Indigenous participation in tourism

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have connections to sea country in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Tourism is the major economic activity in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and has the potential to become an increasingly important industry for Indigenous communities adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef.

What is Indigenous tourism?

Indigenous tourism can mean many things:

  • Tourism specifically to interpret Indigenous cultures and stories
  • Indigenous people directly operating or investing in tourism operations
  • Business partnerships between Indigenous organisations and tourism operators
  • Indigenous people employed in tourism operations
  • Mainstream tourism incorporating Indigenous culture and stories to enhance their programs
  • Indigenous input into the way tourism is managed.

There are many opportunities for Indigenous people to participate in marine tourism to the benefit of both Indigenous communities and the tourism industry. At the same time, greater participation by Indigenous communities can contribute to the care and development of the Marine Park.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's role

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has a Position Statement that explains its partnership role in fostering Indigenous participation in tourism and its management.

The GBRMPA, Tourism Queensland and the Department of the Environment and Resource Management (DERM) are working with Indigenous groups plus other government agencies and tourism operators to enhance Indigenous participation.

The joint long-term vision is:

  • Indigenous people owning, operating and being involved in tourism operations in the Marine Park
  • Indigenous participation in the way tourism is managed.

Opportunities for participation in tourism

In addition to the range of opportunities and permits available throughout the Marine Park, the GBRMPA, has specifically identified 13 Indigenous marine tourism permits allowing everyday operation within the Whitsundays (five permits), Hinchinbrook (three permits) and Cairns (five permits) Planning Areas.

The permits are an opportunity for Indigenous people to build exciting and viable marine tourism businesses, and build relationships with existing operators. There are special arrangements for the allocation of the special Indigenous marine tourism permits.

Tourism industry involvement

There are a number of ways in which members of the tourism industry can foster Indigenous participation in tourism. There are guidelines to help operators support local Indigenous communities and engage with those communities about tourism in the Marine Park.