People and Resources

Developing a skilled, experienced and sustainable workforce

To deliver the vision of Aboriginal tourism in the region, investment must be made into developing the capacity and capability of the tourism workforce (both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal) to actively support new and established Indigenous experiences.

Aboriginal tourism in the area has the potential to provide sustainable economic, cultural and social empowerment for Aboriginal people through creating value from Aboriginal traditional and cultural knowledge; opportunities for education and training; and the ability to own and manage businesses.


1.     To deliver a workforce of appropriately skilled staff to service visitor needs now and into the future

2.     To ensure that Aboriginal people are empowered by the development of Aboriginal regional tourism through:

·      Training to deliver immersive, exclusive and premium Aboriginal tourism product

·      Leadership programs to develop current leadership and management to deliver to the vision

·      Leadership programs to supports the fast tracking of Aboriginal people into well-paid management roles in Aboriginal tourism

·      Support and mentoring of Aboriginal people who own and manage or want to found Aboriginal tourism businesses or businesses that are tourism-adjacent such as hospitality and retail

·      Accreditation of non-Aboriginal tour guides to provide appropriate Aboriginal stories and history in the region

·      Provision of industry training to support marketing efforts to deliver increased visitor numbers



Key messages delivered in the consultation included:

·      Difficulty attracting Aboriginal staff to work in tourism (low salaries / more attractive roles elsewhere)

·      Difficulty managing workflow consistency so that Aboriginal staff can have dependable employment / cash flow

·      Difficulty retaining Aboriginal staff over time (low salaries / more attractive roles elsewhere AND inconsistency of employment)

Building capacity to meet future tourism requirements in the region will require attracting and retaining new Aboriginal staff and having the programs in place to deliver a career pathway and attractive salaries to both new entrants and the existing workforce.



Developing a workforce that has the necessary skills, experience and knowledge to fulfil the current and projected needs of the sector will require a development strategy that grows in line with the demand for those skills.

A comprehensive training needs assessment against current workforce and product, and against what will be required to deliver the vision will provide a detailed framework and articulate the funding requirements.

This needs assessment should address how training can upskill staff so that their skills align with industry needs both present and future. 


1.   Training of Aboriginal tourism staff

With a focus on growing the Aboriginal tourism industry in South West Victoria, it must be acknowledged that there is a delta between the number of staff that will be required to deliver services, and the number of Aboriginal people living in the region. It must be clear that Aboriginal tourism products can not be solely staffed by Aboriginal people – and so priority must be given to Aboriginal people as the appropriate guardians and owners of traditional story and culture.

The songlines project will provide a structure which identifies which stories and services can be delivered by non-Aboriginal people, and those which must be reserved for telling by Aboriginal people. These will then inform the level of services that can be delivered by each group. Non-Aboriginal people (under the accreditation model) will deliver product that meets the ‘Observer’ market needs (e.g. tours, galleries); and Aboriginal people will deliver higher-value, more exclusive product to the ‘Intrigued’ and ‘Immersive’ markets, who expect a deeper and more authentic experience.

This approach will not only position tourism as a vocation of choice for young Aboriginal people, but will also help them connect to culture and community.

The traditional model of transferring cultural knowledge (through intensive mentoring) should be integrated with traineeship programs to deliver more mainstream tourism skills through the Australian Qualifications Framework.

Digital literacy must also be addressed. As more tourism product is being delivered online and through apps; and back end (accounting, booking, marketing) services are also increasingly delivered online – which means that digital literacy has become a core skill-set of the tourism industry.

The key aim of training Aboriginal staff is to ensure that they have the skills, knowledge and capabilities to become valuable members of the local tourism workforce, and to have credible and dependable career pathways either into the delivery of higher-value immersive product, into starting their own business, or into leadership positions.

Any training and development should also leverage existing programs such as the Victorian Government’s Aboriginal Victoria Training and Resources Guide for Traditional Owners [1] which includes training and support, resources, funding and leadership programs.


2.   Leadership programs

While numbers of Aboriginal people in the region are not sufficient to solely staff all Aboriginal tourism product with Aboriginal people, it is critical that Aboriginal people retain ownership and management of those products.


Delivering the growth of Aboriginal tourism products outlined in the vision will require significant step-change in the skill-level of current leadership to deliver a successful and compelling product-set in the region. Providing mentoring and coaching from experienced tourism operators will enable skill-sharing and fast-track the learning for current leaders.

