Keys to the Marketplace: Problems and Issues in Cultural and Heritage Tourism

By Patricia Atkinson Wells | Go to book overview

2
THE MARKETING OF ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIA:
RITUAL, REALITY, AND REVELATION

KEITH HOLLINSHEAD


Introduction

The pronounced global trend away from acquisitive travel to experiential travel and the sudden immensity of Australia’s late appeal as a safe and varied vacationland has recently placed the market spotlight on the presentation and interpretation of “Black Australia” as one of the new tourism products of our age (Altman 1989). Aboriginal Australia is being stirred from its longtime torpor to its first blush of limelight on the international stage. The marketing fellowship sees out back Australia as a novel and wide playground in the traveling public’s emergent and energetic quest for cultural authenticity. As “Black Australia” is being brought within the grasp of the imagination of our contemporary adventure-seeking and world-conquering tourists, crucial challenges are being placed before the industries’ marketing power-brokers and playmakers. Have they in the boardrooms of Australia [and beyond] their own necessary imagination to do the job? Are they up to the task of promoting and yet preserving the ancient indigenous “Dreamtime?” In many respects these Australian marketeers walk an ecological and cultural tightrope (Altman and Finlayson 1991). They will, hereafter, as is commonly said of the nation herself, be judged by the way they treat “their aborigines.” This chapter will show that the major challenge is one of perception. Too many individuals who work in the industry “downunder” view Aboriginal society as backward and meager. There is insufficient respect for Aboriginal culture, and a tendency within the industry to trivialize the stories of the Dreamtime when they are known (Hollinshead 1996). Initially and vitally, the continuing significance of the land for Aboriginal people needs to be appreciated. Its intrinsic association with Black identity via collective myth, history and custodianship needs to be valued That careful custodianship is destined to become increasingly controversial as the sub-continent of “Northern Australia” is promoted to become a major international tourist destination and different mining, grazing and governmental interests endeavor to deny Aboriginal rights.

In some ways, therefore, it is not surprising to learn that many Aboriginal groups actually welcome the tourist invasion. Indeed, one estimation now sug-

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