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Aboriginal organisation and TAFE NSW partner to expand cultural tourism on Coffs Coast

[by Lauren McAllister]


Image: supplied

A partnership between TAFE NSW and a local Aboriginal Corporation is supporting the growing demand for Indigenous cultural experiences and Aboriginal tourism, and providing jobs for young Indigenous school students in Coffs Harbour.

Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation (BMNAC) is a not-for-profit charity that provides learning centres, language programs, engagement training and cultural tourism experiences. BMNAC’s work connecting visitors to the language and culture of the Gumbaynggirr Nation was recently recognised with an award in the Culture and Tradition category in the Global Green Destinations Story Awards.

TAFE NSW has fostered a partnership with the BMNAC, where high school students studying a Certificate III in Tourism undergo on-the-job training at BMNAC. 


The students work as guides providing cultural tourism experiences, which take place at “Niigi Niigi” (the Sealy Lookout) within the Orara East State Forest. Tourists are immersed in Gumbaynggirr culture through stories, songs, language and knowledge about the use of native plants. 

Isaiha Kelly and Alistar Driver are currently in the program and are both hoping to be tour guides when they finish school. 

Isaiha says he is learning important skills through his TAFE NSW course – and his on-the-job experience. 

“Through this partnership with TAFE and BMNAC, I have the opportunity to learn more about how this land came to be and to share the significance it holds in our culture with visitors to this area,” he said.

Alistar says he is passionate about the work he is doing through the program.

“Our culture is precious – and so is our language. It is a privilege to share stories of the land, environment and culture with others,” he said.

Ronan Singleton is a graduate of the program and currently works for BMNAC full time. He says he was contemplating moving away to pursue a career in football, but decided to work in tourism with BMNAC, after completing his studies with TAFE NSW.

“I am always learning new things and I like working here, with these people, in my community.

“The TAFE course taught me about the importance of customer service and techniques to communicate with different people – which I have put into practice while working at BMNAC.”

Enterprise Director at BMNAC Kamla Webb says it’s important young Aboriginal people learn more about their culture, as it helps them establish their identity, which leads to better outcomes for them.

“As a not-for-profit corporation, the support of TAFE NSW expands our capabilities. The key to our business is offering training and employment opportunities, and TAFE can help us do this,” she said.

"Our corporation provides a platform for Aboriginal youth to connect with the Elders in the community, so they are learning stories that will keep our culture alive in the future. Our tourism experiences help us to share these stories and traditions with the wider community, and visitors to our region.

“The programs that we deliver are designed to ensure that Aboriginal youth are strong in terms of both cultural identity and educational success.”

BMNAC has recently shared their support for a YES vote on the upcoming referendum on a First Nations Voice to Parliament - premised on government commitment to implement a truth-telling commission, leading to treaties. BMNAC says it is imperative that the Voice is heard on issues of country, environment and climate change as these are central to our identities and well-being.

BMNAC runs several businesses, with the profits reinvested into the corporation, which has led to the creation of the first bilingual School of an Aboriginal language in NSW - teaching children in both English and Gumbaynggirr.


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