Voici donc mon mémoire sur le tourisme culturel aborigène en Australie. Et en anglais, SVP !
Je me suis appuyée bien évidemment sur mes expériences personnelles, mais également sur un rapport de l'ATSIC (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commision) publié sur Internet ainsi que sur un guide Lonely Planet intitulé "Aboriginal Australia" pour l'histoire du peuple aborigène. Bonne lecture !
First I would like to thank a few persons for their professionalism, their availability, their knowledge and also their kindness towards me.
Thanks to the tourism school E.F.H.T. and its director, Mr. Marquere, as well as to all the teachers, especially Mrs Berardino for the time she took to talk with us and answer all our questions.
Thanks to Neil McGilp, Marketing Manager of Kimberley Wilderness Adventures for giving me the opportunity to do a wonderful work experience in Australia.
Thanks to Robyn Maher, Office Manager, and to Robbie Standaloft, General Manager, for trusting me all the time.
Thanks to all the Camp Hosts and Drivers of Kimberley Wilderness Adventures, especially Renata Cameron and Jerome Gill for their enthusiasm.
Thanks also to François Giner and his partner Maïa Ponsonnet for giving me the great opportunity to spend two months with them in Aboriginal Arnhem Land, for their energy and their amazing knowledge of the Aboriginal world.
Indigenous Australians, also known as Aborigines, are a diverse group of people living vastly different lifestyles in each corner of the country. As Dr. I. Watson (Aboriginal lawyer, writer and activist) says: "there are many common stereotypes of Aboriginal people. Our is that we are all the same and conform to the idealized image of the naked Aborigine standing with spear in hand watching the sunset. This is a picture which quickly dissolved into the reality of the 21st century." Aborigines of Australia today have an important role to play in the country.
There are up to 700 traditional societies in Australia, each with its own dialect, culture and traditions. Actually the traditional Aboriginal country is based on language groups that do not represent exclusive traditional ownership or occupation of the land. There are no boundaries in the occidental meaning of the word.
However, outsiders (= Europeans), from the first invasion forces to the latest waves of new migrants, have introduced an entirely new way of seeing Australia. They have created states and boundaries without taking into account the Aboriginal countries. But today, two centuries after the first massacres and battles, the outsiders are beginning to take a much greater interest in what Aboriginal people have to say. Aborigines are facilitating this process by being more influent in modern society (art, business) and by inviting visitors to learn something about their rich and varied culture. A new form of tourism has been created over the last years. At its best, this new kind of tourism can be education, enabling Aborigines to teach visitors about their culture in a way in which they can control the access to and interpretation of this information, and also make a living out of it. Tourism, in theory, can be a way for Aboriginal people to save and protect their culture as well as to transmit it to the young generations.
But the Aborigines have been treated so badly by the outsiders for the last two centuries that their own people is threatened. Outsiders have denied and despised for so long the Aboriginal world with no concern for the consequences that they have caused lots of irreparable damages, including the numerous social problems that go with them (alcohol abuse, unemployment…).
However today things are changing slowly. The image of Aborigines starts to be different from what it was in people's minds in the country. Tourists also become more and more interested in the Aboriginal culture and they want to go to Australia to meet the first people on this land. The Olympics in Sydney in 2000 were actually a great promotion for Australia and have boosted international tourism, which has benefited from this popular and world broadcasted event. Aboriginal tourism has obviously also gain value in the process. Tourism is a way to show and explain their ancestral culture today in a world that has nearly make it disappear over the last two centuries. So what is exactly the current situation of Aboriginal cultural tourism? What problems do Aboriginal people encounter to enter the tourism industry? And wouldn't it be too late for saving their ancestral culture anyway? In other words, does the survival of the Aboriginal culture today inevitably imply tourism?
I have tried to find out the answers to all these questions through two work experiences in Australia, one with Kimberley Wilderness Adventures, an Aboriginal co-owned company offering tours in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, the other one with Francois Giner in his Bodeidei Camp in Aboriginal Arnhem Land.
In the first part of this report, I am going to present the Aborigines, first people on the land of Australia, explaining their history and spirituality. This is necessary to be able to understand the current situation in the country. Then I will talk about my work experiences in relation with Aborigines, questioning myself about the current situation of Aboriginal cultural tourism in Australia today at the beginning of the 21st century, and about the possible interaction of tourism with the survival of the culture.
I - ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA
A - History
Australian Aboriginal society has the longest continuous cultural history in the world. Depending on the experts, its origins date back at least 50,000 years, possibly 70,000.
The word Aborigines comes form the Latin, meaning "from the beginning" or "origin".
- Ancient history
The arrival of the people who became known as Aborigines took place during the Pleistocene period. Although much of Australia is arid today, these first arrivals found a much wetter continent, with large forests and lakes. According to archaeologists, within a few thousand years and thanks to a relatively non-threatening environment, Aborigines had populated much of the country, although the central parts of the continent were not occupied until about 24,000 years ago.
At the end of the last ice age, about 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, a period known as the Holocene, the sea level rose and large areas of land were inundated in a few decades, many inland lakes dried up and vast deserts formed. For Aborigines, the connection with the land was generated over this long period of intimate contact with the changing continent and it continues today. Aboriginal society was a knowledge-based society, which survived enormous changes in climate and environment. Aborigines were nomads on their own land, which means that they traveled through their own country for food and other commodities, but not through all Australia. This stable but delicately balanced way of life was radically disrupted with European settlement.
- Contacts and settlement
Though there is no clear evidence of it, Portuguese and Chinese navigators may probably have been the first to visit Australia in the 16th century. In 1606, the Spaniard L. V. Torres gave his name to the strait between Cape York and New Guinea. Dutch and English mariners also came into contact with Australia at this time. Then in the 18th century, French and British explorers began to take a stronger interest in this land. Captain J. Cook "discovered" the fertile Eastern coast in 1770. The British government, to head off French claims, established a penal colony there in 1778 under the name of New South Wales.
Despite the presence of between 500,000 to one million Aborigines in the region, the newly arrived Europeans considered the continent to be "terra nullius': a land belonging to no-one, as they conveniently saw no recognizable system of government, no commerce or permanent settlements and no evidence of land use or land ownership. From the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th, European settlers dispossessed Aborigines from their land, a process marked by numerous massacres, rapes and introduction of diseases that were lethal for Aborigines, such as smallpox or leprosy. Settlers also broke the balance between Aborigines and the environment, by ruining the habitats that had for tens of thousands of years sustained Aborigines' food resources. Whatever resistance Aborigines mounted, Europeans kept arriving in ever-greater number, attracted by gold discovery and fertile lands. Aboriginal society survived only among relatively small groups in Central and Northern Australia.
