Ngaro traditional owners and guides of the Ngaro Indigenous Cultural Tour Peter and Tony Pryor and William Blackman.
Ngaro traditional owners and guides of the Ngaro Indigenous Cultural Tour Peter and Tony Pryor and William Blackman.

Setback turns into opportunity to reclaim indigenous culture

TRADITIONAL owners have welcomed an extension to the Year of Indigenous Tourism, saying it will give them a chance to make their voices heard and reclaim their culture and heritage.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Sunday that the Year of Indigenous Tourism will extend into 2021 as the tourism industry continues to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

The year was set to be dedicated to celebrating First Nations experiences in Queensland and attracting people from all around the world to learn from traditional owners.

In the Whitsundays, this included the launch of the region's first indigenous tour.

Ngaro traditional owner Peter Pryor debuted the Ngaro Indigenous Cultural Tour alongside his family and owner of Whitsunday Paradise Explorer John Henderson.

It was the first tour of its kind in the region and provided small groups with an intimate insight into the stories and history of the Ngaro tribe.

 

 

However, coronavirus brought operations to a standstill just weeks after the tour was launched.

Mr Pryor said as restrictions begun to ease they were able to take smaller groups on the tour and hoped the extension to the Year of Indigenous Tourism would give both tourists and operators more time to reflect on the history of the area.

"A lot of people don't know that when the first settlers came through there in 1860 (that) by 1900 all my ancestors were rounded up from the islands and taken away because we fought back," he said.

"That's part of our history.

"We are the next generation of Ngaro descendants and we have a story.

"We don't want anger among us, we don't hold our anger and heartaches from the past.

"We are working together and marching forward into the future, and part of that is our story."

Mr Pryor said the Year of Indigenous Tourism also provided an opportunity for tourism operators to reflect on how they could incorporate the history of the area into their own visitor experiences.

Whitsunday Paradise Explorer owner operator John Henderson, Ngaro traditional owner Tony Pryor, Minister for Tourism Industry Development Kate Jones, Ngaro traditional owner Peter Pryor, CEO of Tourism Whitsundays Tash Wheeler, managing director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation Anna Marsden and (front) Ngaro traditional owner William Blackman at the launch of the tour in February.
Whitsunday Paradise Explorer owner operator John Henderson, Ngaro traditional owner Tony Pryor, Minister for Tourism Industry Development Kate Jones, Ngaro traditional owner Peter Pryor, CEO of Tourism Whitsundays Tash Wheeler, managing director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation Anna Marsden and (front) Ngaro traditional owner William Blackman at the launch of the tour in February.

He hoped that over the next few months, he could work with operators to make tours more culturally sensitive with a recognition of the traditional owners of the Whitsunday region.

"The tour operators are interested in cultural awareness, which is what we're trying to look at in the future," he said.

"It's the missing link in all the tourism that's happening (in the Whitsundays) and has been happening for the last 30, 40, 50 years.

"We know it's needed and some tour operators know it as well.

"To be able to talk about traditional owners and know they've got the right information is a good thing."

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In the meantime, Mr Pryor looked forward to welcoming more tourists to the region and giving the Ngaro people the chance to educate others and reclaim their culture and heritage.

"We are coming home, with a bright light on the horizon we are coming home," he said.

"It's a good thing for the Whitsundays and a good thing for our country.

"It's a unique tour, we know that, and we hope some time in the future other tour operators will be stepping up to do the same thing."


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