Visitor pass secures North Kimberley country, culture, jobs

Launching the 2017 Uunguu Visitor Pass – an online permit system for visiting Wunambal Gaambera Country – Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation chairperson Catherine Goonack said Traditional Owners now had a mechanism for managing and taking leadership in the tourism industry on their country.“Wunambal Gaambera people have a communal need and responsibility to look after and prosper from our country,” Ms Goonack said.
“As the determined Native Title Holders for 2.5 million hectares of land and sea, we have authorised WGAC to manage and protect more than 50 visitor locations within Wunambal Gaambera Country.
“In the past, many people have accessed sites without our permission. We are happy for people to visit our country but it has to be done in the right way.
“This pass will allow us to manage and protect cultural sites, to share our culture and make the visitor experience authentic.”
The Wunambal Gaambera word “Uunguu” means “our living home”. The Uunguu Visitor Pass (UVP) is the result of many years’ discussion and visitor management planning by WGAC. The pass is an important action of WGAC’s Healthy Country Plan, helping Traditional Owners live on Country, look after culture, create jobs and skills and to develop their own tourism products. Sixty per cent of UVP revenue will be reinvested on Wunambal Gaambera Country, which includes the iconic Punamii-Uunpuu (Mitchell Falls) and rugged, remote coast popular with the cruising industry.
Several cruise operators and independent vessels have already registered and paid for the UVP, receiving formal permission and welcome from Wunambal Gaambera people to access the 50 approved sites. So far the pass has been implemented for the Coastal Zone only, with the land-based Road Zone pass soon to be introduced. Fees have been heavily discounted for the first few years, allowing the tourism industry time to adjust. Fee scales can be found on the WGAC website.
When booking a coastal cruise, passengers are asked to check with their tour operator to ensure they are registered with WGAC. This can be verified by clicking here.
Ten thousand people visit Wunambal Gaambera Country annually in an industry worth more than $15 million a year. Ms Goonack said Traditional Owners felt positive and motivated about finally participating in that economy. WGAC now had a five-year goal to develop a 15 percent stake in tourism on Wunambal Gaambera Country.
Over the next five years, Wunambal Gaambera people’s objective is to:

  • Establish Uunguu Ranger stations at key visitor locations, with Traditional Owners welcoming, guiding and sharing culture with visitors
  • Create more Uunguu Ranger training and positions
  • Develop capacity for Uunguu Rangers to interact with visitors on cruising vessels
  • Work more closely with existing tourism operators to provide cultural expertise and support.
  • Develop authentic “Uunguu Experience” tourism products and enterprises.

“We believe everyone can be winners – Traditional Owners, visitors and tour operators,” Ms Goonack said.
“The UVP means Wunambal Gaambera people will have a stake in their own asset. Living and working on country is vital to the continuation of our culture and the health of our people.”
WGAC’s UVP manager Rachel Beadle, based in Broome, is leading implementation of the pass, liaising with tour industry operators and independent travellers.

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