By the early 1900s, a legislation designed to segregate and "protect" (!) Aboriginal people had been passed in all states. To stop the development of a "half-caste" population and to assimilate them into Australian society, Aboriginal children were taken away from their family if it was suspected that the father was non-Aboriginal: they were known as the Stolen Generations. This practice continued until the early 1970s, with huge and dramatic impacts on Aborigines, every impact linked to the others: loss of identity, trauma, alcohol abuse, drug use, unemployment, poverty, racism…
- Social changes
After World War II, "assimilation" became the stated aim of the Federal Government but in practice the rights of Aborigines were subjugated even further. However, in the 1960s, people of Australia became increasingly aware of the inequity of their treatment of Aborigines:
- in a 1967 referendum, settler Australians voted to count Aborigines in the census and gave the Federal Government power to legislate for Aborigines in all states. Aborigines finally became citizens of Australia, which was a good thing in theory, but not always in reality as it gave to Aborigines the right to go to pubs legally and drink for instance.
- in 1972, Aborigines erected a "tent embassy" on the lawns of the Parliament House in Canberra, as a symbol of resistance to the "assimilation".
After that, the assimilation policy was replaced by the policy of self-determination and the Federal Government established the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA) that evolved later into the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and different Aboriginal organizations were established in the area of health, legal services and housing.
From 1976, large areas of lands were returned to Aborigines in the Northern Territory. From this date, Aborigines could also claim for Crown Lands (government land). Same thing happened in South Australia in 1981 and in New South Wales in 1983. In May 1982, the High Court of Australia, following the Mabo case, rejected the notion of "terra nullius" as Aborigines were recognized as owners of their land prior to annexation. This revolutionary decision was seen as an opportunity to create a basis for reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians and led to the Native Title Act of 1993 passed by the Federal Parliament. This act was aimed to limit the application of Native Title to land that no-one else owned or leased and with which the Indigenous claimants have continued to have a physical association.
Through this recent history, Aborigines have lost an important part of their culture and traditions, as they were living in a completely isolated world before the arrival of White people, with different concepts and preoccupations (no money involved, no profit). White people have changed everything brutally.
Today, despite a strong racism, deeply established in the country and still existing regressive attitudes towards Aborigines, Reconciliation has been a powerful concept in modern Australia. Lots of work has to be done, as Indigenous people still fall below the standards of many Third World nations (as regard quality of life measuring indices). But the process is launched, or at least that is what White people want to believe. The 2000 Sydney Olympics were an example of the celebration of the positive spirit of Australia, as Aboriginal athlete Cathy Freeman lit the Olympic torch. Although it was just an image, and not a real improvement done for Aboriginal on their lands. The Aboriginal question in Australia is much more complex and complicated, their culture is on its way to disappear. And it may be too late for it to survive. However, changes, at least social ones, are on their way.
A difficult, long and uncertain way though.
B - Spirituality
Indigenous people hold a special attachment to land, which is tied into their social, cultural and economic well-being. Although much of the special knowledge of the environment has been lost due to the various impacts upon traditional culture, a great deal still exists.
It is important to note that Aborigines' laws and spiritual beliefs were not written down. This knowledge was passed on from one generation to the next in dances, songs, stories, dreams and paintings. Thus there is no trace, proof or whatsoever of their traditions. All the knowledge has always been in the Elders' minds.
According to Aboriginal beliefs, all life as it is today is part of one vast unchanging network of relationships that can be traced to the Great Spirit Ancestors of the Dreamtime. The Dreamtime continues as the Dreaming in the spiritual lives of Aboriginal people today. Dreaming is an approximate English translation of an Aboriginal concept with no equivalent. Groups each have their own words for this concept. For instance, the Pitjantjatjana people of Central Australia use the term Tjukurpa, and the Ngarinyin people from the Kimberley use the term Wunan to refer to their law. However the English word is acceptable for Aborigines.
The Dreaming refers to all that is known and all that is understood.
- The sacred world
The Dreamtime is the Aboriginal understanding of the world, of its creation and its great stories. The Dreamtime is the beginning of knowledge, from which came the laws of existence. For survival these laws must be observed. Law and spirituality are one and the same thing.
The Dreaming world was the old time of the Ancestors Beings. They emerged from the earth at the time of creation. Time began in the world the moment these supernatural beings were "born out from their own Eternity". They created the natural world from a barren flat earth, taking the form of humans, animals or natural features in the landscapes. Their spirits are still alive in land, in some sacred places.
Stories and songs tell all there is to know about the environment and its features. They are a way to teach young Aborigines about their land.
- The physical world
"Our land our life"
"We don't own the land, the land owns us"
"The land is my mother, my mother is the land"
"Land is the starting point to where it all began. It is like picking up a piece of dirt and saying this is where I started and this is where I will go."
"The land is our food, our culture, our spirit and identity"
"We don't have boundaries like fences, as farmers do. We have spiritual connections"
Through these few sentences, we can see that spirituality and land are one entity. Land is central to the existence of Aborigines. They also say: "the land is us, for we are in the land, as is the spirit of creation in all things. All is one, one is all." The land is sacred because it carries the footsteps of the Spirit Ancestors as they walked every part of it, laying tracks and spiritual songs across the country.
Aborigines see themselves as related to, and part of, this natural world and know its features in intricate details. This relationship carries responsibilities for its survival and continuity so that each person has special obligation to protect and preserve the spirit of the land and the life forms that are part of it. Each sacred place has its guardian, who is an Aboriginal man or woman taking care of the site.
- The human world
Aborigines are the Indigenous people of Australia with their traditional cultures and lands (on the mainland but also on most of the islands, including Tasmania, Fraser Island, Palm Island, Mornington Island, Groote Eylandt and Melville Islands). The term "Aboriginal" has become one of the most disputed in the Australian language. Nowadays, the term "black fellows" is widely used in the country, usually without any discriminatory meaning though.
The Commonwealth definition is social more than racial, in keeping with the change in Australian attitudes away from racialist thinking about other people. An Aboriginal person is defined as a person who is a descendant of an Indigenous inhabitant of Australia, identifies as an Aboriginal, and is recognized as Aboriginal by members of the community in which she or he lives.
