portrait-kristi2Kristi O’Brien
Experiences Project Manager
Indigenous Tourism, Tourism Australia

Having travelled Australia experiencing Aboriginal culture for many years, there’s nothing I love more than getting ‘on country’ with my Aboriginal friends. The sense of belonging Aboriginal people have with their country and their dedication to take care of it, make them the perfect hosts to bring Australia’s landscapes to life. When travelling with my Aboriginal hosts I feel reconnected to this amazing country as I rediscover how much fun it is to do simple things like fishing and catching mud crabs. There have been many special moments. Like the time an Elder asked a child to give me the fish he’d just caught so I could throw it in the air to attract a nearby sea eagle. I’ve always loved sea eagles, so being given the opportunity to get up close and personal really sticks in my memory.

Then there’s the many belly laughs I’ve enjoyed, often at my own expense! Ending up laying on the floor of a boat in the Kimberley when trying to reel in a fish with a hand line for the first time certainly seemed to keep everyone entertained. It’s simple things like this that become unforgettable memories. It’s during these times I am totally in the moment. I’ve escaped my crazy corporate schedule, the stresses of life are forgotten and I feel at peace, awake and alive. Things like hearing an Aboriginal guide call out to their ancestors in language as we walk though their country make me very aware of the special connection to country Aboriginal people have. Another time, an Elder was telling me about the ‘little people’, who are like the karma police. He explained to me that if he were to go out fishing and get too greedy and catch too many fish, that when he next goes fishing the ‘little people’ won’t let him catch any fish.

I conducted some research a few years back into people’s perceptions of Indigenous tourism. Perceptions were that the experiences could be uncomfortable, hot, dry, dusty, too serious, boring, homogenous or too touristy. Nothing could be further from the truth as Aboriginal experiences can be as comfortable as you want them to be by either staying in some of the beautiful accommodation Aboriginal tour operators provide, staying close by to the experience in a lodge or hotel, or sleeping in a comfortable swag on a beach under the stars. Aboriginal experiences are very diverse, as originally there were about 250 language groups and over 700 dialects spoken in Australia, and Aboriginal cultures were more diverse than European cultures. So wherever I am in Australia, whether it be in the rainforest, desert, beautiful coastlines or cities, I can enjoy a totally unique Aboriginal experience. And as for fun, whether you’re into quad biking, kayaking, hiking, camel riding, fishing, mud crabbing or just enjoy a good belly laugh, Aboriginal tour operators can provide all this and more.

As part of the Tourism Australia team I was lucky enough to conduct three photo shoots with renowned stills photographer, James Fisher, and I told the behind the scenes story to some of his images on Facebook. These can be viewed at: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151105473020909&set=a.10151105472580909.459377.11071120908&type=1&theater It has always been a dream of mine to produce a film clip that brings to life what Aboriginal tourism is and why these truly are ‘must do’ experiences in Australia. Finally that dream is coming to fruition, and working with the amazingly talented Warwick Thornton and Brendan Fletcher I am confident this film piece will be as remarkable as the characters, experiences and landscapes it will showcase. Time permitting I will be endeavouring to blog the film recce as Warwick, Brendan and I travel the country in preparation for the film shoot. I will then be blogging what’s going on behind the scenes as the film shoot takes place and I hope you enjoy coming along for the journey.

At Tourism Australia we promote some of Australia’s best Aboriginal experiences, which I will refer to during the blog. These experiences can be found at: http://www.tourism.australia.com/aboriginal/