An Aboriginal Experiences Super Highway for outback NSW
Marc ‘Aussie’ Stone is passionate about culturally sensitive, truly sustainable development. He has developed an ‘Aboriginal business success model’ for an Aboriginal Experience Super Highway in outback NSW which he believes could become a model for Aboriginal communities throughout Australia.
The concept has grown from Marc’s creativity and enthusiasm and also, in part, from the ancient ‘Silk Road’ throughout Asia. This trail has been successful in attracting substantial free global publicity and large numbers of new, longer staying, bigger spending visitors to rural areas. It also has roots in initiatives taken by the NSW Department of State & Regional development (DSRD) which were fully supported by all 45 delegates to a NSW Aboriginal Business Month Tourism Seminar held at the Bourke ATSIC rooms, September 2003.
In 2003-4 not a lot of inland Aboriginal businesses were succeeding
As a man with plenty of business start-up experience – including substantial international regional tourism experience – Marc was employed by the NSW Aboriginal Business Development Section of DSRD in 2004 to see why their initiatives were failing. He found that:
- New customer streams had to be developed as there were no customers out there ‘no matter how brilliant the Aboriginal businesses were’;
- The whole area was rich with Aboriginal business resources: able people, artists and artisans, either in business or interested in being in business;
- According to Tourism NSW, National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Sydney Visitors Centre, no ‘product’ was available which would enable the traveller to meet Aboriginal people and experience their culture.
A replicable SME Aboriginal Business Economic Development Zone
Marc believes Aboriginals do not need million dollar cultural centres to present their culture to visitors.
He says it makes economic and management sense to develop experiences/businesses along one road – first of all a 1000km road from Sydney westwards – revealing the history, sadness, art and spirituality of the Aboriginal people. Other routes would follow when visitors had started arriving and business success was established.
The 1000 km road will offer travellers – self drive, safari tour or bus – a complete explanation of every aspect of Australia’s Indigenous people including:
- kinships and tribes;
- the ‘invasion’;
- Stolen Generation;
- Aboriginal health;
- contemporary, rock art;
- music and dance;
- bush tucker;
- Australian animals and how they relate to the Aboriginal people;
- Tent Embassy;
- land and political rights;
- boomerangs and digeridoos;
- Aboriginal languages.
Marc says it will be the first time anywhere in the world, for every visitor that travels the highway, that every aspect of an Indigenous people has been shared with the visitor on the Indigenous people’s terms.
He believes he can organise it to so Aboriginals can be free to be available, or not available, as best suits them, according to prevailing traditional and family demands at any one time.
Key points for success
- Don’t try and ‘do it everywhere at once’;
- Create replicable business success models (as with American franchises);
- Cap establishment set-up costs to help viability;
- Provide monthly management support;
- Provide promotion to bring new customers to the businesses.
Cap building & start-up costs
- Build a home, roadside business, studio, coffee shop for an Aboriginal artist and his family – $150,000.
- Community Centre building, furniture, equipment capped at $350,000.
First sites at Mudgee and Coonabarabran
Marc envisages Mudgee as the site for the first replicable, individual artist’s family studio and home/roadside business model ($150,000) and he sees Coonabarabran as the site for the first Aboriginal Community Resource Centre replicable/roadside business model ($350,000).
Possible aspects of the business/experience
- A small interpretation or dance circle with surrounding seats – 50 to accommodate a busload;
- Two toilets and a gas barbecue;
- Individual artists’ displays;
- Community artists, arts and crafts resource and sales centre;
- Visitor information and tour booking centre;
- Aboriginal Keeping Place.
Follow the recognised success of American franchise models. Establish the first businesses in the best locations. In the future they can be replicated in less trafficked parts. See plans.
Marc suggests the first route would take visitors from:
Sydney to the Blue Mountains;
turning right at Lithgow for Mudgee;
travelling from Coonabarrabran to Condoblin, Walgett & Lightning Ridge;
onto to Goodooga, Brewarrina, Bourke & Cobar;
returning to Sydney via Dubbo, Parkes, Orange & Bathurst.
An excellent use for some of the funds going towards regional development and small business development don’t you agree?