This definition is preferred by the vast majority of Indigenous people over the racial definitions of the assimilation area. Administration of the definition, at least by the Commonwealth for the purposes of providing grants or loans, requires that an applicant present a certificate of Aboriginality issued by an incorporated Aboriginal body under its common seal.
The Indigenous people, of course, did not use the word "Aborigines" to refer to themselves before the coming of non-Aborigines. Everyone was simply a person.
It is important to note that the concept of the Dreamtime is not only some long past era but also a continuous entity, a continuing time, from which people come, which people renew and which people go back to. The Dreaming is in the past, the present and the future. It is a spiritual time, which lives in everything: humans, animals, environment (sky, earth, clouds, rocks…).
Art is originally one to the ways through which Indigenous people communicate with and maintain a oneness with the Dreaming. Now it has also become one of the most important art movements of the late 20th century as Europeans and Americans have started to be interested in Aboriginal paintings and objects. In the same way, as Aboriginal culture is of escalating interest to tourists, Indigenous involvement in the tourism industry has steadily risen over the last few years.
A growing number of tour companies are now proposed by Indigenous, in order to share their culture and knowledge with other people and to try to reduce racism by making people understand their way of life and by providing access to Aboriginal cultural experiences in an appropriate and responsible way. There are more and more Aboriginal-(co)owned or -operated tourism companies in Australia and this trend is set to continue.
II - ABORIGINES AND TOURISM
Today in Australia, people are more and more aware of the Aboriginal issues. Even international travellers wish to discover the real country, that is to say the outback, the bush and its inhabitants, the Aborigines. Tourists, particularly those from overseas, often value the presence of Aboriginal people within the tourism industry. To meet the international demand, tourism involving Aboriginal insight is growing, especially in a few famous places such as the Red Centre (Ayers Rock, known as Uluru for the Aborigines). Being focused on Aboriginal culture becomes a strong marketing asset for tourism companies. However only a few of them really offer a true discovery of Aboriginal culture with great respect for and cooperation of the Aborigines.
I have chosen to do two different work experiences in Australia. The first one was a four-month training period with Kimberley Wilderness Adventures, a tour company based in the Kimberley region of Western Australia that had made a fair deal with the Traditional Owners (= the Aborigines) of the region to access to their lands and bring tourists onto it. The second one took place in Central Arnhem Land. It was a two-month experience with François Giner in his Bodeidei Camp, which is a tourist camp built on the Aboriginal Ngkalabon lands thanks to the uniqueness of the relationship that exists between François, a non-Aboriginal man, and Georges, an Elder of the Ngkalabon community, in a very remote and still traditional area with restricted access for the White people.
A - The companies
1 - Kimberley Wilderness Adventures
Kimberley Wilderness Adventures is a tour company based in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Western Australia is Australia's largest state, making up over one third of Australia's landmass. An estimated 56 205 Aborigines live there, about 16% of the nation's total Indigenous population. The overall population of Western Australia is 1.8 million inhabitants for an area of 2.5 million square kilometres.
The Kimberley region, to the northeast of Western Australia, is a large wild area. KWA is a specialist in Aboriginal tourism product in this area. The company is owned at 60% by the Aboriginal Wunan Foundation of Kununurra, committed to the integration of Aboriginal tourism in the mainstream market. Kimberley Wilderness Adventures has established an extensive network of environmentally friendly permanent safari camps on Aboriginal lands throughout the Kimberley with a lease arrangement with the local Traditional Owners. In this way, the company is assisting in the development of Aboriginal tourism product and contributing substantially to the income and welfare of the local communities.
Kimberley Wilderness Adventures is one of the dominant operators through the Gibb River Road and Mitchell Plateau, offering a range of four-wheel drive accommodated and tented tours (from two to thirteen day tours) in this region. Its current marketing manager, Neil McGilp, still owner of 40% of it, created it twelve years ago. At that time it was a tour company focused on the backpacker market. Then it changed to meet the demand for more comfortable and upmarket tours. Last year it has been sold to the Wunan Foundation to form a joint venture. The Foundation appointed a new General Manager with vast previous experience in tourism, Robbie Standaloft. He is based in the main office in Kununurra, next to the company depot. The booking office, run by the Office Manager Robyn Maher, is located in Broome. Kimberley Wilderness Adventures also employs eight experienced drivers for the whole season (from May to October), as well as five couples of camp hosts (one couple in each camp) coordinated by Chris Slee in Kununurra and a few Aboriginal guides in Mitchell Falls and the Bungles Bungles.
The company was awarded the Western Australia tourism award for significant tour operator in 1997, 1999 and 2001. In 2001 it was also awarded the category of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tourism. However, even if the Aboriginal Wunan Foundation now owns the majority of it, Kimberley Wilderness adventures is still run by White people, not Aborigines.
So at first sight this company seemed to be very appealing for me, considering that I wanted to be in contact with Aborigines.
Thus I started my work experience early March in the booking office in Broome under the guidance of Robyn Maher. This first work enabled me to know a little bit more about the company and its products. Kimberley Wilderness Adventures provided organized tours with tented safari accommodation on the different tented tours and motel or cattle station accommodation on the accommodated tours. The camps were also available to self-drive travellers using the "safaripass" on offer through the company.
Prices went from $595 for the 2 day Bungle Bungle tour to $2,995 for the 13 day tented tour and $3,295 for the 11 day accommodated one. One night in one of the five camps of the company for self-drivers, dinner bed and breakfast, cost $99. The company also offered charter tours on demand.
All the enquiries, the bookings and payments went through the office in Broome. I participated in every aspect of the office daily routine, with high level of responsibility: I was in charge of files through all the proceedings, from the first enquiries to the final vouchers. I even "run" the office for a week in April, as Robyn had to go to Perth for a professional meeting.
Then I went in the field to help setting up the permanent camps throughout the Kimberley, along the Gibb River Road (Imintji camp) and the Kalumburu Road (Marumbabidi and Ungolan camps in King Edward River and Mitchell Plateau) on Aboriginal lands. Each camp was constituted by ten to twelve tents with twin beds, and there were composting toilets, hot showers and a vast kitchen and dining-room shed.
