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Using Dreamtime stories to enhance the Great Barrier Reef experience

Dreamtime crew - boat.jpg

Group of Indigenous adults sitting on the front of a boat and dressed in uniforms displaying an Indigenous design.
The crew and staff of Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel have reason to be excited. (Photo courtesy of Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel)
22 Nov 2019

Most tourists heading for the Great Barrier Reef out of Cairns get a great diving and snorkelling experience.

But if you go with Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel, you also get a full cultural experience with the Indigenous crew onboard.

Trevor Tim, the Indigenous Operations Manager from ExperienceCo, said no other dive operation in Cairns or for that matter, the Great Barrier Reef, is offering anything like it but they are starting to think about it.

‘It’s unique because we are talking about Indigenous Rangers on board the vessel taking tourists out to the reef,’ Trevor said.

‘It’s two birds with one stone, so to speak; when you’re talking about the longest living culture on planet Earth working with the largest living thing on planet Earth, the Great Barrier Reef. A great ingredient, don’t you think?’

The Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel operation is a very successful business owned by ExperienceCo which operates 2 more vessels out to the reef. The product was the brainchild of Experience Co’s GM Steve O’Malley, who spent many months engaging with the Traditional Owner groups to ensure the product was respectful of the cultural elements.

The Indigenous crew, who work on all three vessels, are trained and certified in the critical areas the dive business requires, including resuscitation, food hygiene and diving.

But on Dreamtime, they get to share their culture, authorised to tell the thousands of years old Dreamtime stories of the Traditional Owners whose land and sea they cross.

Those Traditional Owners are the Gunggandji, the Gimuy, the Walubarra Yidinji, Yirrganydji and Mandigalpi groups. Their totems of the turtle, stingray, seahawk and mantaray make up the Dreamtime Dive and Snorkel logo.

And there is no end to the young enthusiastic men and women who want to be part of it. From Year 11, students can join the Junior Indigenous Marine Education program where they learn all about boating and earn their Certificate III in Marine Studies.

Members of the crew regularly visit the Cairns Indigenous radio station Bumma Bippera Media where they talk to kids about Dreamtime Dive & Snorkelling and about the importance of learning skills and finding a satisfying career.

On 13 November 2019, Dreamtime celebrated its one year anniversary. The lucky Polish tour group who booked the boat that day got a piece of the birthday cake. In return, the crew received a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday sung with a strong Polish accent.

As the vessel pulls into Cairns Harbour each day, the cultural experience hasn’t ended. From a long way out, a disinterested observer on the wharf suddenly becomes interested.

The air is filled with clapsticks, war chants and the deep bellowing sounds of a didgeridoo. After docking, as the customers walk up the gangway, the sounds begin again and the tourist experience ends the way all such experiences should end, with huge smiles and lots of laughter.

Find out more

ExperienceCo is a public listed company on the ASX (ASX:EXP). Trevor’s goal is that products like Dreamtime Dive and Snorkel can be wholly owned and operated one day by the Traditional Owners with a fully certified crew giving tourists the best possible diving and cultural experience on offer.

The Dreamtime vessel takes up to 75 people to and from the reef each day and is available for charter.

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