Last year as part of my Master's thesis (Strategic Communications) I undertook research to better understand how protected areas could support Indigenous tourism into the future. As the former Tourism and Visitor Services Manager of Jointly Managed Kakadu National Park, it was imperative for me to understand how policies within the Kakadu Management Plan 2016 – 2026 specific to Indigenous tourism are best implemented.
In 2016, Kakadu National Park launched its Sixth Management Plan 2016 – 2026. The Plan is the overarching strategic document outlining how all components of the park will be managed during this period. As Aboriginal land, the park is jointly managed between Bininj/Mungguy traditional owners and the Commonwealth Government. The Management Plan has policies highlighting the importance of Indigenous tourism through providing benefits, employment and business opportunities for Bininj/Mungguy. To successfully implement these policies, my research asks “What is best practice in supporting Indigenous tourism in protected areas?”
After reviewing literature on Indigenous tourism broadly, the paper summarises that research is mostly involved with critiquing the implementation of Indigenous tourism as opposed to reviewing best practice on the whole. Limited research has been undertaken on Indigenous tourism within protected areas, specifically in national parks, as has limited research undertaken from an “Indigenist” perspective – research by and for Indigenous people (Neilsen et al. 2012). To understand how Indigenous tourism can best be supported by the protected area, a qualitative content analysis of Indigenous tourism strategies and plans both within Australia and internationally was conducted. Using Grounded Theory and open coding the following four categories emerged for comparison:
1. Who was involved in developing the Strategy or Plan?
2. What is the definition of Indigenous tourism?
3. What are the barriers affecting Indigenous tourism?
4. What are the recommendations and how can the barriers be mitigated?
Through comparing findings in each of these categories, exposing gaps between this research and the literature review and applying a strategic communications framework, a set of proposed future recommendations have been developed. Conclusively these have included:
· Identification of leadership – assignment of who will drive Indigenous tourism forward.
· The need for a participatory planning approach (Hyam et al 2007) allowing Indigenous tourism to be developed by and for Indigenous peoples themselves using Indigenous Knowledge Systems. This would include the unique definition of Indigenous tourism, the level of involvement desired, identification of barriers specific to the area, undertaking an audit of planning previously done and analysing what currently exists.
· Commitment of support by the protected area and affiliated stakeholders; and adequate resourcing of both personnel and financial to ensure implementation.
A strategic communications approach is proposed to mitigate the barriers of poor communication between stakeholders, ensuring inclusion of Indigenous people in tourism planning, measuring and monitoring suitable for the Indigenous people developing the definition and moral purpose, enhancing cultural awareness and sensitively communicating cultural obligations.
As a non-Indigenous person conducting the research, Decolonisation Theory was applied and approval to conduct the research received from the University of Canberra's Ethics Committee. Although Indigenous people weren’t participants in the research, Bininj/Mungguy people along with park staff were consulted about the intent with findings to be shared with Bininj/Mungguy members of the Kakadu Board of Management to aid in future tourism planning.
If you'd like the full copy of my Thesis please don't hesitate to email me firstname.lastname@example.org would love to share it :-).
Hyams, W., Grant, E., Birtles, A., Valentine, P. (2007) Finding new meaning for old values: Aboriginal cultural tourism planning in and adjacent to protected areas, Chapter 7 AIATSIS Conference 2007, pp 71-94
Nielsen, N., Wilson, E (2012) From Invisible to Indigenous-Driven: A Critical Typology of Research in Indigenous Tourism, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 19, page 1 of 9