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Aboriginal Adventures Inspire Kiwis

Aboriginal Adventures Inspire Kiwis

Walking New Zealanders through ancient caves adorned in rock art, sharing inspiring stories and historical places is both a passion and a career for Aboriginal Nugal-Warra clansman, Wilfred Gordon.

Wilfred Gordon of Guurrbi Tours, located in Hope Vale, was selected, and entrusted, by his tribe the Nugal-Warra to be the story-teller on behalf of his people.

“Aboriginal history and culture is part of Australia’s identity and through story-telling we ensure our past is carried through future generations. The only way visitors can truly appreciate the richness of our beautiful environment and landscape is with local knowledge and through the unique first-hand experience of walking through the caves and hills our ancestors walked,” says Gordon.

Vito Anzelmi, Regional Manager for Tourism Australia New Zealand, says Kiwi travellers typically seek unusual experiences and are interested in authentic Aboriginal experiences which give them an insight into Australian culture.

Gordon believes that through sharing indigenous stories and giving people an authentic experience, he helps to contribute to the preservation of the Aborigine culture.

“Contrary to popular belief, Aboriginal rock art is not simply an ancient art form. It is a practice that was continued up until the last one hundred years, and behind the art lies the story of a people, in this case the Nugal-Warra,” he says.

Different caves depict the different aspects of Nugal-Warra society – family stories, mythical figures, spiritual beliefs and practical information. Both the caves and the art formed part of a rich and complex society which was successful for tens of thousands of years. The cave paintings represent a pathway through life for Aboriginal people.

Gordon says story-telling is his responsibility and passion. “I never get tired of passing Aboriginal history to visitors and I love sharing the stories with new people, so they can become the story-teller and pass on the stories all over the world.

Gordon also works with the National Heritage Trust and the Environmental Protection Agency to help develop a management strategy, which is aimed at minimising the effect of tourism on ancient sites.

He also plans to train young people to become rangers, using modern knowledge and techniques to protect Aboriginal sites.

What Gordon enjoys most about his job is seeing people so deeply interested and involved in the Aborigine culture and stories behind it.

“People from New Zealand understand that Aboriginal culture, like Maori culture, is a living culture. Kiwis understand that even though we don’t live in gunyas or wear lap-laps any more, our lifestyle is still steeped in the culture and spirituality of our ancestors. The stories I tell might be ancient, but they tell of a living culture and have great relevance to us all today,” says Gordon.

Overall it is the response that Gordon receives from guests on his tour that makes it all worthwhile for him.

“It still amazes me how touched people are by my tour. I even have people coming back for a second and third time with other members of their family, and friends. At the beginning I struggled to understand how the tour affects people like this, but now I just accept that the combination of the paintings, the environment, and the stories, somehow touches people deeply,” he says.

Nugal-Warra is part of the Guugu Yimithirr nation, north of Cairns, which stretches from the River Annan, south of Cooktown, to Princess Charlotte Bay, in the north, and to the Normanby River in the west.

“It’s a beautifully peaceful place too, and we follow tracks shaded by trees which have been used by my clan for centuries. When the tour is finished, customers never want to leave,” he says.


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