Public sector initiatives for Aboriginal small business development in tourism
Indigenous Australians are disadvantaged when it comes to employment opportunities (Norris 2001). This situation has not improved despite many years of specific programs designed to address this issue (Taylor & Altman 1997, Norris 2001). While the most successful attempt to increase Indigenous employment appears to have been through the use of Community Development Employment Programs [CDEP], the predominance of the philosophy of fitting Indigenous people into non- Indigenous approaches to the problem remains (Norris 2001). The current perspective applied by Governments at both a State and Federal level sees tourism, especially in regional communities, but also in urban areas, as a potential panacea for many Indigenous communities.
Aboriginal Tourism Australia [ATA] has identified the development of entrepreneurship and capacity building amongst Indigenous tourism businesses and the Indigenous workforce in the tourism industry as a key area of concern. In addition, access to start up and developmental capital is also very important to the sustainability of Indigenous tourism ventures (Finalyson and Madden, 1995). Therefore, the capacity to implement organisational objectives and the capacity to source funds for product development has formed the basis of this enquiry (Fiszbein 1997).
Our inquiry is not an examination of the effectiveness of the programs discussed, and makes no comment regarding the results they produce or the processes they contain. Rather, we are examining the current (as of March, 2002) range of public sector initiatives for assisting in the development of Indigenous tourism products to determine if there are gaps in the provision of services in the process.
A number of public sector initiatives have been developed that are intended to stimulate Indigenous participation in tourism, not only through funding for product development, but through: promotion initiatives; infrastructure development; training and skills development; and coordination of public sector resources. This paper concentrates on funding and other assistance packages provided by the Federal and State governments that are available to Indigenous groups and individuals interested in establishing or expanding a tourism enterprise. It should be noted that our analysis did find several private organisations involved in this area, but our research focussed only on public sector programs. In particular, the preface to this paper has described the work of Aboriginal Tourism Australia and its partners. Organisations such as ATA have attempted to fill some of the gaps identified in this research. It is hoped that the research will assist ATA as well as other public and private sector service providers to work together in developing sustainable Indigenous participation programs for the tourism industries.
Buultjens, J, Waller, I, Graham, S & Carson, DB 2002, Public sector initiatives for Aboriginal small business development in tourism, Centre for Regional Tourism Research, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.