THE ROC SERIES | TOURISM ON AN ABORIGINAL SACRED SITE
At Davidson's Arnhemland Safaris at Mt Borradaile, it feels like the local Aboriginal people left yesterday – their stories are clearly visible in tools, ceremonial grounds and rock art paintings, some of which are still being uncovered today.
The company’s eco lodge is a remote safari lodge of ensuited, 24/hour solar-powered cabins, located on 700km2 of north-west Arnhem Land. As this site is a registered Aboriginal sacred site, Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris have special permission to take visitors around what is an extremely well-maintained heritage destination.
“[Operating on a registered sacred site means] it is very important for us to consult the Indigenous traditional owners of Mt Borradaile, explains Manager, Ray Curry.
“One of the Traditional Owners, Charlie Mungalda, spends many months of the year with us. We think he is in his early 80s, so he doesn’t go out on tour very often, but his presence is appreciated by the guests when back at the lodge.”
This close working relationship with Traditional Owners, the Amurdak people, adds depth to the visitor experience to this diverse and multifaceted landscape.
Interestingly, it was also these Traditional Owners who first approached Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris' founder, Max Davidson, to explore the possibility of setting up a tourism venture at Mt Borradaile.
“Our Indigenous content is one of the main reasons why clients visit us, says Ray.
“[The Amurdak culture] is a continuous living culture of 50,000 years – it’s the oldest known and we use tourism as a tool to educate tourists – both domestic and international.
As Ray explains, Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris have employed and continue to employ Indigenous guides, though this can be difficult as many of the local Traditional Owners do not want to be away from their community.
Advanced Ecotourism and ROC Certified since 2008, and therefore having reached Green Travel Leader status with Ecotourism Australia this year, Ray’s key message to operators who aren’t yet engaged with Traditional Owners is to be respectful.
In his words: “[ROC Certification] can act as a bridge, and yes, it can support greater understanding between cultures.“
For more information about Ecotourism Australia’s ROC Certification program, visit the program website.
[Photos from Davidson's Arnhemland Safaris]