Learning on country with Bana Yarralji Bubu: educational tourism and Aboriginal development aspirations

Murphy, Helen (2015) Learning on country with Bana Yarralji Bubu: educational tourism and Aboriginal development aspirations. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Globally, most countries around the world recognize the importance of gaining a share of the global tourism market, viewing tourism as an important contributor to broader economic and social development policies (Jenkins 1991). The benefits from tourism include earning foreign exchange and creating jobs, and it is the ability of tourism to create these and other kinds of benefits that "collectively justify tourism's alleged role as a vehicle of development" (Sharpley & Telfer 2002:1). If development is conceived of as simply consisting of economic growth, then assessing the relationship between tourism and development is relatively straight-forward. However, the often unquestioned assertion (by both governments and academics), that tourism is an effective means of achieving development, fails to recognize the different meanings of development, and the different processes by which it is achieved (Pearce 1989). In recent times, development has come to mean much more than economic development, expanding to a broader notion of the self-actualization of individuals occurring across political, social and economic arenas. There is also increasing recognition that "Indigenous epistemologies, science and ethics have much to offer" in development debates (Loomis 2000:896). In Australia, Aboriginal individuals and communities often view tourism as a way to achieve broader development goals (Buultjens and Fuller 2007), yet the relationship between Aboriginal development aspirations and tourism has often been overlooked. Understanding what Aboriginal people are hoping to achieve through involvement in tourism, and the types of tourism that will meet the needs and desires of these Aboriginal individuals and communities, is an important part of supporting successful Aboriginal tourism development.

In this research, the relationship between educational tourism and Aboriginal development aspirations is examined through a case study of Bana Yarralji Bubu, an Aboriginal tourism enterprise in northern Queensland. Context to the case study is provided by interviews with regional educational tourism providers. The Wallace family live and work on their traditional lands, hosting groups of educational tourists who seek to learn about Aboriginal culture and land management. Several tourism researchers over the years have recommended involvement in niche or special interest markets as providing 'excellent opportunities' for Aboriginal tourism (Schmiechen and Boyle 2007; Martin 1997; Burchett 1993). In particular, Schmiechen and Boyle (2007) identify the investigation of niche markets such as educational learning markets as a major research priority for Aboriginal tourism research. Despite this, government approaches have focused on 'mainstreaming' Aboriginal tourism (Tourism Australia 2010), which means that participation in "broader tourism opportunities rather than [a] focus on the cultural dimensions" has been encouraged (Boyle 2001). Schmiechen and Boyle (2007:67) call for an examination of "the opportunities presented by educational learning markets" and for means to be devised to design "appropriate product configurations for these specialised travellers". This research responds to this call, but combines this examination with consideration of how Aboriginal tourism operators are seeking to fulfil their aspirations for not only economic, but social, environmental and cultural development through this form of tourism. This research asks: When involvement in tourism is driven by aspirations for achieving broad-based development goals for Aboriginal families and communities, how do these aspirations affect the development and operation of the tourism enterprise, and how realistic are the expectations that tourism can deliver these goals?

This thesis uses an exploratory sequential multiple method design. Firstly, a literature review is used to explore the relationship between tourism and development. This research is situated in a development studies framework in order to examine the interdependence between tourism and the broader sociocultural, political and economic environment that it operates in. It also serves to highlight the outcomes of tourism that result in 'development' and the engagement that occurs between and within the components in the tourism system. Aboriginal development aspirations are explored through the qualitative case study of Bana Yarralji Bubu, an Aboriginal family supplying educational tourism experiences. The case study is contextualized through the results of interviews undertaken with regional supply-side operators of educational tourism. A segmentation approach is then used to explore potential market segments for educational tourism featuring Aboriginal learning experiences. This is done because the motivations and preferences of tourists can affect the potential developmental outcomes of tourism. The results of the literature review and the case study are used to inform the design of a quantitative online survey, which gathers information about tourist preferences for the characteristics of an educational tourism product featuring learning about Aboriginal culture, land or art. Finally, the tourism-development model is used to analyse the research results and examine the relationship between Aboriginal development aspirations and tourism. The reason for collecting both quantitative and qualitative data is to explore not only the nature of Aboriginal educational tourism but also the context in which this form of tourism operates.

Educational tourism in an Aboriginal context is found to be a form of tourism where learning experiences are based around the study of natural areas, flora and fauna and Aboriginal cultures and histories. It is a form of tourism created through collaborations between tour operators, travel planners from academic, environmental and special interest organisations and Aboriginal communities, families and individuals. This research finds that involvement in tourism for Bana Yarralji Bubu is a means of achieving development aspirations. They are guided by a model for development (an adaptation of the sustainability compass) arising from their values and ethics, based on their location on the land they identify with, and striving for simultaneous achievement of economic, social, cultural and environmental goals. Bana Yarralji Bubu's approach to business reflects the importance of this vision, as well as their cultural values, ethics, concepts and knowledge. Educational tourism forms the basis of their broad-based development strategy by providing the economic profits that will fund their social, cultural and environmental goals. In addition, being able to live and run a tourism enterprise on the land they identify with enables them to protect and manage their land and culture. The profits from educational tourism (and distributed back to family and community through the social enterprise) are used to improve wellbeing and spiritual healing outcomes, as well as protecting and maintaining environmental and cultural obligations.

This research finds that that as a vehicle for Aboriginal development aspirations, educational tourism has the potential to be a developmental tool. However, it also finds that tourism by itself, regardless of the type of tourism, is not enough to solve complex developmental problems. This research shows that benefits have been identified from participation in educational tourism, including cross-cultural understanding, cultural revival and economic development and this is in part due to the focus on informal, highly interactive learning experiences which resonated with tourists. The identification of different tourist types demonstrated that a range of educational tourism products can be designed to appeal to these different tourist types featuring different levels of interaction with Aboriginal hosts. Thus some tourists have the potential to contribute to development outcomes (through community development projects and immersive experiences), while others (desiring low levels of interaction) may only contribute financial gains. However it is also found that significant challenges exist. These challenges include land use and planning restrictions, creating and maintaining cross-cultural collaborations with supply-side partners and lack of social cohesion between family, clan and nation which can negatively affect the ability of the enterprise to provide benefits. These challenges need to be taken into consideration if developmental outcomes from tourism, no matter which form, are to be enhanced.

Item ID: 49958
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Aboriginal development aspirations, Aboriginal tourism, Bana Yarralji Bubu, cultural development, educational tourism, land tenure, social capital, social enterprise, sustainability compass, tourism model
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Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Murphy, Helen, and Harwood, Sharon (2017) Walking on country with Bana Yarralji Bubu: a model for Aboriginal social enterprise tourism. In: Sheldon, Pauline J., and Daniele, Roberto, (eds.) Social Entrepreneurship and Tourism: philosophy and practice. Tourism on the Verge . Springer, Cham, Switzerland, pp. 295-314.

Date Deposited: 25 Aug 2017 02:59
FoR Codes: 15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1506 Tourism > 150699 Tourism not elsewhere classified @ 50%
20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2002 Cultural Studies > 200201 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Studies @ 50%
SEO Codes: 90 COMMERCIAL SERVICES AND TOURISM > 9003 Tourism > 900301 Economic Issues in Tourism @ 33%
90 COMMERCIAL SERVICES AND TOURISM > 9003 Tourism > 900302 Socio-Cultural Issues in Tourism @ 34%
90 COMMERCIAL SERVICES AND TOURISM > 9003 Tourism > 900303 Tourism Infrastructure Development @ 33%
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