After that I had a week training course in Kununurra with the whole crew for the 2002 season: duties and responsibilities of everyone, safety issues, first aid, Aboriginal culture, bush tucker…
Early May I started working in Marumbabidi camp as a Camp Host with another cook named Lou Casey, taking care of the tourists (we called them the guests), cooking and running the camp (food orders, daily routine). When the couple hired for this job arrived, we trained them. We left early June to go back to Kununurra in the main office and the depot, where I worked for a while with Robbie Standaloft and Chris Slee, preparing vehicles for the tours, doing food orders, being in charge of the maintenance of the camp accommodation in Kununurra and doing some office works (answering the phone, computer tasks…).
I finished this internship as a trainee guide on 4 and 5 day tented tours through the region, first under the guidance of Renata Cameron, an experienced tour driver, then with Jerome Gill, who has started his first season in the Kimberley this year.
As a whole, this internship was really interesting in many ways, because it enabled me to see all the aspects of the company and to acquire experience.
I had the opportunity to do part of this experience in Marumbabidi camp, near an Aboriginal community, in King Edward river region, first setting up the permanent camp of Kimberley Wilderness Adventures then working there as a Camp Host. So I was in the field and in contact with Aborigines. I was lucky enough to meet the people in the community and to talk a lot with Jeff, the man who ran the community (fund raising, management…). Actually, Jeff was a White man, who has been living there for more than thirty years. He knew a lot about the region and was always available for discussion. The Aborigines were friendly with us, the Camp Hosts, but they had no interaction at all with the tourists. I think it was really a shame, especially as they were willing to share part of their culture. Four of the Elders of the community did a book on that purpose two years ago with a White journalist who put their talks and thoughts about their land and culture on paper. As Paddy, one of these four Elders, said: "we have to share before it is too late", before all the Elders disappear with all their knowledge.
Some of the young Aborigines came every morning to our camp to help us finishing the set-up in May, and Kimberley Wilderness Adventures paid them for this work (AUD $10 per hour). It was quite funny because Aborigines do not have any notion of "work", this word did not even exist in their language before the White men came to Australia. So we had to be with them all the time to keep them busy, as they preferred to sit in the shade and watch us, not realizing why we had to do so many things in so little time!
I also had the opportunity to be in Marumbabidi during the Rio Tinto meeting. Rio Tinto was a mining company that wanted to do some research on the Aboriginal land. So the company had to send somebody to meet the Elders of the community, the Traditional Owners, to ask their permission and agreement. Thus we had a geologist and a chopper pilot with us at the camp for a few days. They went to the community every day to talk and finally they took the Elders on board of their helicopter to fly over the lands and do some survey. On the last evening, we all went to the community for a great barbecue around the fire: Aborigines and White men celebrating the end of the meeting, although there was no agreement for any kind of mining exploitation mentioned (yet). The mining issue is important for Aborigines in Australia as it can enable them to gain funds from mining companies wishing to do something on their lands. But it is often done with no respect for Aborigines, nobody explaining them the contract, nobody taking the time to make sure all the traditional Owners of the area agree, etc…
What I can say from this experience is that I had a few contacts with the Aborigines but it was mainly because I was working in the camp. The tourist did not have any chance to see them or to talk to them. There was no exchange at all!
Kimberley Wilderness Adventures provided profits for the communities through the lease they paid to set the camp up on Aboriginal lands, but that was the only link they had with them. Even if it was fair and profitable for the Aborigines (at least it was money not given by the government as a subsidiary), I think it was really not enough for an Aboriginal joint venture that used this Aboriginal side as a marketing asset to attract tourists. Many tourists actually regretted a little bit this lack of interaction with Aborigines, especially as they were on Aboriginal lands.
On the other hand, the company hired Aboriginal guides in two parts of the Kimberley, Mitchell Plateau to the North and Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) to the Southeast. The only problem was that the guides were not very reliable, as they were often bushwalking or not available! Once again, they did not have any notion of work as we know it, neither did they have of schedules and appointments. But when they were available, it was so much interesting! They could explain some stories related to the places, and talk about the paintings (Wandjina and Gwion art). Also on the last day of the thirteen day tented tour, there was a cruise in Geike Gorge with Bill Darngkhu, the Aboriginal owner of the small Darngkhu Cruise company. He explained to the tourists the environment, the Aboriginal life in the area, the Aboriginal law and traditions. The two or three hours spent with him on the river and walking on the banks were very interesting and provided an enjoyable insight in Aboriginal culture.
As a conclusion, I can say I respected the idea of Kimberley Wilderness Adventures' management as regard the Aborigines, but I really regretted the lack of contact between the tourists and the Indigenous in practice, except from the Darngkhu cruise day. Although the joint venture with the aboriginal Wunan Foundation is still quite recent, and they intend to have more and more Aboriginal cultural insight in the future.
2 - Dreamtime Safaris / Bodeidei Camp
My second work experience in Australia took place at Bodeidei Camp in Central Arnhem Land, under the guidance of François Giner and his partner, Maïa Ponsonnet.
Arnhem Land is a vast Aboriginal territory in the northeast part of the Northern Territory, a virtually untouched area with spectacular scenery, few people and lots of special places (rock sites). White people need permits to come to Arnhem Land. They have to ask to the Northern Land Council (NLC) either a transit permit for straightforward travel along an established route or an entry permit to visit a community.
Arnhem Land Aboriginal Reserve may be the last or one of the last few Aboriginal traditional areas in Australia, a place where the culture is still strong in spite of all the damages caused by occidental influence.
It was back in 1988 that Francois Giner, nowadays the owner of Bodeidei Camp, was first introduced to the Ngkalabon Aborigines in Central Arnhem Land. After living on their land with their permission for three years, the relationship he had built with the Elders, especially among Weemol Community, was already deep and strong. In order to allow Francois to stay with them, his Ngkalabon friends gave him the exceptional opportunity to build a small tourist camp on their traditional land.
Bodeidei Camp was opened in 1992. It has been operating ever since thanks to the unique relationship between Francois and the Traditional Owners of the area. Their trust for Francois has been growing all the way long as they realise how much Bodeidei Camp benefits the community. In this context, they have never considered visitors as "tourists" but as friends of Francois's wishing to meet them and to learn about their culture. They are happy to welcome them on their land in Bodeidei Camp and to introduce them to their environment.
In addition to his action of enabling White people to discover a part of Aboriginal culture, Francois Giner decided in 1996 to support his close friend, the Elder George Jangawanga, in his fight for the survival of his culture. The Ngkalabon & Murrango Foundation, designed to help Ngkalabon and Murrango people to keep their culture alive, was born in 1998 and is now based in Bodeidei.
