Funding future of Aboriginal tourism program in doubt

Tom ZaunmayrMidwest Times
VideoThe upcoming state budget will include an extra $9 million in an effort to boost overseas visitor numbers.

The head of WA’s Aboriginal tourism sector has raised concern for the growth of indigenous tourism as funding for a successful business program runs dry.

State Government contributions to the Aboriginal Tourism Development Program expire on June 30 and the industry believes it is unlikely to receive a fresh cash injection in the May State Budget.

Tourism Minister Paul Papalia would not confirm the program’s fate, but said the Government was instead committed to rolling out a new Aboriginal tourism plan.

West Australian Indigenous Tourism Operators Council chief executive Robert Taylor said there was no reason to stop the initiative.

“To put the ATDP (and Camping with Custodians) in perspective, some of the camp sites built on communities where they were going to cut off services, they now have a way of generating their own income to stay where they are,” he said.

“I think the State Government is short-sighted in not wanting to fund what the previous government did because it wasn’t their idea.

“The way it works right now is working. Both Aboriginal tourism and the State are getting benefits, so why change it.”

VideoPeedamulla Campground is a Camping with Custodians initiative, celebrating the connection between Aboriginal people and the land, and you can stay there!

Mr Taylor said WAITOC would seek funding through other partners if the State Government ceased its commitment.

Mr Papalia said the program had reached its natural end and there was no requirement to continue funding.

“We have our own plan, we have our own initiatives and we don’t have to fund the previous government’s programs,” he said.

“The data from Tourism Research Australia confirms when we inherited tourism in March 2017 things were dire and getting worse. We turned that around.

“We are looking at a much more comprehensive response to Aboriginal tourism across all agencies, looking for opportunities to support and grow Aboriginal tourism right across the State.”

Shadow tourism minister Libby Mettam said it was concerning to see a program with a good track record face an uncertain future.

“It’s important we see these programs, which were developed and delivered under the former government, are funded in the coming Budget,” she said.

“Aboriginal tourism adds almost $44 million to the State economy alone and provides 339 full-time jobs a year, many in remote areas where employment opportunities are limited.”

Ms Mettam said the ATDP helped develop, mentor and market more than 49 businesses over four years.

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