A $395,000 Australian Heritage Grant will increase education, awareness and recognition of the Indigenous heritage values and cultural landscape of the Wet Tropics.
The Chair of the Wet Tropics Management Authority, Chrissy Grant said: “The first step is for us to have extensive consultations with Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples groups across the region to ascertain how they want to tell their stories and share their knowledge in a culturally appropriate way.”
Ms Grant said through the process of developing the Wet Tropics Sustainable Tourism Plan 2021–2031, which was launched last September, feedback from Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples, management agencies, the tourism and education sectors, identified a critical need for an accessible knowledge and learning program that facilitates understanding of, and connection with, the rich Rainforest Aboriginal cultural landscape within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (the Area).
The Area was recognised for its global ecological significance in 1988 when it was listed as a World Heritage Area, but it was not until 2012 that the significance of Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples’ culture was recognised when it received National Heritage listing.
“This grant will certainly both help fulfill Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples’ aspirations within the tourism industry as well as fulfill visitors’ interest in being able to access authentic Indigenous cultural experiences.
“This is an important step forward. One that is built on the foundations of respect for the oldest continuing culture in the world, and that embeds an Indigenous voice and is led by Indigenous peoples.”
“Ensuring Indigenous values and perspectives are recognised is vital to sustaining such an important place, both culturally and ecologically,” Ms Grant said.
The next project phase will be to bring together the Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples, various key organisations and stakeholders to develop the initiative in a manner that meaningfully respects the rights and voice of the Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples.
One of the Directors of the Authority’s Board, Ailsa Lively, a Gunggandji woman with strong cultural connections to both the Wet Tropics and Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Areas, said: “We believe suchan initiative is essential in ensuring those working with Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples, now and in the future, create connections based on truth, deep knowledge and build on the tenets of true reconciliation.
"This will also enrich the experience for visitors and increase appreciation, understanding and recognition of the Area in a culturally appropriate way—one that respects the unique rights and custodial responsibilities held by Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples,” Ms Lively said.