Located in the heart of Arnhem Land, 310 km from Katherine, Bodeidei Camp is situated in the middle of remote and untouched Aboriginal bush, with the comfort of a fully equipped permanent camp. Double, twin or triple rooms are available, with a total capacity of eighteen persons, including the staff (that is to say me and another girl from Canada doing voluntary work with us). There are seven hot showers and four flushing toilets, as well as a vast kitchen and dining-room shed. Lights at night work with a generator.
The camp is completely merged in the environment.
Early July François picked me up in Katherine, small town of the Australian outback at about four-and-a-half-hour drive from the camp, and brought me to Bodeidei. I was about to spend two amazing months with Aborigines and to be part of a very special tourist experience.
As part of my work experience, I did a little bit of everything in the camp, participating in the daily routine: welcoming the tourists, cooking, cleaning, preparing vehicles for the tours, etc… I also went on tour with François, the guests and our "trainee guides", the Aboriginal kids of Weemol (the nearest out-station).
The tourists usually heard about the camp through European travel agencies (which receive a 20% commission for each booking) or through the Australian YHA (Youth Hostel Association) network for last-minute backpacker bookings (the price is then AUD $599). Tourists were mostly French or Europeans (English, Swiss or Germans) as François had started his operation on the French market a few years back, with his partner Asia, which is a travel agency based in Paris. Together they created Dreamtime Safaris. Today François started to open his business to the Australian domestic market. I think it is a very good thing, not only for business, but also for the insight he can provide to the Australians as regard their own country and its most ancient culture. A stay at Bodeidei can contribute to open the eyes of people and change their mind on the Aboriginal issues, which is the most important thing about this kind of tourism experiences.
The groups were of a maximum of 12 persons and the main language spoken on tour was usually English. Thus I regularly translated François' speeches on tour to French-speaking people, which was interesting. The tourists stayed at the camp for four days and three nights, arriving from Katherine with François on Tuesday or Friday evenings. The next morning, we drove them to Coppoliu billabong through a track in the bush to have a look at the wildlife (numerous birds, buffalos, termite mounts, sometimes dingos and crocodiles) before lunch that I had prepared in the morning, following by a detailed explanation about Aboriginal society (skin names, social structures). Then we took them to Dalangar out-station for a two-hour walk in the bush, explaining them all about the bush resources (tucker, paints…), showing them 27,000 year-old rock paintings and breath-taking scenery, such as Cotpela escarpment surrounded by an endless and untouched bush where a feeling of freedom stroke me each time. On the third day we brought our guests to Weemol out-station for a talk to George, sixty-seven, and his wife Maguy. They shared a part of their culture and amazing knowledge with us, answering all the questions we could think of (I tended to consider myself as a guest these mornings, being here to listen and learn). Tourism, loss of culture, current problems on the lands (with buffalo companies or mining companies for instance) or in the communities (influence of the television on the kids, health damages caused by occidental food, alcohol, education…), every subject could be talked about. It was always a fascinating, very special and highly emotional experience. I always had a strange and strong feeling of sadness after these talks, thinking of all that is lost or all that is dying in this ancient culture, together with a feeling of impotency. What could we do for this people? It is so hard for us, White people, to understand their world, their law and their feelings. But we have to try before it is too late, that is why the kind of tourism experience François provides is so important. A link has to be created between the two worlds, the Aboriginal and the White worlds, even if it is difficult and long.
In the afternoon of this third day, we went to Kliklimara gorges for a great swim in our "private swimming-pool", a natural waterhole in untouched nature. Then we came back to the camp for a buffalo barbecue. The group left on the fourth day, François brought them back to Katherine in his thirteen-seater OKA vehicle.
I have to say that Bodeidei is probably a unique place in Australia, as the relationship between François and George is so strong and special. Spending two months in this environment was a great way to be in touch with the reality of Aboriginal issues in this country and to understand better the complexity of the problem.
I spent most of my leisure time with François's Aboriginal friends, especially with the children, going bushwalking, buffalo hunting (for food), swimming, picking up pandanus with the women to make baskets… I know I will never forget Junior/Wamut, Kelly/Kojok, Serena, Terena, Balamina, Angela and the others! I will come back part because of them. I want to know what they are going to do with their lives. When I was in the bush with them, fascinating by their knowledge of it, their enthusiasm and their spontaneity towards me, I was always wondering what their future would be like in this world they do not belong to. They are cut from their origins and not yet assimilated to our society that does not correspond to them.
In my opinion tourism, or once again I should say the kind of tourism François offers, is a good way to make people realise how different our worlds are, but also how similar they can be and how much we can learn about each others. It is also a way for Aborigines, especially the young ones, to be proud of their culture and their land and for communities to benefit directly from the tourism industry (when it is done in the right way obviously).
François provides a real exchange with Aborigines, a real education too. For me it is the most important thing about tourism here in Australia. I wish tourism could always contribute to the survival of part of the amazing Aboriginal culture. But I am perfectly aware of the fact that the friendship between François and George, which allows François to bring people on the Aboriginal land, is really unique and has taken many years to be built up. I do not know or have not heard of a single other example of a White man that is so deeply involved with the Aborigines in the tourism area. It is very rare as it is difficult and needs a real commitment, a real enthusiasm and lots of energy to face all the problems.
B -Aboriginal cultural tourism today in Australia
NB: I need to say that when I refer to Aboriginal cultural tourism, I am talking about full-blood Aborigines, not half-caste ones. Half-caste Aborigines are usually more integrated in our White world than full-blood people, and they are often the so-called "Aborigines" that run the Aboriginal cultural tour companies. But actually they cannot provide a real and deep insight in Aboriginal culture, for a simple reason: Aborigines only pass their knowledge and traditions on to other full-blood Aborigines. Half-caste are not rejected, but they cannot learn the culture because they are born from people who have not respected the strict kinship system that has been holding the Aboriginal society all together for so long. As culture is part of the special initiation of the young people, it has to remain a secret and sacred thing, belonging only to Aborigines.
"Tourism is this industry we have been hearing about for a long time now, we are not getting any closer to an understanding of it, of wether we should get into it, of how we get into it, of where we go for information about it."
Quotation from consultations with Aboriginal people, Australian Outback Tourism Development, 1995.
