‘DEADLY’: Bowen’s indigenous tourism potential is ‘huge’
BUSH TUCKER walks, indigenous-inspired paddock-to-plate events, dance and storytelling performances and cultural jetski tours, these are some of the many ideas in the pipeline to highlight the "deadly culture" that Bowen has to offer.
The Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) announced that 2020 will be the Year of Indigenous Tourism, following on from the successful 2019 Year of the Outback campaign.
Girudala Community Cooperative Society project manager Sara Brewster attended the event and said the excitement around the announcement was huge and that Girudala Community Cooperative Society were hoping to harness the momentum from it.
"It was just so buzzy to see that commitment from the Queensland Government to really showcase how deadly culture is for us," she said.
"And what they kept saying is they want Queensland to be the beacon of celebrating Iindigenous culture.
"Everybody was just like, finally we get to showcase what some of these people have been doing for years and there's just never really been a push to highlight what is available for cultural experiences in Queensland and Australia in general."
Mrs Brewster said many regions in Far North and Central Queensland had embraced indigenous tourism opportunities, but the southeast had huge untapped potential that they were "110 per cent committed" to showcasing.
"Obviously everyone knows that the Whitsundays is beautiful but there's so much history, cultural history, here as well that we can all be proud of," she said.
"There's just such potential to grow that [indigenous tourism] in this region and being that indigenous tourism is the second-fastest growing tourism sector, after food and wine events, it makes sense for us to jump on that as a region and embrace it and showcase this area of the world.
"There is so much growth, I think Australians as much as international visitors are embracing it so much more, but the potential for this region is huge."
Mrs Brewster said this was the "perfect opportunity" to bring more people to town and push Bowen forwards.
"We have so many incredible historical stories to tell. A lot of culture has been lost along the way, a lot of language and stories but revitalising that in a way and offering it to everyone to embrace," she said.
'DEADLY' IDEAS TO HIGHLIGHT CULTURE
Mrs Brewster said the conversations were starting with the traditional owners and custodians and there were many "buzzy ideas" about what exactly it would mean for Bowen.
The Girudala Community Co-operative Society previously operated 360 on Flagstaff, a cafe which was devastated by Cyclone Debbie in 2017.
The cafe had begun a bush tucker walking trail around Flagstaff Hill, which Mrs Brewster said they were hoping to reopen and use as a foundation to build on.
Mrs Brewster said the focus would be on showcasing Bowen's already well-known produce and melding in indigenous ingredients.
"If we look at Bowen, we have such fantastic produce, so I'm looking at how we can harness what's already being grown here and the potential for bush foods as well," she said.
"Crops that have been brought here but also native ingredients, and showcasing that in foods that we would serve at the cafe and having paddock to plate events.
"You could incorporate performance, dance, storytelling as part of the food events.
"Really for me I think the ideas would be behind showcasing the region and culture as working alongside mainstream life. That's what we hope we would achieve."
Mrs Brewster also had ideas about jetski tours, a blending of modern and traditional ways where visitors would tour coastal areas, learning language phrases and eating bush tucker, but said it was all one step at a time.
"We see it developing in stages and the first stage is just to get into the building and get it ticking away and using that as the foundation to branch off these other tourism activities," she said.
WHEN IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN
Timelines are still in the discussion stages, with Mrs Brewster confirming she was waiting on official announcement of the tender for Flagstaff Hill and construction dates before they could look at moving forward.
Girudala Community Cooperative Society is a community organisation, which Mrs Brewster says hopes to act on behalf of the traditional owners of the land with a mutual aim to benefit the community as a whole.
"What we are trying to do, is sort of be a conduit for the several different traditional owner groups in the region," she said.
"So there's three - in Airlie, Prossie and the islands, then here in Bowen and Collinsville.
"The Giradula footprint covers all of those areas, so we were hoping that we will be the umbrella over all of these TO (traditional owner) groups coming together and offering a range of cultural activities, services and products for the region."
Mrs Brewster says they have set up a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Juru people, in order to ensure that they are able to facilitate the opportunity in a respectful way.
"We would need to go to Juru and ask permission to do those activities which is why we have that MoU, that understanding that everything we do will be in consultation with each other and we will be respectful of one another," she said.
"We have such a good reputation as an organisation. I think it makes sense for us to be the organisation that brings everybody together."