AIATSIS National
Indigenous Studies
Conference 2014
Breaking Barriers in
Indigenous Research and
Professor Dennis Foley
School of Humanities and Social Science
The University of Newcastle
Australian Aboriginal
Tourism: Still an
opportunity, but
keep the culture
The Diversity of Aboriginal Australia
In the late 18th century, there were
between 350 and 750 distinct Aboriginal
social groupings, and a similar number of
languages or dialects
Dalby, Andrew (1998). Dictionary of Languages. Bloomsbury Publishing plc. pp. 43.
ISBN 0-7475-3117-X.
Walsh, Michael. 1991. Overview of indigenous languages of Australia. In Suzane
Romaine (ed), Language in Australia. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-33983-9
Key point: diversity of language and
Professor Eve Fesl.
John McCorquodale
legal historian
since the time of white settlement
governments have used no less than
67 classifications or definitions to
determine who is an Aboriginal
(Commonwealth of Australia 1991)
Key Point: Inability of Colonial
Australia to define our identity
So why does Aboriginal culture
become uniformly defined
The paper looks at the shortcomings in
cultural heritage tourism, supported by a
recent small qualitative case study of 20
German, English, Irish and Norwegian visitors
together with a supporting literature review
from the Indigenous Australian author’s
However let us look at some of the issues in
the traditional lands of my mother and sisters
matrilineal culture
‘The last member of the last tribe’ … as he dances on
a boat in Sydney harbour to a robotic trance
designed purely for the international tourist watching
another blackfella in a red nappy with the mandatory
white handprints and didgeridoo, an instrument
commercialised within the tourism industry and by
Aboriginal performers who do not respect its
… yet it is a standard backdrop to any Aboriginal
performance in Hobart, Adelaide, Melbourne or Perth
Sydney Harbour's
Aboriginal Cultural
‘The last member of the last tribe’
Words of a usurper who has no blood connection to this land:
first recorded in the evidence of Mahroot in 1845 to a
parliamentary enquiry in the broader discussion and context
of debating the justification of child removal in lieu of alleged
infanticide practices. ‘The last of the tribe’ is a convention
in Australian Literature; T. G. Strelow, Spencer,
Mountford and Henry Kendall’s poem of 1869. The image to
the side is from the Victorian Reader, a School Textbook in
Victoria in 1928 entitled ‘The Last of His Tribe’ which
included Kendall’s poem. The convention was a key
component of ANTA’s conferring
of a moribund black ‘race’ 1930’s
The last of his tribe is a phrase
commonly used by a former ‘Heritage
Advisor’ to the Local Aboriginal Land
Council and a former Director and advisor
to the same cultural experience cruise
Possibly a script from something read?
Now in Sydney traditional culture determines that a
yidaki is alien; rather a chorus of possum skin drums
and other wooden percussion instruments are the
traditional musical instruments. Not a termite
hollowed out stick! The ‘Didg’ in Sydney is
reinvented-hybrid culture, no doubt like the peace
pipe, head feathers and dream catchers are to our
American First Nations cousins as they are in turn
trivialised and sold in flea markets loosing their
cultural significance
Set sail on a journey to
discover the stories of the
Eora, Cadigal, Guringai,
Wangal, Gammeraigal and
Wallumedegal people. Come
ashore on an island in
Sydney Harbour to an
authentic Aboriginal cultural
The justification to this ethical problem in
Australia is that Aboriginal Tourism has been
portrayed by several governments as the economic
alternative to welfare and indeed is seen by some
as a means to make a quick dollar without respect
for cultural heritage as the operators (black &
white) invent stories, dances or songs or just pure
ignorance by the performer who thinks they know
what the tourist is looking for
Sydney Harbour's most un-Authentic Aboriginal
Cultural Cruise
Retail Prices valid
to 31 March 2013
Adults $60
Concession $45
Child (5-14 yrs) $40
Mr John Moriarty, well known Indigenous
identity and businessman, informed me about
his fear of the ‘invention’ or ‘re-invention’ of
Aboriginal culture that was happening in
Sydney by some sections of the community
Susan Moylan-Coombs, well known TV
producer and community identity also is
concerned over the ‘un-authentic’
Aboriginal stories being taught to a gullible
public (2013)
Busking Industry
Circular Quay
The Authority is the issuer of permits for busking at
Darling Harbour and The Rocks and Circular Quay.
The issue of permits subject to
- the provision valid public liability insurance,
- valid City of Sydney permit or an ACAPTA P.A.S.S.
cost $20
Application can be made online or in person with an
appointment at a precinct office.
Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority and
Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council
have developed initiatives to promote Aboriginal
busking within Circular Quay and Darling Harbour
… Performers at this pitch must be identified as
Aboriginal through accreditation by the
Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council
All Aboriginal performers must hold a busking
permit and public liability insurance (in the sum of
$AUD10 million)
an organisation set up under Land
Rights legislation
that has no traditional owner
determines Aboriginal
Dr Barry Jones AO
past Vice President Australia ICOMOS
In November 2003 the Heritage office co-hosted
the Australian ICOMOS Annual Conference at North
Head, in the plenary Barry Jones concluded that …
the key issue of the interpretation and presentation
of Aboriginal cultural heritage is knowing the right
people to speak to
Barry Jones raised the question:
if ICOMOS cannot get it right who can!