As this quotation suggested already a few years ago and my work experiences still confirm today, Indigenous people in Australia do not have a clear idea of what is the way to get involve in tourism and how to go about building a successful tourism enterprise when they wish to, which is not always the case. There is a lack of information and training regarding Aboriginal involvement in the tourism industry. The programs or courses that should be launched must be adapted to Aborigines, as they have a different way of perceiving the world and do not think in terms of money and profits. Tourism is obviously a completely new concept in their world. They started being curious about or interested in it a few years back with the development of Aboriginal cultural demand from tourists. It is all the more important that it can be a useful way of saving part of the Aboriginal disappearing culture. It is obvious everywhere in the country that the culture is dying; the shock of the arrival of the White people's modern world has been too strong, too destructive and too rapid for the culture to survive in its original form. Everything has changed and it cannot be avoided. But tourism can help to keep part of the culture alive and also help to prevent it from becoming History yet.
Overseas market is currently of prime importance to Indigenous tourism, with international visitors displaying great interest in Indigenous products. Over 10% of international tourists visited destinations involving presentation of Indigenous cultures in 1995 (based on the annual International Visitors' Survey), and this proportion is still rising. However, the domestic market can potentially be much larger, although there has been less initiative at least in the past in developing new approaches to tapping into this potential. It may have something to do with the History, the disinterest or the guilt felt by some White people towards the Aborigines. But today Australians wish to meet the Aborigines and to finally try to understand them better to be able to build a common future. When I asked Aussie people their opinion, they all agreed on the fact that the past was the past and nothing could be done to change it, so they preferred to look ahead.
In order to market Indigenous cultural tourism properly though, there may be a need of providing basic information about Indigenous culture. This need is particularly obvious for the North American market for instance. A different educational approach may be warranted to encourage marketing to the Australian market, with education targeted at school and other educational establishments, because Aboriginal culture is part of the White history of the country.
Today the level of participation of Indigenous people in the tourism industry is still low compared to the whole industry, though the tourism industry as a whole could benefit from an increased Aboriginal participation, especially in cultural tourism, as international tourists expect to see Aboriginal involvement in Aboriginal cultural tourism. Indeed cultural tours dominate the current product range because there has been a high demand for this kind of tourism both from international and national tourists for a few years. So entry into the market is not that difficult because of this favourable context. It also needs a relatively low level of capital commitments. This is also an area where Aboriginal people have a particular contribution to make, which gives them a competitive edge over other tour operators. It can be a real asset!
According to a study realised by the ATSIC, the scale of Indigenous participation in the tourism industry is still very small, with possibly only around 200 Aboriginal tour operators with established businesses, employing few people or operating occasionally, often fragile in term of long-term sustainability. The value of Aboriginal cultural tourism is estimated at around $5 M p.a., which is a tiny fraction of the Australian tourism industry as a whole. This compares with a much larger slice of mainstream tourism operations owned by Aboriginal people (mainly involving accommodation and transport). Aboriginal employment in the mainstream tourism industry is estimated as around 1500, which is much less than would be expected from a representation of jobs based on population size (there are approximately 48,000 full-blood Aborigines left in Australia).
However today things are changing. As international tourists show great interest for Aboriginal culture, there are considerable opportunities for more Indigenous people to participate in this industry. Employing Aboriginal people, as guides for instance, or being an Aboriginal owned or co-owned company has become a strong marketing asset for tour operators.
Tourism is a potential area of investment; some Aboriginal organisations have taken substantial equity in tourism enterprises. These have largely been community based corporations, investing income form sources such as mining royalties, land lease, permits, compensation claims… In some cases, loan funds have been used to purchase established tourism enterprises, which are often lease to other non-Aboriginal organisations to manage.
Sometimes the participation can be through a joint venture partnership, involving a combination of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal skills and resources. There are increasing opportunities for joint ventures as Aboriginal people gain native title to their traditional lands, or otherwise become landowners. Contribution of land as an equity in a tourism enterprise established on Aboriginal-owned land is often an appropriate form of participation in the tourism industry. Kimberley Wilderness Adventures was the perfect example for this kind of participation, as a joint venture with the Aboriginal Wunan Foundation of Kununurra, having a lease arrangement with Aborigines to establish its camp network on their lands and being managed by White people. The joint venture was a very good thing as it provided benefits directly to the communities. However I do think it is a pity that there was no interaction between Aborigines and tourists to try to do more regarding the culture and its survival or at least its understanding by White people. Tourists could learn a few things about Aborigines but they did not have a clear idea of Aborigines' lives today after a tour with Kimberley Wilderness Adventures. What was good though was that there was no lie about Aboriginal culture, no made-up stories for tourists as in some places. When Aboriginal culture was mentioned, it was done either by the Aborigines of the places themselves or by the respectful and experienced guides of the company.
I reckon it is a good way of participation because it shows a great respect for the Aborigines. Though it is not enough, it has to be a first step to more Aboriginal cultural involvement.
However, participation in cultural tourism can be quite different when it comes from a true desire from the Aborigines to share something with other people. It is another aspect of Aboriginal cultural tourism. In that case it is pursued for reasons other then purely economic ones. Indeed, this form of tourism can encourage young people to value their cultural heritage, when this heritage has not been lost, which has happened a lot everywhere in the country, as the Elders cannot organize anymore huge ceremonies to pass their knowledge on and as the kids are not interested in that anymore. But it can provide an incentive for increased cultural awareness, and therefore produce a wide range of social benefits including personal pride and dignity. Sharing and explaining their culture to other people can also enable the Aborigines to make White people understand them better and in consequences have more respect for them.
George has been trying to share part of his knowledge with White people for years in Bodeidei, talking to tourists as if they were friends of François wishing to learn about his culture. He shared his life and experience with the "tourists" and it was always astonishing. George saw his first White people in 1950 and, as the other Aborigines of the region, thought he was a ghost! Then the White people took the country and the lands and George worked in cattle stations and mines in exchange for tucker such as flour, rice, sugar or tobacco. There was no wage, no money for the Aborigines at that time, as they were not even considered as citizens or sometimes not even as human beings. He told us about one of the worst thing brought to his people by White men: alcohol. He used to drink a lot when he was young until he realised one day that the alcohol was controlling him and his future. So he stopped and decided to go back to the land, the Aboriginal traditions, law and lifestyle. He explained to us how a policeman shot him a long time ago while he was trying to defend his daughter whom the cattle station owner wanted to take away from him (although she was not a half-cast). He told us about the young Aboriginal people today who did not want to listen to the Elders anymore and got lost in the White world. He told us about the health problems brought by the White to them, such as diabetes or cholesterol that reduce their life expectancy. He told us about all his friends, the other Elders, that passed away one after the others in the last few years. He told us about the loss of his culture and traditions and about his attempts to fight against that. He always underlined that he was very happy to have the opportunity to share a part of his knowledge with us. He thought that a part of his culture could survive through us, White people. I think he overestimated a lot the impact of these meetings on people, as a few hours were often not enough to even enable tourists to understand the Aborigines' perception of the world. Especially when you think that Aboriginal kids' initiation to their culture through ceremonies (what we can call school) use to take around eighteen years to be completed (it started at the age of seven, till the age of twenty-five).
