regions doing their Certificate I in tour guiding, with another 25 people set to complete it by April this year, ready for employment for the 2024 Northern Territory tourism season.

During new four-night tour, guests will visit sites that are not accessible to the public including sacred sites of the Western Arrernte people, the community of Ntaria (Hermannsburg), the Hermannsburg Historic Precinct, which is brimming with Indigenous art history, and stay on homelands with Traditional Owners.

Here, guests will learn about local food, culture and connection to Country as well as the Dreamtime stories passed down over generations.

Each guest will sleep their own four-person sized tent that comes with a stretcher and a 'swag'. The campsite is equipped with hot showers and all meals are prepared by a First Nations cook that includes dishes like kangaroo tail, camel curry and wattle seed, chocolate, and macadamia nut brownie.

Under a twinkling sky, guests will learn how the stars align with Indigenous culture, past, present, and future, and have an opportunity to learn basket weaving and how to make a boomerang.

camp ground in NT with red rock hill in distance

With a background in education, Mr Kenny said that he hadn't initially considered a career in tourism.

"In 2020 while I worked at the Ntaria School, I took the school children out on traditional lands to help them feel and reconnect to the country they were born on," he said.

"Whilst on these outings, I thought to myself this would be a great way for our non-indigenous population and especially children to learn about the oldest living culture in the world and getting to camp in one of the best spots in Australia, thus Finke River Cultural tours was born."

In late 2022, Mr Kenny was approached by 100% Adventure owner Nick Fife to join forces with his company that was focussed on the Larapinta Trail within the West MacDonnell Ranges.

Together, they formed 100% Finke River Culture & Adventure.

"My passion for teaching kids about our culture and furthering their knowledge is what led me to this life changing opportunities, and one of the best decisions I have made in my life," Mr Kenny said.

100% Finke River Culture & Adventure also engages local micro businesses to teach the art of painting and connection to Country.

The small group tour, which only runs a few times a year, has already sold out for select dates.

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