The more we know about something, the more we can understand and respect it.
These are the wise words of Clare Drabsch of Advanced Ecotourism and Respecting our Culture (ROC) Certified Trek Tours Australia, a company which has been taking guests through Australia’s magnificent wilderness areas on foot since 2010.
For Trek Tours Australia, living out the principles of ROC certification means immersing themselves and their guests in education.
“There is so much to learn! Our indigenous culture is fascinating, sophisticated and complex. The more we are able to listen and the more conversation we are able to engage in with the local Indigenous community, the more we will be able to learn, understand and relate to,” says Clare.
For a business which operates boutique small group trekking adventures in the Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia, there is certainly a lot of Indigenous culture to learn about. That’s why Trek Tours Australia includes Indigenous culture components in all of their tours, either through the interpretation offered by the company’s own guides, or by local Indigenous speakers.
“We are lucky to live in Australia and have such a rich, ancient and unique indigenous culture, explains Clare.
“To begin to understand, it is imperative to immerse yourself in the community, have contact with the land and [with] the Indigenous people.”
All of Trek Tours’ guides undergo cultural awareness training to give them a deeper understanding of Aboriginal Culture, and recently staff attended a cultural exchange with the Mina-Nina group in Tasmania.
But it’s not just Trek Tours’ guides who are immersed in learning. On the Larapinta Trail [NT], Trek Tours Australia works with an Indigenous cultural consultant, Deanella Mack from Cultural Connections, who joins the six, nine and 16-day tours to hold cultural awareness/information sessions for guests. Clare says that this session always extremely well received.
“Many guests have had limited contact with indigenous Australians and indigenous culture, she says.
“[They] are eager to learn more about the culture and the importance of culture to indigenous Australians.
“Their interaction with the local indigenous community as well as the information that our guides are able to pass on is often a highlight of their trek.”
Trek Tours Australia also work closely with local Traditional Owners during the consultation process for operating treks in remote and sensitive areas. In Central Australia, where they have erected semi-permanent camps, staff work with Indigenous people to ensure the practices engaged in in these camps are respectful of culture.
Her message to tourism operators not currently engaging with Traditional Owners?
“Why not! It’s so beneficial on a personal, professional and community level. […] Learning about the indigenous culture can only improve upon products/tours you are offering.”
For more information about Ecotourism Australia’s ROC Certification program, visit the program website.
[By Lina Cronin. Photo credit: Trek Tours Australia / Luke Tscharke Photography]