However these talks were really amazing and emotional. People usually cleared or changed their minds, ideas or thoughts about Aboriginal issues after that. At least it forces them to think again about the problem. George had a very strong personality and lots of charisma, he was really someone people will remember for a long time. Especially after the few times he spontaneously started singing! Harsh and beautiful Aboriginal tunes…
So even if they were only like a drop in the sea our modern world is, I think these talks were really profitable because of the image of modern Aborigines people brought back with them into their lives when they left the camp.
Of course the base of cultural tourism is the culture itself, and, as I pointed it out before, in some places in Australia the culture is not living anymore. Everywhere in Australia there has been severe disruption to traditional cultures, especially in the South and East of the country, but some communities have retained their cultural values more successfully than others. It is particularly the case in remote areas such as some parts of the Kimberley region or Arnhem Land, as the lands were not easily accessible to White people. The point is that sometimes tourism enterprises use the term "Aboriginal" just as a promotion without having anything to do with the reality of Indigenous culture. In these cases the reality is distorted and perverted and Aboriginal people are not the ones that benefit from tourism. Only a few tour companies provide a real insight in Aboriginal culture with aim to share and save part of it. That is something everybody should be aware of. There is need for consumers and the rest of the tourism industry to be educated about the value of authenticity. Authenticity in the culture and stories told to tourists. Authenticity also in the domain of arts and crafts, which is estimated to be worth more than $200 M p.a. and still increases, with around half of sales occurring through the tourism market. It is a shame that buying arts and crafts (and not even always real Aboriginal traditional ones) still represents the main or the only contact that many tourists have with Aboriginal culture. However the value of arts and crafts sales for instance represents a considerable economic strength that can be built on, to benefit both tourism and cultural industries. But abuses of any kind display inappropriate images used within the tourism industry.
It is essential for Aborigines that the industry as a whole recognises this need to use appropriate images. There is often distortion of the reality as regard Aboriginal culture. Tourism should not only be an "exotic" experience just because it is a fashion tendency nowadays. It should always be a genuine discovery of a different and nearly lost world.
The images should reflect the reality and be acceptable to Indigenous communities, which is currently not always the case. In Europe, people still see the Aborigines as primitive people living in and from the bush. It is not true anymore today, as our civilisation has given them the opportunity to use new technologies (cars, guns and rifles to go hunting…). The Aborigines are a very practical people; they always use what seems to be the best and easiest! So they have taken a few things from the White people. Unfortunately, not all of these things are good for them, like television for instance that keeps the kids inside, fascinating by the world they can discover (without any clear understanding of it though) on it, preventing them from learning the bush culture anymore. Also some food is now easy to buy, such as sugar, easier to get than bush honey and in greater quantities, but which brings problems of cholesterol and diabetes among the Aborigines because they know nothing about our food habits and health diet requirements. Aborigines have evolved over the years of contact with White men and the image tourists currently have of their world is often not conform to the reality. To date, much promotion, particularly overseas, has used Aboriginal themes that portray a single Aboriginal culture with the picture of a naked and painted Aborigine handing a boomerang and a spear or playing didgeridoo (the correct word is actually 'molo', it is an instrument that originally comes from Arnhem Land). This is a completely wrong stereotyped imagery!
Aboriginal cultures are varied cultures with sometimes living contemporary expression (in the best cases). Therefore there is a need for White people involved in mainstream tourism to be educated about Aboriginal cultures and to learn how to market it in a realistic way to avoid tourists' disappointment. Potential visitors should have a clear idea of what products are available to choose from, and what they can expect to do or to see.
Another extreme is to categorise Aborigines only like drunk and dirty people as they can be seen in many towns (among other "rights", the citizenship obtained in 1967 gave them the one to drink legally in pubs). It is not as simple as that fortunately! In Bodeidei, people had the opportunity to spend time with the Aborigines, as some of them went on tour with us. June, who showed us her land, and her kids for instance. Seeing the kids in the bush, looking for gum on the trees as lollies, lighting bush fires to clean the land or fishing in Kliklimara and bringing back turtles, barramundis (an Australian fish) or crocodiles to eat, was always a great experience for the tourists. They could become aware of the abilities of the children, their intelligence and understanding of their own environment. They realised that in spite of the fact that the kids usually barely wrote or read English and did not wear shoes or perfectly clean clothes, they were adapted to their own world as we are in our. Tourist people admitted that they would be lost in this special bush world and started to understand the hole that exists between the two worlds, the ancient Aboriginal and the technologic White ones. The Aboriginal way of thinking and perceiving the world is completely different from our, and people always had difficulties to get that. I have also noticed during my work experiences that tourists often need basic information about the physical environment to fully appreciate and understand the context for cultural interpretation. Cultural tourism can be linked with nature-based tourism, as Aborigines can explain to tourists their traditional understanding of the landscape and its features (especially when the features have heritage significance for them) as well as their knowledge about native plants and bush tucker. Even if they were not Aborigines, the guides from Kimberley Wilderness Adventures and François from Bodeidei knew a lot about their specific regional environment (plants, wildlife, bush resources…) so they could answer all the questions of the tourists. Moreover, June, an Aboriginal woman from the region, came on tour with us to talk to us about her land and share with us her knowledge of it.
It is also important to be aware of the fact that even when all the conditions are good for a real Aboriginal experience (which does not happen a lot in reality), another potential problem is that tourists may unknowingly breach cultural protocols, creating discomfort and stress within Aboriginal communities. They need to be well informed and educated, as well as the tour companies and the guides. And, as our concepts of life are so different, tourists need to learn how to ask the right questions. It means that they have to learn how to formulate their enquiries to Aborigines in a way they can be fully understood. This communication problem was particularly obvious during the talks with George in Bodeidei. François often had to say things with different words to obtain an accurate answer.
