Cultural Tourism on Wunambal Gaambera Country

12-Nov-2019 The North Kimberley’s Wunambal Gaambera people have an incredible success story. After launching the Uunguu Visitor Pass (UVP) 2 years ago in 2017 - an online permit system for visiting Wunambal Gaambera Country – Wunambal Gaambera people are now managing and taking leadership in the multi-million-dollar tourism industry on their country. 

“With the UVP, our people are getting back on country, learning their culture and their family graas.” Catherine Goonack, Chair Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation. 

Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation (WGAC) manages the UVP and all visitors to Wunambal Gaambera Country are required to purchase a pass before visiting. Last year, our first full year some 15,000 people, (including guests travelling with tour operators and independent travellers), visited Wunambal Gaambera Country and 94% of them bought a UVP. 

The UVP and WGAC’s Visitor Management Plan (link to) is part of WGAC’s 10-year Healthy Country Plan (link to), helping Traditional Owners live on and enjoy Country, look after culture, and create jobs and skills to develop their own tourism products. The specific goals for the UVP permit are:

Establish Uunguu Ranger stations at key visitor locations to manage and deliver an authentic tourism offering. 
    • WGAC have ranger stations at Munurru (King Edward River) in the Ngauwudu Road Zone and built Garmbemirri on the Uunguu Coast (easy access to Ngula Jar Island), with Traditional Owners present to welcome, guide and share culture with visitors. WGAC is starting development on another ranger camp on Jar Island to meet tourists for the next year’s tourist season. 
Train and create more Wunambal Gaambera’s Uunguu Ranger positions. 
    • Last year and this year 8 Uunguu Rangers and Traditional Owners completed touris guide training on Wunambal Gaambera Country. 
    • 3 Wunambal Gaambera people completed building training as part of Uunguu Builders to build the ranger camps. 
Develop capacity for Uunguu Rangers and Traditional Owners to interact with visitors.
    • 28 Traditional Owners, 7 full time rangers who are trained and now giving authentic art site tours and welcoming visitors to country. 
Work with existing tour operators to provide cultural expertise and support
    • Bespoke Great Escape Art Project – 20-year celebration commemorated by commissioning 4 Wunambal Gaambera artists. 
    • Launch of the new book - https://www.wunambalgaambera.org.au/we-are-coming-to-see-you-book-purchase, We Are Coming to See You, which shares the stories of the Wunambal Gaambera and Dambimangari people and is being used to educate and train the future generations of Wunambal Gaambera people.  
Develop an authentic Uunguu Experience.
    • Junba
    • Welcome to Country smoking ceremony
    • Guided tours
    • Artwork sales
Already 2 years since the launch of the pass, these goals are being met and delivered.

“It’s good to see our people working on Country and sharing our unique and wonderful culture in the right way. Living and working on Country is vital for the continuation of our culture. When we are living and speaking language on Country, we are healthy,” said Catherine Goonack WGAC Chairperson.  

Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners and Uunguu Rangers have already met several cruise ships (more than 500 visitors) on the remote Uunguu Coastline at Ngula-Jar Island, and are sharing their Wanjina Wunggurr culture with visitors to Ngauwudu (Mitchell Plateau) staying at the Kandiwal Eco Lodges and at Munurru (King Edward River) through leading tours to Punamii-Uunpuu (Mitchell Falls) and the Munurru cultural sites. 

This year (2019) Wunambal Gaambera people gave over 50 art site tours at popular campsite Munurru (King Edward River) - gateway to the iconic Punamii-Uunpuu (Mitchell Falls) - and have already received over 150 bookings for the 2020 tourist season. Tour ships to the north Kimberley coast –Uunguu Coast - have been welcomed and experienced Junba (traditional dancing), Welcome to Country smoking ceremonies, cultural tours of nearby art sites, and the opportunity to buy paintings from Wunambal Gaambera people who now have the confidence to share their sacred culture.
 
“The UVP has enabled us, the Wunambal Gaambera people, to train and build the capacity of our young and old people to deliver authentic tourism experiences.” Catherine Goonack. 

Tabatha Evans, works with the Uunguu Rangers and is a Traditional Owner for Munurru. Tabatha did tours this season, 2019 at Munurru. 

“Some people want to know about the stories of the paintings. We take them (the tourists) around and we tell them our stories. My dad Jeremy told me the stories. First I was a bit nervous because I didn’t know them, but my dad kept telling me the stories and showing me the sites and what the meaning is of the painting and what it means to us. Once I learnt the stories, I felt confident telling them to others. The tourists really enjoyed the stories and asked us a lot of questions.”

Some quotes below re the Munurru tours from Facebook:

Kalumburu North Kimberley Tourism Heaps of our visitors have commented on how great these tours are. Highly recommended.

Jasmine Hokianga I've heard great reports about these tours. Well done you mob x

Tour operators are supporting the authentic Uunguu experience and wanting more! Quote from Kylie Bartle, Owner / Manager, The Great Escape Charter Company. 

"Working with Wunambal Gaambera on this art project has been a really special experience. Four Wunambal Gaambera artists were commissioned by Great Escape to reflect the Wanjina-Wunggurr culture of Wunambal Gaambera people. T-shirts and scarves displaying the beautiful art were printed as gifts for our guests to commemorate our 20 years of working in the Kimberley and our relationship with the traditional owners. Our guests have absolutely loved receiving them. Recently we were lucky enough to have the artists and traditional owners travel to Jar Island to welcome our guests and share their stories of their artwork and their lives. This was a really memorable experience for us all. We look forward to working with WG now and into the future to showcase the spectacular Kimberley, their country and culture.”

Media Enquiries / Interviews: Kate Sutton 0418202546 or media@wunambalgaambera.org.au



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