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Nielsen, NR 2010, 'Strengths, support and self-determination: Indigenous tourism planning and the Biamie Dreaming Cooperative', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright NR Nielsen 2010


Research shows considerable demand for Australian Indigenous culture by international and domestic tourists. Few empirical studies, however, have explicitly examined how Indigenous tourism can promote economic development and selfsufficiency for Aboriginal people themselves. Further, in mainstream (non- Indigenous) tourism planning, Indigenous engagement and consultation is often marginalised, given only scant concern or content in final plans.

In light of these gaps, this thesis presents a case study of the Biamie Dreaming Cooperative (BDC), the first Indigenous-driven tourism planning organisation in North-West New South Wales, Australia. The overall objective of the research was to investigate the appropriateness of a regional framework for Indigenous-led tourism planning. To meet this objective, and the study’s concomitant aims, the development of the BDC was followed over a period of six years (2003-2008, inclusive).

A qualitative, action-based approach, influenced by the ‘critical turn’ in tourism studies and Indigenist methodologies, was used to guide the case study of the Biamie Dreaming Cooperative. In-depth interviews and participant observation were the key methods employed to gather evidence for the case. A total of 19 in-depth interviews were conducted with stakeholders and members of the BDC, while participant observation occurred throughout.

Interpretive analysis of the interviews, coupled with my insider observations as a participant, revealed five key issues for regional Indigenous tourism planning. These were the need for processes to be Indigenous-driven; recognition of the positive potential of engagement in Indigenous tourism; the requirement of culturallyappropriate support; the benefits of regional collaboration, and the need for good governmental facilitation.

These issues drive the central model at the heart of this thesis, which is that regional planning for Indigenous tourism should be based on a framework of strengths, support and self-determination. As the case study findings support, it is now critical that Indigenous people take the lead in tourism, facilitated in their ongoing struggle for self-determination by academics, industry and government organisations alike.