Roy’s Mossman Gorge dream a tourism reality
For more than 20 years, Kuku Yalanji elder Roy Gibson has had a dream for his land and his people.
When the new $20 million Mossman Gorge Centre, an Indigenous eco-tourism business in the World Heritage listed Daintree National Park, opened with 90 per cent Indigenous staffing in June 2012, Roy’s dream became a reality.
His story was recently featured in the Closing the Gap: Prime Minister’s Report 2013.
“From when I was young, I was thinking about something that could help my people, one day, to see that there’s going to be opportunities for all of us,” Roy said.
The centre was constructed by the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) in collaboration with Mossman Gorge Aboriginal Community on land purchased through the ILC’s Land Acquisition Program.
The centre, operated by ILC subsidiary Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia, provides Indigenous employment and training, including at a residential training facility located at the centre.
Mossman Gorge Centre is a cultural and tourism hub for the Mossman Gorge rainforest walk. It provides an official welcome area, a contemporary café, art gallery, gift shop and tour desk.
Visitors are offered an array of tours and services to help them experience the Gorge, its Indigenous heritage and pristine environment.
The centre employs up to 70 Indigenous people during the tourism high season. The first month of operation saw Indigenous staff usher 30,000 visitors through the centre and on to the Gorge.
“There’s nothing ever happened like this before, in a small community,” Roy said.
“I want people to be proud of themselves and get up out of their bed and say I’m going to work, because I’ve got something to go to, because it’s ours to be proud of.
“That’s what I want them to do, to be proud of themselves, for their children.”
Roy and the Mossman Gorge Aboriginal Community worked in collaboration with the ILC to design and build the centre. It incorporates a residential training venue that is equipping young Indigenous people with accredited skills that will see them able to work at the centre and in the hospitality and tourism industries across Australia.
Staff were trained in an ILC pre-employment scheme, which combined TAFE level study with work at tourism and hospitality businesses in the region.
With the centre now a living reality, Roy tells young people their future is alive too.
“This is for your children and their children, to protect this beautiful gateway we’re actually walking in and sharing now with people, it’s a big thing.”