INDIGENOUS/ABORIGINAL TOURISM RESEARCH IN AUSTRALIA (2000–2008):
Industry lessons and future research needs
Pascal Tremblay and Aggie Wegner
Objectives of Study Key Findings
Research on Indigenous/ Aboriginal tourism (IAT) is • It is noticeable that definitions of IAT differ
highly heterogeneous and difficult to organise for the considerably between states, and it can be
purpose of over-viewing and synthesising. In order to assumed that it will change through time.
gain an overview of completed research, and be able to These definitions reflect the priorities of
identify benefits, gaps and directions of IAT research in various jurisdictions, and will affect and
the Australian context, this research project had three influence perceptions of research needs. It is
main objectives: evident that some of the strategies identify or
• to review IAT research suggest general research directions (other
o produced by Sustainable Tourism than better consumer knowledge).
Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC) • The major considerations or components
o undertaken by others in Australia found in the strategies are somewhat
o describe and critique IAT research predictable—and a large proportion of the
o develop a matrix of elements that make latter would apply to any business
up IAT development attempting to integrate
• use this review to identify lessons learned for Indigenous/Aboriginal interests with a
industry mainstream economic sector. Much of what is
• identify gaps, future opportunities and possible discussed is not specific to tourism.
directions for IAT research. • Most strategies endorse a general belief of
. high interest or growing demand in IAT, but
this is rarely backed up by references
Methodology (sources) or explicit/convincing evidence.
The approach adopted to review the literature on • Some of these strategies discussed above are
Indigenous/ Aboriginal tourism (IAT) research recent and have benefited from research and
(published as well as unpublished documents) involved strategic directions suggested by STCRC
an in-depth review of reports, documents, book (discussed in the next chapter) as well as
chapters, journal publications, government other research (some strategies have cited
documentation, including previous reviews and scoping these documents).
documents. The aim was to gain familiarity and a • There is a complex and invisible background
thorough understanding of the scope of research relationship between the proposed directions
undertaken. for Aboriginal tourism and the course taken by
Aboriginal economic development
To provide an overview of previous research a matrix organisations operating in each state, the
containing elements that make up Indigenous/ alignment between the two types of
Aboriginal tourism was developed with research organisations being more or less clear for each
conducted between 2000 and 2008 categorised jurisdiction. Other areas are also highly
accordingly. Furthermore, this project provides an relevant in some of the states, such as the
overview and presents the main findings from IAT ‘Indigenous Arts Strategy’ in the Northern
research projects. Territory.
• A preliminary north/west—south/east divide
The review was then used to critically analyse the can be observed in terms of viewpoints and
undertaken research direction with the aim to identify identified priorities for IAT development in
benefits, gaps and directions of IAT research in the Australia. It becomes apparent that Western
Australian context. Australia and the Northern Territory attach
more importance to supporting and planning o more entrepreneurship/ product
for economic development opportunities development and marketing/
through IAT as well as recognising the
2. With respect to the second component ‘location-
importance of aligning IAT with the environment’
mainstream tourism industry. New South • in terms of audience: more mixed, instead of
Wales, Victoria and Tasmania on the other specifically academic or government.
hand see their priority as adding to the • in terms of environment: more remote/regional
destination product (and ensuring a smooth and more N/A (signalling scoping research)
fit), recognising the value of economic instead of mixed.
opportunities for Aboriginal people or • in terms of location or background type: more
communities while Queensland’s approach is national/ universal and less based on precise
to address both issues simultaneously. In businesses.
presenting their strategies, the states and • in terms of state applicable: more N/A due to
Territories seem to position themselves with scoping research too.
respect to the arising political message of 3. With respect to the ‘methodology’: more
‘what comes first?’—tourism or Aboriginal stakeholders-based/qualitative research.
• Gaps in IAT research have been identified and
re-identified, before and during the life of the Future Actions
STCRC, and constitute a fairly stable but • The major issue and challenge—and greatest
broad-ranging issues list. In fact almost all potential role for the STCRC might therefore
aspects of tourism (from consumption, be to articulate an acceptable approach
production, enterprise development, fit with endorsing the realities highlighted above and
destination marketing and impacts tackle the divide between the economic
management or coordination) appear in efforts development imperative of the north-west and
to identify research gaps; careful integration of Aboriginal cultural
• None of the previous approaches have been tourism needs of the south-east. In each
able to identify or articulate priorities in such a context there is a need to reconsider the basic
way as to rank themes, or provide a logical blocks of IAT coordination (demand, supply,
sequence for research steps because: impacts management and coordination), with
o no set of priorities arose from the understanding that their relative
stakeholders and research gaps importance will differ, and that the nature of
analysis (that could have been based coordination will follow completely different
on obvious needs) —in fact divergences principles.
• To provide a reliable and practical benchmark
o no logical sequence arose from
researchers’ suggestions and of interest in Indigenous/ Aboriginal culture by
workshops (that could have been based tourists (or specific segments) in general
on logical research processes or allowing to gauge the real or realistic potential
hierarchy). of this field.
o no organic or coordinated direction • To provide a basis to understand how tourists
arose from the research fellow project conceptualise ideal Indigenous/ Aboriginal
(that could have been based on the
experiences, and what acceptable commercial
careful articulation of past or ongoing
research falling into place into an products and attributes (experience content,
endorsed agenda). location, environment and conditions, ethics,
cultural control, guarantees of authenticity or
In summary, it has been shown that the STCRC-IAT appropriate endorsement, willingness to pay
research has involved: for specific product configurations, etc.) matter,
dimensions often highlighted by Tourism
1. With respect to the first component ‘sphere- Northern Territory as critical for broad IAT
• less demand-side analysis;
• less cultural – more mixed, environmental and
• in terms of disciplinary outlook:
o less cultural studies/ economic