It’s diverse. It’s big. Nowhere else feels quite like Australia. NAIDOC Week is a time for all of Australia to celebrate this land. Most importantly, it’s a chance to celebrate our Indigenous history and future. It’s an opportunity to learn more about our First Nations people – this continent and maybe the world’s first explorers, first engineers, first farmers, first botanists, first scientists, first diplomats, first astronomers and first artists.
Always Was, Always Will Be
For Indigenous Australians, ‘country’ means more than owning land or being connected to it. In the words of Professor Mick Dodson, it means the “values, places, resources, stories and cultural obligations” associated with the area being acknowledged.
International tourists first embraced the rich culture and understandings of Australia’s First Nations. Australians are also recognising the opportunity to connect with this most ancient of cultures. According to the Tourism Research Australia’s National Visitors Survey approximately 975,000 Australian took part in an Indigenous tourism experience in 2019.
Tourism Australia’s hashtag #holidayherethisyear has become a rallying cry. #RoadtripforGood is now a big Aussie group hug.
It’s the right time to take pride in our own man-made and natural wonders. Remote experiences and seemingly untouched locations that hold a special place in our hearts that we had collectively taken for granted.
Connect with the land, water and sky through timeworn stories
Travelling these irreplaceable landscapes with traditional owners sharpens our focus. The Indigenous skyworld illuminates outback skies. Dark patches hold the mysteries and the meaning. Cruising on country with a traditional owner makes the shallows, even more, crystal clear.
Wudamuli is Ngaro for Welcome Friends
Cruise on Portland Roads and you can sail the Whitsundays that was here before. The Ngaro were indigenous seafarers who traded with the Gia and other people who remained on the land. Here creation stories paint the backdrop and make this blue world more infinite.
Portland Roads has official ‘Respecting Our Culture’ certification. Unlike many other operators, permission was granted by the traditional owners. Their Master Reef Guide and Ngaro Experience always includes a welcome to country/acknowledgement of country from a Ngaro, Gia or Juru Elder like Aunty Sue West.
On day 1 cruisers discover the ancient relationships between man, the islands and the marine creatures that inhabit this spectacular corner of the planet. One of the oldest indigenous sites discovered on the East Coast is on Hook Island at Nara Inlet.
Here, safe anchorage and the rock caves along higher ground gave welcome shelter for the Ngaro people and their canoes, while the nearby waterfall provided fresh water.
While the Ngaro once hunted turtles and dugong the endless deliciousness on board Portland Roads keeps their descendants safe. Swimming and snorkelling with new-found marine friends is definitely encouraged.
Nginda nyjangum – Dyiribal for “how are you?”
Just 15 minutes from Innisfail you can walk in the clouds at Mamu Tropical Skywalk. The Skywalk is in the heart of Mamu country and takes in more than 1200m of walking tracks through ancient rainforest.
Strolling the rainforest canopy is easy through the elevated walkways. Climbing the 37m observation tower requires a little more effort. But the sweeping views of the North Johnstone River are worth it. The path cantilevers over the river for a different glimpse of the dense green. It’s very Jurassic Park without the threat of marauding man-eaters.
Our local Mamu guide explains the walkway was constructed after the devastation of Cyclone Larry created clearings in the landscape. Made from recycled plastic milk bottles and unpainted galvanised steel the Skywalk treads gently on the forest where cassowaries rule.
Galangoor Da’buthbi is “Good Morning” in Butchulla
Best known as the humpback capital of the world Hervey Bay’s less splashy charms don’t get enough media attention. In the middle of a UNESCO Biosphere Hervey Bay is home to countless, diverse wildlife and plant species.
Wil Hikuwai – skipper and co-owner of Hervey Bay Eco Marine Tours, steers the glass-bottomed Milbi through these sheltered waters daily. Milbi is Butchulla for turtle and fittingly we’re off on a Turtle Discovery Tour at this southernmost point of the Great Barrier Reef.
Conroy Burns is in charge of the storytelling and jokes today. Burrad, his traditional name means white-breasted sea eagle. Butchulla creation stories are not written in words. It’s all textures, colours and creatures. His words and connection to this sea country blur time.
Minutes from the Hervey Bay Marina and we seem to have scored our own perfect, desert island. We’ve refreshed our toes in the crystal clear water and now our view is simply endless blue and brilliant white. This little patch of paradise is Buallum Ngiya aka Pelican Banks. Burrad tells us of K’gari the beautiful white spirit that helped build this place. She rests now looking west to the mainland. She is better known as Fraser Island.
Now we are officially welcomed to country by Burrad in song, dance and didgeridoo.
Milbi tiptoes through these channels and if the tides are right a snorkel or swim is part of the day. Chasing dolphins and dugongs, watching swaying soft coral and downing a few pippies is a bonus.
What makes these places special are the people and the stories. Traditional custodians guide, tell and teach. We listen. These places seem ‘more’. Keeping them like this now seems crucial. So, like them, we take only memories and leave only footprints.
Disclaimer: TML were guests of Mamu Skywalk, Portland Roads and Hervey Bay Eco Marine Tours. For more once in a lifetime experiences go to Tourism Australia
This Magnificent Life acknowledges the custodians of this land – the Turrbal people and their elders past and present.