Implanting skilled mentors, with relevant experience, selected from industry, over a defined period, to provide guidance and advice to Aboriginal leaders will enable the skills transfer required.

Mentors should be selected to match key skills gaps as identified during an assessment process. This assessment should map the product development required to deliver the vision with the skill and experience of the current leadership team. Skills gaps may include program management, workforce planning or launching new product to market.


·      Allocate funding for leadership program

·      Design and conduct assessment program for all current leaders (including key deliverables and milestones)

·      Source and place appropriate mentors

·      Monitor performance of leadership teams and mentoring program



For Aboriginal people to have true ownership of the tourism product in the area, they must retain ownership. As the region’s Aboriginal tourism grows, there must therefore be an increase in the number of qualified and experienced Aboriginal leaders ready to deliver the products.

Attracting high-potential Aboriginal people into tourism will require positioning tourism as a viable and attractive career. This must include a clear pathway to leadership and appealing remuneration packages, as well as an emphasis on connection with culture and lifestyle.

A leadership development fast-track for Aboriginal people entering the industry will:

·      Identify potential candidates

·      Recruit them into the program

·      Deliver a program that combines:

o   Mentoring from Aboriginal leaders

o   Coaching from tourism industry experts

o   Business and leadership academic study through Melbourne Business School

o   Work experience across multiple Aboriginal tourism products, working in the businesses and leading teams    


·      Allocate funding for leadership fast-track program

·      Design program in line with AQF accreditation


3.   Supporting Aboriginal tourism businesses

A key contributor to Aboriginal economic and financial independence is business ownership.

Developing programs to support new and/ or innovative Aboriginal tourism businesses to start-up and scale in line with increasing visitor numbers will help develop a thriving and sustainable sector.

Support should be provided from a menu of services that can be consumed if and when needed by the business owner. These could include:

·      Mentoring

·      Expert advice and guidance

·      Access to industry networks

·      Start-your-own business support (including set-up and training of digital accounting, marketing and booking tool-sets)

·      Start-up and growth capital


·      Allocate funding for business support program

·      Identify partner to deliver business support program

·      Promote program

4.   Accreditation program

Development of the songlines program will provide a clear delineation between the stories available to tell by non-Aboriginal tourism operators, and those reserved for Aboriginal people.

Creating an accreditation program will ensure that Aboriginal people (and the Traditional Owner groups) benefit financially from non-Aboriginal people telling their stories, and that the stories told are culturally appropriate and accurate.

To achieve accreditation, non-Aboriginal tourism operators will attend (and pass) a short training program. Each person who passes the course will have the right to display their accreditation in person and in marketing materials associated with promoting their business.

This training program could be delivered in person or online and there will be a fee associated with completing the training and renewing accreditation each year. This fee will provide an ongoing revenue stream to the Traditional Owners as compensation for their cultural ‘IP’.

Attendees of the accreditation program should include non-Aboriginal:

·      Tour guides working in the region

·      Tourism information centre staff in the region


·      Identify appropriate cultural material that can be shared (through the Songlines project)

·      Assess market appetite for in-person training vs an online delivery model

·      Identify and engage appropriate program delivery team

·      Consider mapping training program to modules in AQF courses (e.g. Cert III in Tourism, Unit SITXCOM002: Show social and cultural sensitivity; or Unit SITTGDE007: Research and share general information on Australian Indigenous cultures)

·      Design and launch training and accreditation program (in person / online)

·      Promote program to industry and through marketing materials for the region


5.   Industry training program

A key channel to engage new visitors to the region will be through trade promotion and therefore investment into a comprehensive industry training program is critical.

Tools to engage and inform industry of the range of Aboriginal tourism experiences should include training travel agents, tour booking agents and other tourism professionals through:

·      Industry event / trade show

An annual education product training roadshow showcasing the Aboriginal tourism of the region. These should be held in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.

·      Webinars

A series of regular webinars to showcase product and link to marketing campaigns

·       Training for international travel agents

Inclusion within Tourism Australia’s Aussie Specialist Program

·       Digital training

Using VR packages to provide immersive first-person views of product in the region

·      Famils

Create and host a program of famils (fully funded trips) to bring tourism operators to the region to experience the Aboriginal tourism products that are available.


·      Launch new brand with a specific industry promotion

·      Design industry training program (trade show, webinars, digital program, famils) and identify delivery resources (funding, team)

·      Commence roll-out of industry training

·      Promote program to industry