At such a prestigious Cultural
Heritage conference ICOMOS and
the Heritage Office did not
recognise the traditional owners and
therefore missed the opportunity to
understand the cultural significance
of the physical site that they were
Professor John Mulvaney
Professor Mulvaney the Australian
Grandfather of Archaeology and
ethical scholarship after reading
‘Repossession’ wrote to me and
apologised for getting it wrong,
he now understood that our culture
was alive
To illustrate the division in knowledge
between the traditional owner and
the Land Rights organisation propped
up by government
The local Aboriginal Land
Council published a book
claiming that North Head
was a Whales Tail / Tale
North Head
called Car-rang gel
or Gar-rang gel
or Car-rang gul
…. Is a totemic landscape
And a Koradji ceremonial site
(n.b. C can be replaced G or a K in translation)
means Pelican & gel gul or gal
determines place
Car-rang gel = Pelicans land
North Head has nothing to do with
This is a falsehood invented by the
Local Aboriginal Land Council to suit
their own purpose
WARNING: whoever controls the story
controls the cultural heritage… thus Santa
is now a myth!
Experience a Koomurri didgeridoo workshop in a natural bush
setting right in the heart of the Sydney CBD … From beginner to
advanced students
Private lessons start from $120 . Duration : 60-90 minutes
Gather a group of friends and save with Group bookings for
minimum of 5 people starting from $40 per person.
We supply all tools and didgeridoos for the whole group and
also the didgeridoos are for sale to take home with you at a far
better price than you will buy in store.
Another cultural commercial
Business based in cultural
Heritage disregarding
Protocols and cultural
1. Possibly the world's oldest musical instrument
2. A wind instrument originally found in Arnhem Land,
Northern Australia.
3. Is made from limbs and tree trunks hollowed out by
termites (insects).
4. Is cut to an average length of 1.3 metres and cleaned out
with a stick. or hot coals.
5. Used as an accompaniment to chants and songs.
6. Produces a low-pitch, resonant sound with complex
rhythmic patterns.
7. In some tribal groups only played by men but in most
groups by men & women – women not normally in public
8. Traditional various forms of the didgeridoo where found in
Central Australia
bamboo didgeridoos were quite common among northerly
groups in the Northern Territory during the 19th century is
confirmed by the word 'bamboo' which is still used in the lingua
franca by some Aborigines when referring to the instrument,
though 'didjeridu‘ or ‘yidaki’ are commonly used.
the first didjeridus perhaps were of bamboo because of the
availability of bamboo in the north-western region of the
Northern Territory, & the first didjeridu players may well have
belonged to that region.
observations by R. Etheridge Jr. in 1893 'three very curious
trumpets … [the trumpets] are made from bamboo lengths, the
diaphragms having been removed
Ref: Robert Lawlor (1991) Voices of the First Day: Awakening in the Aboriginal Dreamtime (Inner
May have been more widely distributed in Australia, some
evidence for this is to be found in the literature on central
Australian groups. Spencer and Gillen (1899) refer to a
'rudimentary trumpet" (60cm. In length) called ilpirra or
This was used by Aboriginal men as a magic charm for
obtaining wives (Carl Strehlow 1908: 77 and Teil IV,p.15)
shows illustrations of the tjurunga ulburu and the karakara,
the latter used in an Aranda Itata, or public celebration in
which women participated. Theo Strehlow (1947: 78-9)
writes of a 'low toned wooden ulbura trumpet' used by
southern Aranda people on the Finke River. The instrument
is pictured representing the neck (rantja) of a venomous
snake 'playfully "biting" a novice from another Aranda
group' (picture facing p. 89). Eylmann (1908) refers to
wooden and bamboo trumpets; and his illustrations include
a 'Trompete der Waramunga', that is of a desert group
Ref: Robert Lawlor (1991) Voices of the First Day: Awakening in the Aboriginal
Dreamtime (Inner Traditions)
1932 National Tourism Organisation
(Charles Holmes) included the didgeredoo in its
national audit of tourism ‘assets’
important role in defining National Heritage
‘[ … fifty years after the Arnhem Land Expedition,
[Mountford 1948] every tribal group within Australia
seems to have adopted the didgeridoo of the Top
End Aborigines as their own musical instrument.’
Specht 2012: 54.
… do doubt the increased mobility of Aboriginal
people post 1960’s and the development of
Aboriginal Tourism spread the instrument to Sydney
Ref: Robert Lawlor (1991) Voices of the First Day: Awakening in the Aboriginal Dreamtime
(Inner Traditions)
So what’s wrong with this?
Semi structured interviews
were undertaken with 20
random selected international
Their main response concerning Aboriginal cultural
performances was:
- an indifference to the content/meaning
- boring after the first performance
- tended to be very similar no diversity
- short presentations, lack of depth in content
An Irish Professor of tourism &
small business stated:
‘Once you have seen
one performance
they all look and
sound the same’
Photo of Max courtesy:
Is there no diversity anymore
Is the hegemony of the
didgeridoo and portray of
Aboriginal culture in tourism
supporting Urey’s experience
of the ‘exotic difference’
has the didgeridoo in Australia
become the Mc’Donaldisation of
Aboriginal Culture in Tourism
The rumour of World Heritage Listing?
If Sydney Harbour attains World Heritage
Shudder the thought that Aboriginal
like the buskers is maintained by a
government supported land rights
organisation without customary –
traditional owner involvement
Consider the loss of authenticity, &
loss of customary knowledge
Australian Aboriginal
Tourism: still an
opportunity ...
But keep the culture
Dr Jillian Barnes for reading & suggestions within
the field of Critical Tourism Studies