Anyway, in places where the culture is still relatively strong and still known, like in the Kimberley region or Arnhem Land, it is important that it is presented in an appropriate manner. Where mainstream operations are involved in describing local culture, or where cultural themes are used to promote mainstream tourism, this should be endorsed or approved by people who are responsible for cultural maintenance, in other words the Elders of the relevant communities. However it is very hard because Aborigines are usually very shy, they do not trust White people and their culture is traditionally most of the time a secret initiation for them. However François managed to get the approval of the Elders, involving George in the tours, and on a smaller scale Kimberley Wilderness Adventure did it too with the Aboriginal guides and the Darngkhu cruise.
In the most remote areas, which are often the areas with the strongest cultural resources, other problems to develop such cultural tourism can rise. Indeed these regions are not always linked to areas with great environment, transport facilities or accommodation infrastructures. Development of mass tourism can be severely constrained by this lack of basic infrastructure. In some places, there may be limited numbers of visitors allowed, reflecting the capacity of the environment to withstand human impacts. This may apply to social impacts on communities as well as physical impacts on the natural environment. François voluntary limited each trip capacity to twelve people to manage all the impacts on the land and to provide also a better interaction with the Aborigines. I think it is a very good thing, as nature has to be preserved in Australia.
So all the problems and misunderstandings I have mentioned above have to be solved to make tourism a real education about a different world, different concepts and cultures.
As a conclusion, I can say that I saw two different aspects of Aboriginal tourism during the six months I spent in Australia, both of them with great respect for this people, but with two different aims and two different ways of enabling Aborigines to participate in tourism.
Thus these two experiences were very different. The second one was in many ways more interesting as regard the interaction with Aborigines, thanks to the unique relation between François and George. I have to admit that I learnt more about the interaction - or the lack of real interaction in many cases - between tourism and Aboriginal culture through these experiences in the field than I did reading books or doing some research. Both experiences have enabled me to understand better the current situation in Australia and the impact - good or bad - that tourism can have on people's minds and attitudes regarding the Aborigines. I hope people will realise before it is too late how urgent it is to preserve the Aboriginal culture, through tourism, art or other form of actions. The most important is to do things in a right way, as cultural tourism should always be a discovery of a reality, not of an illusion.
Today in Australia, Aboriginal culture is on its way to disappear. This is a fact and nothing can be done to change it. Each time in History a powerful nation invaded a country with Indigenous people, with aim of land conquests or discovery, same thing happened. The Inuit people in Canada, the Indians in America, peoples of Africa… The strongest took over the weakest and destroyed its world more or less abruptly.
Aborigines in Australia have been confronted in a few decades to thousands of years of evolution, as they were still living in the bush on their traditional lands, gathering and hunting with spears before White people came.
How do you want a people to cope with such a cultural and technological shock?
So the culture nowadays is not even half of what it was still half a century ago. And it is not going to get any better. Too many traditions and too much knowledge have already been lost. However, tourism can help to save part of this culture, part of the traditions, part of what is left.
Tourism can help people to understand the Aboriginal world, and to get an idea of their cultural background. If it is done properly of course, with the involvement of the Traditional Owners of each region.
It is important to note that the tourism industry today contributes to the welfare of some communities, as the tour companies bring money on the lands (through land lease, hiring of Aboriginal guides…). It is a very good thing, as at least it is not living on the doll, doing nothing and receiving money from the government every month. Tourism can contribute to give their dignity back to Indigenous people, who can also be proud of their cultural heritage and traditions.
It can be a good way to fight racism attitudes in the country, as White people can learn to know better the Aborigines and to forget about their preconceived ideas. They have so much to learn from a better understanding of the differences existing between the two worlds.
It is unfortunately too late to save the whole culture, as I have already said, but it does not mean that nothing can be done at all, particularly in the field of tourism.
For instance, the ATSIC (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander commission) has launched strategies to try to increase Aboriginal participation in tourism. These strategies are focused on Indigenous people, to try to explain them all about tour company opportunities and to improve their involvement in this industry. But it is not very easy in practice, especially in remote areas. It will take time for that sort of initiative because Aborigines have to be taught about our world and business concepts.
However, as Australians are now willing to discover the Aboriginal culture and lives, which are part of their country, the process might be boosted.
It depends on what White people can bring to Aborigines though, as involving Aborigines in the tourism industry also means changing White people's attitudes towards Aborigines. A first step has to be done on both sides. It has to be a reciprocal process to eventually be successful one day.
The survival of the Aboriginal culture today in Australia is certainly facilitated by tourism that provides a base for some kind of transmission of part of the knowledge. Though I think it is quite sad to have reached a point where tourism slowly becomes one of the only ways to keep the culture alive. Because it means that there is nothing behind the transmission: no belief, no faith, no reality. Tourists learn, sometimes, and that's it. Most of the Aborigines, especially the young ones, do not believe anymore in their spirituality. And how many tourists feel really concerned about the problem to try to do more than just listening? Although it is a completely understandable attitude.
That is always a good thing if people learn a few things, but unfortunately it will not help the culture to stay alive and expressed in everyday life. Because the people who should keep it alive have lost too much to be able to do it. It is really sad to see the disappearance of such an ancient and rich culture. And it is really a disappearance, not an evolution!
So the best we can do now is to help the Aborigines to present what is left of their culture in an appropriate manner when they want to share it with us, to make tourists understand all the aspects of the issue.
I have learnt a lot during these two experiences in the "down under country", on several levels. I have been able to participate in every aspect of a tour company, from the booking office daily routine to camp management and tour guiding, with high level of responsibility. I had the opportunity to improve my skills and abilities. In both companies, I have never been considered as a trainee. People always trusted me and I really appreciated that. I also met great people that gave me so much that I am not the same person as six month ago. Part of my heart is now in Australia, in its wild bush, with all the aboriginal kids, George and Maguy, June and the others. I know I will go back to the Northern Territory, as I want to share my experiences with other people, try to make the tourists understand a world completely different from the one they know. And I also want to know what the kids are going to do in the future, even if I am afraid for them.
So these two experiences in the field, to the heart of the Aboriginal issue, made me richer, giving me something nobody would ever be able to steal from me. An understanding, a freedom and also feelings both of joy and sadness. I am probably more open-minded than before and closer to my origins. That is the magic of the Land of Oz!
Haut de page