Daily Management Review

Aboriginal Australians show how to do Business in a sustainable manner


Native Australians have shown the world that men need not act like a virus and consume the very planet that is his home. A business enterprise need not be exploitive in order to be successful. Inclusive and sustainable growth that makes business sense is not only possible but they are a prime example of it.

Roy Roger Gibson had a vision and a dream. An indigenous Kuku Yalanjo elder, he would stand and watch thousands of tourists come with their 4*4 vehicles and trample his pristine land in Far North Queensland, Australia. His culture was slowly receding, his people were suffering and the local wildlife was disappearing too. He wished he could turn all of these around, he dreamt of a world wherein people could cohabit harmoniously with the animals.
His dream took 20 long years to come to fruition: today the Mossman Gorge Centre is an example of a successful indigenous ecotourism business. It is listed as a world heritage site in the Daintree National Park in Queenland, Australia.
The world is seeing a dramatic rise in the numbers of globe-trotting tourists seeking out authentic experiences. It is in this context that one can safely conclude that indeed tourism has acted as a catalyst for change, for preserving indigenous cultures, for protecting the environment and for providing education and training opportunities to those who are in the Tourism sector.
The Mossmand Gorge Aboriginal Community and Roy got together to create the Indigenous Land Corporation (ICL), so as to create this centre wherein 90% of the workforce is indigenous. The centre currently has 61 employees and 21 trainees. Roberta Stanley, 18, along with her twin sister, joined the centre as a trainee.
“Every morning, when I step out of home in my work uniform, I can’t stop smiling. It has helped me reconnect with our history, legends, languages, music and the arts. I feel a sense of immense pride and have the confidence to pursue my dream of becoming an artist and dancer.”
With limited education, native Australians find it hard to get employment and pursue their dreams. But thanks to the centre they not only get a job but they get training as well. In 2011, the centre had employed an estimated 207,600 indigenous Australians with the effect that in the Torres Strait Island, almost every two people in five, who were aged more than 15, found employment. Although it seems that the centre gave them just employment, but it was a lot more than that, it gave the local populace a sense of belonging, a sense of pride and ownership.
“Physically, mentally and emotionally, it has given our people the confidence that we can do it. One of my daughters is also employed here,” says Pamela Salt, who is a self-taught artist with no formal training. Today her work is on display at the Centre’s gallery and they are bought not only by Australians but by international tourists as well.
Greg Erwin, Mossman Gorge Centre’s General Manager, said more than 250,000 tourists have visited the centre since last July. “Indigenous tourism is gaining momentum. It will add a cultural depth to the experiences that visitors have in any destination. The Kuku Yalanji people, like other Aboriginal communities, have been nurturing and looking after the environment for thousands of years. It is their supermarket and their pharmacy.”
For Roy Roger Gibson, “This Centre is a role model for our younger generation dreaming of a better life.” When tourists come, he takes them along on “dreamtime walks” highlighting the subtle nuances of the world’s oldest rainforest, telling them tales that has been passed on from generations, tales spun around flora and fauna, food sources, Mt. Demi and the caves which are of special spiritual significances for the indigenous people of Australia.
“Now we are able to protect our ecosystem and at the same time provide visitors an insight into the lives, culture and beliefs of the Kuku Yalanji people and their connection to the natural environment. Our emphasis is on sustainability,” says Roy.
Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) is a commercial organisation that provides business opportunities to indigenous Australians. IBA has a Business Development Assistant programme, which in the last financial year alone, has disbursed 90 loans valued at $55 million.
“Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partners currently hold more than 68 million dollars in equity across a range of commercial businesses and assets through IBA’s Equity and Investment Programme and the IBA purchased over 2.4 million dollars [of] goods and services from approximately 30 indigenous businesses,” says Chris Fry, IBA CEO.
As the world is slowly but surely transforming towards the development of a new era, which emphasizes harmonious living and inclusive growth amongst all other things; sustainable initiatives such as this is a prime example and a blueprint of how business enterprises can be profitable and yet be in harmony with nature.